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Title: Camlan and The Shadow of the Sword
Author: Robert Buchanan
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Language: English
Date first posted: August 2006
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Camlan and The Shadow of the Sword
Robert Buchanan




CAMLAN

I.

"I may not trust false Mordred."
    --'Twas thus did Arthur say,---
"He will not stint to treason do.
     His uncle-King to slay;

So watch ye well when we are met.
     And but ye chance to see
One sword unsheathed, upon them!
     Be sure 'tis treachery!"

"I may not trust mine uncle."
    --'Twas thus did Mordred say,---
"This trick of truce and parleying
     But hides some crooked play;

So watch ye well when we are met.
     And but ye chance to see
One sword unsheathed, upon them!
     Be sure 'tis treachery!"

II.

O gallant sight and goodly.
     It was that morn, I ween.
To see these lords their barbed steeds
     Rein proudly o'er the green!

Twelve knights on each attended.
     Was each a knight renown'd.
Had Saxon slain, and Saracen.
     And sat at Table Round.

III.

And kindly sped their parley.
     And courteous was their cheer.
Nor sign was there from word or look
     Betokened evil near;

But knight with knight of bye-gone times
     Held converse blythe and free.
And passed the blood-red Gascon
     In pledge of amity.

IV.

The arrow shot at random
     May reach a royal prey;
A wandering spark, in ashes hot.
     May tower and temple lay;

The mole may set the torrent free
     That sweeps o'er grove and glen.
And swamps the corn-green valley
     Into a deadly fen!

V.

To search for toy or trinket
     Dropped from his careless hand.
Amid the tufted heath alights
     A knight of Mordred's band,---

An adder stung him fiercely.
     In agony he drew
His sword, and severed sheerly
     That evil worm in two.

VI.

But when they saw that faulchion's flash.
     Burst one loud thunder yell
From either host! and on they dash
     In deadly strife to mell.

"As easy bar the proud spring-tide
     O'er Solway's sand to run.
Or back the lightning's volley.
     As man his weird to shun."

Thus mused Sir Arthur as he turned
     His horse's head, and sighed.
Then cheered his host and headlong plunged
     Midmost the battle's tide!

Him followed knights three hundred.
     Through Christentie renown'd.
The bravest knights in Logres-land,      1
     And of the Table Round.

VII.

And thrice through Mordred's battle
     A pass did Arthur clear
With Pridwin, and Escaliber,      2
     And Rone, his deadly spear:---

No word was there of parley.
     No thought was there to yield:---
Ere night a five-score thousand
     Lay stark on Camlan's field.

VIII.

A moment paused Sir Arthur
     To cool his burning brow;
Three hundred knights had followed him---
     How many follow now?

But only two! And wounded sore.
     Beside a brook ran near.
He spied the false Sir Mordred.
     Was leaning on his spear.

"Now pay me full, false traitor.
     The debt thy treasons owe;
Would'st reive thine uncle's crown, and force
     His Queen thy bed-fellowe!"

Then on the false Sir Mordred
     Like wolf on fawn he flew.
And Rone his spear a full fathome
     He thrust his body through.

IX.

Shrieked wild for pain that traitor knight.
     And in his dying throe
On Arthur's helmet blindly strake
     So furious fell a blow.

That blow nor bone nor basnet
     Might stay its force nor stand:
Then dropped the shivered weapon
     From Mordred's lifeless hand!

X.

The moon is cold on Camlan.
     And on its thousands slain.
Save but the pillers pille the dead.
     None trode that silent plain!

To help Sir Arthur at his need
     But only two were found.
Of all that brave three hundred
     Sat at his Table Round!

His boteler and his chamberlain---
     Sir Lucan and Bedwere---
And many a gash, and ghastly.
     The fainting brothers bare.

Alas for good Sir Lucan!
     His wound burst open wide.
And out thereat his bowels gushed.
     He groaned aloud, and died!

XI.

And when Sir Arthur's trance was pass'd.
     He gazed, and him beside.
Of all his many thousands, none
     Save brave Bedwere espied.

And thus he spake--"Sir Bedwere.
     Go get thee haste, and take
My trusty sword Escaliber.
     And cast in yonder lake;

And fling it far will all thy might.
     What thereupon shall be
Observe it well, and speed thee
     To truly tell it me."

XII.

That sword of worth and wonder.
     Whose sweep in Arthur's hand
Nor shirt of mail, nor plate of brass.
     Nor casque of steel might stand.

A priceless gift gave Merlin.
     Won from his peerless make.
Within their bower of pleasure.
     The Lady of the Lake.

XIII.

Embossed was hilt and handle
     With gem and jewel rare.
And scrolled the blade with magic sign.
     And mystic character.

"Ah pity were,"--Sir Bedwere thought,---
     To fling in yonder lake
So goodly thing!" and hid it
     Within hazle-brake.

XIV.

"What sawest thou, Sir Bedwere?"
     "But wave and water free;"
"Nay, nay, thy vision wandered.
     Go look more heedfully.

What sawest thou now?" "Nor token
     Nor sign the water gave.
But silverly and softly
     Did wap with wind and wave."

XV.

He looked a look of anger.
     "Shame on the knight would say
A soothless tale twice over.
     All for a sword's inlay!

But haste, my life is ebbing fast.
     Thy fault and folly through---"
This time the charmed weapon
     Far o'er the waters flew.

XVI.

But ere it reached the water.
     A giant arm upreared.
And clutched it fast, and waved it thrice
     On high, then disappeared;

And when Sir Bedwere told that sign.
     "Must now no tarrying---
Haste, lay me down beside the lake.
     They're nigh will succour bring."

XVII.

And swift as arrow shoots from bow.
     Shot barge of beauty rare.
Nor steerer had, nor rower.
     That barge, but ladies fair:

And of these ladies crowns of gold
     Upon their head had three.
And glittered in the moonlight
     Their jewelled bravery!

XVIII.

Aloud she wept that queenliest seemed
     That crowned three among---
"Alas! alas! my brother dear.
     Why tarried'st thou so long?

Nor weeting gavest, nor warning.
     Of thine so evil cheer.
Nor spedst that token sooner
     When help was all so near!

Light task had been, and speedy.
     Thy gashes green to close.
And by mine art, and with mine herbs
     To work thy pain's repose;

But now long time and sorely
     My leech's art 'twill strain.
And many a year must circle
     Ere thou see earth again!"

XIX.

His fainting head they pillowed
     That lady's lap upon;
"Now row ye, sisters, row ye
     With speed for Avalon!"

As meteor shoots or moon-beam
     Across the waters blue.
It shot, that bark of mystery.
     Then melted from the view.

And long with fear and wonder
     Looked Bedwere from the shore
Across that silent water.
     But ne'er saw Arthur more!



THE SHADOW OF THE SWORD

Preface to the new edition.

In issuing a new edition of "The Shadow of the Sword," my publishers
have asked me to introduce it with a few lines of preface. This I do
the more willingly, as it gives me an opportunity of thanking the
Critics of the Newspaper Press of England for the generous way in
which they have received this and my subsequent attempts in fiction.

"The Shadow of the Sword" is a polemic against War, against the
institution which, above all others, is the disgrace and scourge of
modern civilization. But what am I saying? I write this preface in the
near neighbourhood of Shoeburyness, where our English artillerymen
have been recently experimenting, at the expense of the public pocket
and of the town windows, with the new 80-ton gun. I forget exactly how
many pounds sterling every discharge of this cheerful invention costs
the people of England, or how much they are mulcted for the
experimental cannonade which takes place daily at Shoeburyness and
other havens of unrest, made hideous for us by a quasi-military
government. And I have before me as I write the beautiful wall-
almanack for 1883, owned by the pious proprietors of a newspaper
called the Christian Herald, and containing, together with portraits
of leading divines, a picture of the hero of Egypt, Sir Garnet
Wolseley. Other signs in every land convince me of the perfect
condition of our boasted Christian civilization. It is cheering also
to reflect that even Liberals have been impelled to adopt the
programme of imperialism, and stimulate the enthusiasm of Egyptian
bondholders by a glorious victory over helpless fellow-creatures in
the East. The Bible, the sword, and the ambulance waggon are
triumphant, and the religion of Christ prevails. Only one step
further, surely, would be needed, to reach the Millennium; and that
step would be taken if our rulers would only listen to the voice of
Christian opinion, expressed in so many comfortable circles, and
cicatrize the old wounds of refractory Ireland--with powder and shot!

But this subject, after all, is too sad a one to be sarcastic upon. I
am face to face with the horrible truth that War is still a reality,
and will be a reality so long as it is tolerated, under any
circumstances or under any name, by the preachers of Christianity--
among which preachers I include, as by far the most powerful, the
members of the fourth estate. In the nineteenth century, War should be
simply impossible. That it is possible is a proof of the failure of
the Christian religion, so far, to enfranchise the world.

I have cast "The Shadow of the Sword" as a crumb upon the waters. It
may do some good; it cannot by any possibility do any harm. The idea
has been described as transcendental, like (to compare small things
with great) the sublime ideas of the Founder of Christianity. It has
been accepted, and praised without stint, by many, as an attack on
Despotism in the person of the first Napoleon. I trust, however, that
it is something more--an attack on War in the abstract, as the
deadliest and most loathsome representation of the retrograde movement
of modern political thought. Once more, "the time grows near the birth
of Christ." The Holy Name will be murmured from a thousand pulpits,
echoed by a million hearts; but Christ still sleeps, despite His
promise to arise, and sad-eyed Science is telling us that He will
never arise at all. Blocking the mouth of the Sepulchre lies now,
instead of the old stone, a monstrous implement--the GATLING GUN!

ROBERT BUCHANAN.
SOUTHEND, Dec. 21 1882



PROEM.

Nineteen sad sleepless centuries
Had shed upon the dead CHRIST'S eyes
Dark blood and dew, and o'er them still
The waxen lids were sealed chill.

Drearily through the dreary years
The world had waited on in tears.
With heart clay-cold and eyelids wet.

But He had not arisen yet.
Nay, Christ was cold; and, colder still.
The lovely Shapes He came to kill
Slept by His side. Ah, sight of dread!
Dead CHRIST, and all the sweet gods dead!

He had not risen, tho' all the world
Was waiting; tho', with thin lips curl'd.
Pale ANTICHRIST upon his prison
Gazed yet denying, He had not risen;

Tho' every hope was slain save Him.
Tho' all the eyes of Heaven were dim.
Despite the promise and the pain.
He slept--and had not risen again.

Meantime, from France's funeral pyre.
Rose, god-like, girt around with fire.
Napoleon!--On eyes and lips
Burnt the red hues of Love's eclipse;

Beneath his strong triumphal tread
All days the human winepress bled;
And in the silence of the nights
Pale Prophets stood upon the heights.

And, gazing thro' the blood-red gloom
Far eastward, to the dead CHRIST'S tomb.
Wail'd to the winds. Yet CHRIST still slept:
And o'er His white Tomb slowly crept

The fiery Shadow of a Sword!
Not Peace; a Sword.
And men adored
Not Christ, nor Antichrist, but CAIN;
And where the bright blood ran like rain

He stood, and looking, men went wild;--
For lo! on whomsoe'er he smiled
Came an idolatry accurst.
But chief, Cain's hunger and Cain's thirst

For bloodshed and for tears; and when
He beckon'd, countless swarms of men
Flew thick as locusts to destroy
Hope's happy harvests, sown in joy

Yea, verily; at each finger-wave
They swarm'd--and shared the crimson grave
Beneath his Throne.
Then, 'neath the sun

One man of France--and he, indeed.
Lowest and least of all man's seed--
Shrank back, and stirr'd not!--heard Cain's cry.
But flew not!--mark'd across the sky

The Shadow of the Sword, but still
Despair'd not!--Nay, with steadfast will.
He sought Christ's Tomb, and lying low.
With cold limbs cushion'd on the snow.

He waited!--But when Cain's eye found
His hiding-place on holy ground.
And Cain's hand gript him by the hair.
Seeking to drag him forth from there.

He clutch'd the stones with all his strength.
Struggled in silence--and at length.
In the dire horror of his need.
Shrieked out on CHRIST!
Did CHRIST rise?

READ.



Chapter 1. FULL SUNSHINE



"Rohan, Rohan! Can you not hear me call? It is time to go. Come, come!
It frightens me to look down at you. Will you not come up now, Rohan?"

The voice that cries is lost in the ocean-sound that fills the blue
void beneath; it fades away far under, amid a confused murmur of
wings, a busy chattering of innumerable little newborn mouths; and
while the speaker, drawing dizzily back, feels the ground rise up
beneath her feet and the cliffs prepare to turn over like a great
wheel, a human cry comes upward, clear yet faint, like a voice from
the sea that washes on the weedy reefs of blood-red granite a thousand
feet below.

The sun is sinking far away across the waters, sinking with a last
golden gleam amid the mysterious Hesperides of the silent air, and his
blinding light comes slant across the glassy calm till it strikes on
the scarred and storm-rent faces of these Breton crags, illuminating
and vivifying every nook and cranny of the cliffs beneath, burning on
the summits and brightening their natural red to the vivid crimson of
dripping blood, changing the coarse grass and yellow starwort into
threads of emerald and glimmering stars, burning in a golden mist
around the yellow flowers of the overhanging broom, and striking with
fiercest ray on one naked rock of solid stone which juts out like a
huge horn over the brink of the abyss, and around which a strong rope
is noosed and firmly knotted.

Close to this horn of rock, in the full glory of the sunset light,
stands a young girl, calling aloud to one who swings unseen below.

The sunlight flashes full into her face and blinds her, while the soft
breath of the sea kisses the lids of her dazzled eyes.

Judged by her sun-tanned skin, she might be the daughter of some gipsy
tribe. But such dark features as hers are common among the Celtic
women of the Breton coast; and her large eyes are not gipsy-black, but
ethereal grey--that mystic colour which can be soft as heaven with joy
and love, but dark as death with jealousy and wrath; and, indeed, to
one who gazes long into such eyes as these, there are revealed strange
depths of passion, and self-control, and pride. The girl is tall and
shapely, somewhat slight of figure, small-handed, small-footed; so
that, were her cheek a little less rosy, her hands a little whiter,
and her step a little less elastic, she might be a lady born.

It is just eighteen years to-day since that red blustering morning
when her father, running into port with the biggest haul of fish on
record that season in the little fishing village, found that the Holy
Virgin, after giving him four strong sons had at last deposited in his
marriage bed a maid-child, long prayed for, come at last; and the
maid's face is still beautiful with the unthinking innocence of
childhood. Mark the pretty, almost petulant mouth, with the delicious
underlip--

"Some bee hath stung it newly!"

Woman she is, yet still a child; and surely the sun, that touches this
moment nearly every maiden cheek in every village for a hundred miles
along this stormy coast, shines upon no sweeter thing.

Like Queen Bertha of old she bears in her hand a distaff, but not even
a queen's dress, however fair, could suit her better than the severe
yet picturesque garb of the Breton peasant girl--the modest white
coif, the blue gown brightly bordered with red, the pretty apron
enwrought with flowers in coloured thread, the neat bodice adorned
with a rosary and medal of Our Lady; and finally, the curious sabots,
or wooden shoes.

"Rohan, Rohan!"

A clear bird-like voice, but it is lost in the murmur of the blue void
below.

The girl puts down her distaff beside a pair of sabots and a broad
felt hat which lie already on one of the blocks of stone; then,
placing herself flat upon her face close to the very edge of the
cliff, and clasping with one hand the rope which is suspended from the
horn of rock close to her, she peers downward.

Half-way down the precipice a figure, conscious of her touch upon the
rope, by which he is partially suspended, turns up to her a shining
face, and smiles.

She sees for a minute the form that hovers beneath her in mid-air,
surrounded by a flying cloud of ocean birds--she marks the white beach
far below her, and the red stains of the weedy pools above the tide,
and the cream-white edge of the glassy moveless sea--she feels the sun
shining, the rocks gleaming, for a little space;--then her head goes
round, and she closes her eyes with a little cry. A clear ringing
laugh floats up to her and reassures her. She plucks up heart and
gazes once again.

What a depth! She turns dizzy anew as she looks into it, but presently
the brain-wave passes away, and her head grows calm. She sees all now
distinct and clear, but her eyes rest on one picture only!--not on the
crimson reefs and granite rocks amidst which the placid ocean creeps,
through fretwork of tangled dulse and huge crimson water-ferns; not on
the solitary Needle of Gurlan, an enormous monolith of chalk and
stone, standing several furlongs out in the sea, with the waves
washing eternally round its base and a cloud of sea-fowl hovering ever
about its crest; not on the lonely specks of rock, where the great
black-backed gulls, dwarfed by distance to the size of white moths,
sit gazing at the sunset, weary of a long day's fishing; not on the
long line of green cormorants that are flapping drowsily home to roost
across waters tinted purple and mother-of-pearl; not on the seals that
swim in the dim green coves far beneath; not on the solitary red-
sailed fishing boat that drifts along with the ebb a mile out to sea.
All these she sees for a moment as in a magician's glass; all these
vanish, and leave one vision remaining--the agile and intrepid figure
just under her, treading the perpendicular crags like any goat,
swinging almost out into mid-air as from time to time he bears his
weight upon the rope, and moving lightly hither and thither, with feet
and hands alike busy, the latter hunting for sea-birds' eggs.

Thick as foam-flakes around his head float the little terns; past him,
swift as cannon-balls, the puffins whizz from their burrows (for the
comic little sea-parrot bores the earth like a rabbit, before she lays
her eggs in it like a bird), and sailing swiftly for a hundred yards,
wheel, and come back, past the intruder's ears again, to their burrows
once more; round and round, in a slow circle above his head, a great
cormorant--of the black, not the green species--sails silently and
perpetually, uttering no sound; and facing him, snowing the surface of
the cliffs, sit the innumerable birds, with their millions of little
eyes on his. The puffins on the green earthy spots, peering out with
vari-coloured bills; the guillemots in earth and rock alike, wherever
they can find a spot to rest an egg; the little dove-like tern; male
and female, sitting like love-birds beak to beak, on the tiny little
coignes of vantage on the solid rocks below the climber's feet. Of the
numberless birds which surround him on every side, few take the
trouble to stir, though those few make a perfect snow around him; but
the air is full of a twittering and a trembling, and a chattering and
rustling, which would drive a less experienced cragsman crazy on the
spot. As he slips nimbly among them, they grumble a little in their
bird fashion; that is all. Occasionally an infuriated would-be mother,
robbed of her egg, makes belief to fly at his face, but quails at the
first movement of his fowler's staff; and now and then an angry
puffin, as his hand slips into her hole, clings to his finger like a
parrot, is drawn out a ruffled wrath of feathers, and is flung
shrieking away into the air.

The fowler's feet are naked--so his toes sometimes suffer from a
random bite or peck, but his only answer is a merry laugh. He flits
about as if completely unconscious of danger, or if conscious, as if
the peril of the sport made it exhilarating tenfold.

It is exciting to see him moving about in his joyous strength amid the
dizzy void, with the sunset burning on his figure, the sea sparkling
beneath his feet. His head is bare; his hair, of perfect golden hue,
floats to his shoulders, and is ever and anon blown into his face, but
with a toss of his head he flings it behind him. The head is that of a
lion; the throat, the chin, leonine; and the eyes, even when they
sparkle as now, have the strange, far-away, visionary look of the king
of animals. His figure, agile as it is, is herculean; for is he not a
Gwenfern, and when, since the memory of a man, did a Gwenfern ever
stand less than six feet in his sabots? Stripped of his raiment and
turned to stone, he might stand for Heracles--so large of mould is he,
so mighty of limb. But even in his present garb--the peasant dress of
dark blue, shirt open at the throat, gaily-coloured sash, and trousers
fastened at the knee with a knot of scarlet ribbon--he looks
sufficiently herculean.

He plies his trade. Secured to his waist hangs a net of dark earth-
coloured eggs, and it is nearly full.

The sunset deepens, its flashes grow more blinding as they strike on
the reddened cliff but the fowler lifts up his eyes in the light, and
sees the dark face of the maiden shining down upon him through the
snow of birds.

"Rohan, Rohan!" she cries again.

He waves his fowler's staff and smiles, preparing to ascend.

"I am coming, Marcelle!" he calls.

And through the flying snow he slowly comes, till it is no longer snow
around his head, but snow around his feet. Partly aided by the rope,
partly by the hook of his fowler's staff, he clings with hands and
feet, creeps from ledge to ledge, crawling steadily upward. Sometimes
the loose conglomerate crumbles in his hands or beneath his feet, and
he swings with his whole weight upon the rope; then for a moment his
colour goes, from excitement, not fear, and his breath comes quickly.
No dizziness with him! his calm blue eyes look upward and downward
with equal unconcern, and he knows each footstep of his way. Slowly,
almost laboriously, he seems to move, yet his progress is far more
rapid than it appears to the eye, and in a few minutes he has drawn
himself up the overhanging summit of the crag, reached the top,
gripped the horn of rock with hands and knees, and swung himself on to
the greensward, close to the girl's side.

All the prospect above the cliffs opens suddenly on his sight. The
cloudy east is stained with deep crimson bars, against which the
grassy hills, and fresh-ploughed fields, and the squares of trees
whose foliage hides the crowning farms, stand out in distinct and
beautiful lines.

But all he sees for the moment is the one dark face, and the bright
eyes that look lovingly into his.

"Why will you be so daring, Rohan?" she inquires in a soft Breton
patois. "If the rope should break, if the knot should slip, if you
should grow faint! Gildas and Hol both say you are foolish. St.
Gurlan's Craig is not fit for a man to climb!"



Chapter 2. ROHAN AND MARCELLE



To creep where foot of man has never crept before, to crawl on the
great cliffs where even the goats and sheep are seldom seen, to know
the secret places as they are known to the hawk and the raven and the
black buzzard of the crags, this is the joy and glory of the man's
life--this is the rapture that he shares with the winged, the
swimming, and the creeping things. He swims like a fish, he crawls
like a fly, and his joy would be complete if he could soar like a
bird! His animal enjoyment, meantime, is perfect. Not the peregrine,
wheeling in still circles round the topmost crags, moves with more
natural splendour on its way.

All the peasants and fishers of Kromlaix are cragsmen too, but none
possess his cool sublimity of daring. Rohan Gwenfern will walk almost
erect where no other fowler, however experienced, would creep on hands
and knees. In the course of his lifelong perils he has had ugly falls,
which have only stimulated him to fresh exploits.

He began, when a mere child, by herding sheep and goats among these
very crags, and making the lonely caverns ring with his little
goatherd's horn. By degrees he familiarized himself with every feature
of the storm-rent terrible coast; so that even when he grew up towards
manhood, and joined his fellows in fishing expeditions far out at sea,
he still retained his early passion for the crags and cliffs. While
others were lounging on the beach or at the door of the calozes, while
these were drinking in the cabaret and those were idling among their
nets, Rohan was walking in some vast cathedral not made with hands, or
penetrating like a spectre, torch in hand, into the pitch-black cavern
where the seal was suckling her young, or swimming naked out to the
cormorant's roost on the base of the Needle of Gurlan.

Even in wildest winter, when for days together the cormorants sat on
the ledges of the cliffs and gazed despairingly at the sea, starving,
afraid to stir a feather lest the mighty winds should dash them to
pieces against the stones; when the mountains of foam shook the rocks
to their foundation; when the earthquakes of ocean were busy, and crag
after crag loosened, crumbled, and swept like an avalanche down to the
sea,--even in the maddest storms of nature's maddest season, Rohan was
abroad,--not the great herring-gull being more constant a mover along
the black water-mark than he.

Hence there had arisen in him, day by day and year by year, that
terrible and stolid love for Water which wise critics and dwellers in
towns believe to be the special and sole prerogative of the poets,
particularly of Lord Byron, and which, when described as an attribute
of a Breton peasant or a Connaught "boy," they refer to the abysses of
sentimentality. Does a street-girl love the street, or a ploughman
love the fields, or a sailor love the ship that sails him up and down
the world? Even so, but with an infinitely deeper passion, did Rohan
love the sea. It is no exaggeration to say that even a few miles
inland he would have been heartily miserable. And that he should love
the sea as he did, not with a sentimental emotion, not with any idea
of romancing or attitudinizing, but with a vital and natural love,
part of the very beatings of his heart, was only just. He was its
foster-child.

Weird and thrilling superstitions are still afloat on this wild coast;
grotesque and awful legend; many of them full of deep faith and
pathetic beauty, still pass from mouth to mouth; but among them there
is one which is something more than a mere legend, something more than
a fireside dream. It tells of the sore straits and perils on the
lonely seas during "the great fishing," and how, one summer night, a
fisher, Raoul Gwenfern, took with him to sea his little golden-haired
child. That very night, blowing the trumpets of wrath and death,
Euroclydon arose. Lost, shrieking, terror-stricken, the fleet of boats
drifted before the wind in the terrible mountainous sea; and at last,
when all hope had fled, the crew of this one lugger knelt down
together in the darkness for the last time--knelt as they had often
done side by side in the little chapel on the cliff; and invoked the
succour of Our Blessed Lady of Safety;--and no less than the others
prayed the little child, shivering and holding his father's hand. And
at last, amid all the darkness of the tempest and the roaring of the
sea, there dawned a solemn shining, which for a moment stilled the
palpitating waters around the vessel; and that one innocent child on
board, he and none other beside, saw with his mortal eyes, amid that
miraculous light, and floating upon the waters--all spangled and
silver as she stands, an image, up there in the little chapel of Notre
Dame de la Garde--the face and form of the Mother of God!

Be that as it may, the storm presently abated, and the fleet was
saved; but when the light dawned, and the fishers on board the lugger
came to their senses again they missed one man. The child cried
"Father!" but no father answered; he had been washed over in the
darkness, and his footprints in the land of men were never seen more.
It was then that the child, wailing for his beloved parent, told what
he had seen upon the waters in that hour of prayer. Whether it was a
real vision, or a child's dream, or a flash of memory illuminating the
image he had often seen and thought so lovely, who can tell? But that
day he ran and flung himself into his mother's arms, an orphan child;
and from that day forth he had no father but the Sea.

His mother, a poor widow now, dwelt in a stone cottage just outside
the village, and under the shelter of a hollow in the crag. Her son,
the only child of her old age, the child of her prayers and tears,
obtained by the special intercession of the Virgin and her cousin St.
Elizabeth, grew fairer and fairer as he approached manhood, and ever
on his face there dwelt a brightness which the mother, in her secret
heart, deemed due to that celestial vision.

Now, tales of wonder travel, and in due course the legend travelled to
the priest; and the priest came and saw the child, and (being a little
bit of a phrenologist) examined his head and his bumps, and saw the
shining of his fair face with no ordinary pleasure. It is not every
day that the good God performs a miracle, and this opportunity was too
fine a one to be lost. So the cur, a remarkable man in his way, and
one of considerable learning, then and there made the widow a
proposition which caused her to weep for joy, and cry that St.
Elizabeth was her friend indeed. It was this--that Rohan should be
trained in holy knowledge, and in due season become a priest of God.
Of course the offer was joyfully accepted, and Rohan was taken from
the solitary crags, where he had been herding goats to eke out the
miserable pittance that his mother earned, to live in the house of the
priest. For a time the change was pleasing, and Rohan was taught to
read and write, and to construe a little Latin, and to know a word or
two of Greek; he was, moreover, a willing child, and he would get up
without a murmur on the darkest and coldest winter's morning to serve
the cur's mass. He evinced, on the other hand, an altogether
stupendous capacity for idleness and play. As he grew older his
inclinations grew more irrepressible, and he would slip off in the
fishing boats that were going out to sea, or run away for a long day's
ramble among the crags, or spend the summer afternoon on the shore,
alternately bathing naked and wading for shrimps and prawns. When most
wanted he was often not to be found. One day he was carried home with
his collar-bone broken, after having in vain attempted to take the
nest of an indignant raven. Twice or thrice he was nearly drowned.

This might have been tolerated, though not for long; but presently it
was discovered that Master Rohan had a way of asking questions which
were highly puzzling to the priest. It was still Revolution time.
Though the kingdom was an Empire, and though the terrible ideas of '93
had scarcely reached Kromlaix, the atmosphere was full of strange
thoughts. The little acolyte began secretly to indulge in a course of
secular reading; the little eyes opened, the little tongue prattled;
and the good priest discovered, to his disgust, that the child was too
clever.

When the time came for the boy, in the natural course of things, to be
removed from the village, Rohan revolted utterly. He had made up his
mind, he said, and he would never become a priest!

That was a bitter blow for the mother, and for a space her heart was
hard against the boy; but the priest, to her astonishment, sided with
the revolter.

"Come, mother!" he said, nodding his big head till his great hollow
cheeks trembled with his earnestness. "After all, it is ill to force a
lad's inclination. The life of a priest is a hard one, see you, at the
best. The priesthood is well enough, but there are better ways of
serving the good God."

Rohan's heart rejoiced and the widow cried, "Better ways!--ah, no,
m'sieu le cur."

"But yes," persisted his reverence. "God's will is best of all; and
better even a good ropemaker than a bad priest!" It was settled at
last, and the boy returned to his home. The truth is, the priest was
glad to be rid of his bargain. He saw that Rohan was not the stuff
that holy men are made of, and that, sooner or later, he would be
inventing a heresy or adoring a woman. He did not relinquish his
charge without a sigh, for that business of the miraculous vision, if
consummated by a life of exemplary piety, would have been a fine
feather in the Church's cap. He soon found a more fitting attendant,
however, and his former annoyances and disappointments were forgotten.

Meantime, Rohan returned to his old haunts with the rapture of a
prisoned bird set free. He soon persuaded his mother that it was all
arranged for the best; for would he not, instead of being taken away
as a priest must be, remain with her for ever, and supply his father's
place, and be a comfort to her old age? There were two sorts of lives
that he detested with all his heart, and in either of these lives he
would be lost to home and to her. He would never become a Priest,
because he liked not the life, and because (he navely thought to
himself) he could never marry his little cousin Marcelle! He could
never become a Soldier (God and all the saints be praised for that!),
because he was a widow's only son.

But it was the year 1813, the "soote spring season" of that year, and
the great Emperor, after having successfully allayed the fear of
invasion which had filled all France ever since his disastrous return
from Moscow, was preparing a grand coup by which all his enemies were
utterly to be annihilated. There were strange murmurs afloat, but
nothing definite was yet known. The air was full of that awful silence
which precedes thunderstorm and earthquake.

Down here at Kromlaix, however, down here in the loneliest and saddest
corner of the Breton coast, the sun shone and the sea sparkled as if
Moscow had never been, as if becatombs of French dead were not lying
bleaching amid the Russian snows, as if martyred France had never in
her secret heart shrieked out a curse upon the Avatar. The sounds of
war had echoed far away, but Rohan had heeded them little. Happiness
is uniformly selfish, and Rohan was happy. Life was sweet to him. It
was a blessed thing to breathe, to be, to remain free; to raise his
face to the sun, to mark the cliffs and caves, to watch the passing
sails, or the blue smoke curling from the chimneys of the little
fishing village; to listen to the plump cur, "fatter than his cure;"
to hear the strange stories of bivouac and battle-field told by the
old Bonapartist burnpowder, his uncle; to hear Alain or Jannick play
wild tunes on the biniou, or bagpipe; to hunt the nests of gulls and
seapies; to go out on calm nights with his comrades and net the
shining shoals of herring: best of all, to walk with Marcelle along
the sward or shore; to kneel at her side, holding her hand, before the
statue of Our Lady; to look into her eyes, and, pleasanter still, to
kiss her ripe young lips. What life could be better, what life, all in
all, could be sweeter than this?

And Marcelle?

His mother's sister's child, and only niece of the quaint old corporal
with whom she lives, with her four great brothers, each strong as
Anak. Since they were children together--and he first appalled her
young heart by his reckless daring--they have been accustomed to meet
in all the innocence of Nature. While her great brothers care not for
her society, but haunt the cabaret or go courting when ashore, Rohan
seeks the maiden, and is more gentle than any brother, though still
her kin. He loves her dark eyes and her hidden black hair, and her
gentle ways, and her tender admiration of himself. She has been his
playmate for years--now she is, what shall we say? his companion--
soon, perhaps, to be known by a nearer name. But the marriage of such
close kin is questionable in Brittany, and a special consent from the
Bishop will be needed to bring it about; and besides, after all, they
have never exchanged one syllable of actual love.

Doubtless they understand each other; for youth is electrical, and
passion has many tones far beyond words, and it is not in Nature for a
man and a maiden, both beautiful, to look upon each other without joy.
To their vague delicious feeling in each other's society, however,
they have never given a name. They enjoy each other as they enjoy the
fresh sweet air, and the shining sun, and the happy blue vault above,
and the sparkling sea below. They drink each other's breathing, and
are glad. So is the Earth glad, whenever lovers so unconscious stir
and tremble happily in her arms.

Mark them again, as Rohan rises from the cliff, and stands by the
girl's side, and listens to her laughing rebuke. How does he answer?
He takes her face between his two hands and kisses her on either
cheek.

She laughs and blushes slightly; the blush would be deeper if he had
kissed her on the lips.

Then he turns to the block of granite where he has left his hat and
sabots, and slowly begins to put them on.

The sunset is fading now upon the ocean.

The vision of El Dorado, which has been burning for an hour on the far
sea-line, will soon be lost for ever. The golden city with its purple
spires, the strange mountains of pink-tinged snow beyond, the dark dim
cloud-peak softly crowned by one bright green opening star, are
dissolving slowly, and a cold breath comes now from those ruined
sunset shores. The blood-red reefs, the wet sands, the flashing pools
of water along the shingle and beneath the crags, are burning with
dimmer and dimmer colours; the crows are winging past to some dark
rookery inland; the sea-fowl are settling down with many murmurs on
the nests among the cliffs; the night-owl is fluttering forth in the
dark shadow of a crag; and the fishing lugger yonder is drifting on a
dark and glassy sea.

Rohan looks down.

The lugger glides along on the swift ebb tide, and he can plainly see
the men upon her deck, bare-headed, with hands folded in prayer and
faces upraised to the very crags on which he stands; for not far
beyond him, on the very summit of the cliffs, stands the little Chapel
of Our Lady of Safety--the beloved beacon of the homeward-bound, the
last glimpse of home the fisher sees as he sails away to the west, and
the help, night and day, of all good mariners.

All this picture Rohan has taken in at a glance, and now, grasping his
fowler's hook in one hand, and coiling the rope around his arm, he
moves along the summit of the cliff followed by Marcelle. A well-worn
path along the scanty sward leads to the door of the little Chapel,
and this path they follow.

They have not proceeded far when a large white goat, which has been
busy somewhere among the cliffs, climbs up close by, and stands
looking at them curiously. The inspection is evidently satisfactory,
for it approaches them slowly with some signs of recognition.

"See!" cries the girl. "It is Jannedik."

Jannedik answers by coming closer and rubbing its head against her
dress. Then it turns to Rohan, and pushes its chin into his
outstretched hand.

"What are you doing so far from home, Jannedik?" he asks, smiling,
surprised. "You are a rover, and will some day break your neck. It is
nearly bed-time, Jannedik!"

Jannedik is a lady among goats, and she belongs to the mother of
Rohan. It is her pleasure to wander among the cliffs like Rohan
himself; and she knows the spots of most succulent herbage and the
secretest corners of the caves. There is little speculation in her
great brown eyes, but she comes to the whistle like a dog, and she
will let the village children ride upon her back, and she is
altogether more instructed than most of her tribe, in which the cliffs
abound.

As Rohan and Marcelle wander on to the little Chapel, Jannedik
follows, pausing now and then to browse upon the way; but when they
enter--which they do with a quiet reverence--Jannedik hesitates for a
moment, stamps her foot upon the ground, and trots off homeward by
herself.

She has many points of a good Christian, but the Church has no
attractions for her.

The little Chapel stands open night and day. It was built by sailor
hands, for sailor use, and with no small labour were the materials
carried up hither from the village below. It is very tiny, and it
nestles in the highest cliff like a white bird, moveless in all
weathers.

It is quite empty, and as Rohan and Marcelle approach the altar, the
last light of sunlight strikes through the painted pane, illumining
the altar-piece within the rails--a rudely painted picture of
shipwrecked sailors on a raft, raising eyes to the good Virgin, who
appears among the clouds. Close to the altar stands the plaster figure
of Our Lady, dressed in satin and spangles. Strewing the pedestal and
hanging round her feet are wreaths of coloured beads, garlands of
flowers cut in silk and satin, little rude pictures of the Virgin,
medals in tin and brass, wooden rosaries, and strings of beads.

Marcelle crosses herself and falls softly upon her knees.

Rohan remains standing, hat in hand, gazing on the picture of the
Virgin on the altar-piece behind the rails.

The little Chapel grows darker and darker, the rude timbers and storm-
stained walls are very dim, and the last sunlight fades on Marcelle's
bent head and on the powerful lineaments of Rohan.

Faith dwells here, and the touch of a passionate peace and love which
are worth more.

Peace be with them and with the world to-night--peace in their hearts,
love in their breasts, peace and love in the hearts and breasts of all
mankind!

But ah! should to-morrow bring the Shadow of the Sword!



Chapter 3. ROHAN'S CATHEDRAL



Not far from the Chapel of Our Lady of Safety, but situated on the
wild sea-shore under the crags, stands a Cathedral fairer than any
wrought by man, with a roof of eternal azure, walls of purple,
crimson, green, gold, and a floor of veritable "mosaic paven." Men
name its chief entrance the Gate of St. Gildas, but the lovely
Cathedral itself has neither name nor worshippers.

At low water this Gate is passable dry-shod, at half-tide it may be
entered by wading waist-deep, at three-quarters or full flood it can
only be entered by an intrepid swimmer and diver.

Two gigantic walls of crimson granite jut out from the mighty cliff-
wall and meet together far out on the edge of the sea, and where the
sea touches them it has hollowed their extremity into a mighty arch,
hung with dripping moss.

Entering here at low water, one sees the vast walls towering on every
side, carved by wind and water into fantastic niches and many-coloured
marble forms; with no painted windows, it is true, but with the blue
cloudless heaven for a roof far above, where the passing sea-gull
hovers, small as a butterfly, in full sunlight. A dim religious light
falls downward, lighting up the solemn place, and showing shapes which
superstition might fashion into statues and images of mitred abbots
and cowled monks and dusky figures of the Virgin; and here and there
upon the floor of weeds and shingle are strewn huge blocks like carven
tombs, and in lonely midnights the seals sit on these and look at the
moon like black ghosts of the dead.

Superstition has seen this place, and has transformed its true history
into a legend.

Here indeed in immemorial time stood a great abbey reared by hands,
and surrounded by a fertile plain; but the monks of this abbey were
wicked, bringing their wantons into the blessed place, and profaning
the name of the good God. But the good God, full of His mercy, sent a
Saint--Gildas indeed by name--to warn these wicked ones to desist from
their evil ways and think of the wrath to come. It was a cold winter
night when Gildas reached the gate, and his limbs were chill and he
was hungry and athirst, and he knocked faintly with his frozen hand;
and at first, being busy at revel, they did not hear; he knocked again
and they heard, but when they saw his face, his poor raiment, and his
bare feet, they bade him begone. Then did Gildas beseech them to
receive and shelter him for Our Lady's sake, warning them also of
their iniquities and of God's judgment; but even as he spoke, they
shut the gate in his face. Then St. Gildas raised his hands to Heaven
and cursed them and that abbey, and called on the great sea to arise
and destroy it and them. So the sea, though it was then some miles
away arose and came; and the wicked ones were destroyed, the likeness
of the abbey was changed, and the great roof was washed away. Even
unto this day the strange semblance remains as a token that these
things were so.

We said this Cathedral had no worshippers. It had two, at least.

Within it sat, not many days after they had stood together in the
little chapel, Rohan and Marcelle. It was morte mer, and not a ripple
touched the light cathedral floor; but it was damp and gleaming with
the last tide, and the weed-hung granite tombs were glittering crimson
in the light.

They sat far within, on a dry rock close under the main cliff, and
were looking upward. At what? At the Altar.

Far up above them stretched the awful precipices of stone, but close
over their heads, covering the whole side of the cliff for a hundred
square yards, was a thick curtain of moss, and over this moss, from
secret places far above, poured little runlets of crystal water,
spreading themselves on the soft moss-fringes and turning into
innumerable drops of diamond dew: here scattering countless pearls
over a bed of deepest emerald, there trickling into waterfalls of
brightest silver filagree, and again gleaming like molten gold on soft
trembling folds of the yellow lichen; and over all this dewy mass of
sparkling colours there ebbed and flowed, and flitted and changed, a
perpetually liquid light, flashing alternately with all the colours of
the prism.

A hundred yards above, all was rent again into fantastic columns and
architraves. Just over the Altar, where the dews of heaven were
perpetually distilling, was a dark blot like the mouth of a Cave.

"Is it not time to go?" said Marcelle, presently. "Suppose the sea
were to come and find us here, how dreadful! Hol Grallon died like
that!"

Rohan smiled--the self-sufficient smile of strength and superior
wisdom.

"Hol Grallon was a great ox, and should have stayed praying by his
own door. Look you, Marcelle! There are always two ways out of my
Cathedral; when it is neap tide and not rough you can wait for the ebb
up here by the Altar--it will not rise so far; and when it is stormy
and blows hard you can climb up yonder to the Trou"--and he pointed to
the dark blot above his head--"or even to the very top of the cliff."

Marcelle shrugged her shoulders.

"Climb the cliff!--why, it is a wall, and every one has not feet of a
fly."

"At least it is easy as far as the Trou. There are great ledges for
the feet, and niches for the hands."

"If one were even there, what then? It is like the mouth of Hell, and
one could not enter."

Marcelle crossed herself religiously.

"It is rather like the little Chapel above, when one carries a light
to look around. It is quite dry and pleasant; one might live there and
be glad."

"It is, then, a cave?"

"Fit for a sea-woman to dwell in and bring up her little ones."

Rohan laughed, but Marcelle crossed herself again.

"Never name them, Rohan!--ah, the terrible place!"

"It is not terrible, Marcelle; I could sleep there in peace--it is so
calm, so still. It would be like one's own bed at home but for the
blue doves stirring upon the roosts, and the bats that slip in and out
into the night."

"The bats--horrible! my flesh creeps!"

Marcelle, though a maid of courage, had the feminine horror of unclean
and creeping things. Charlotte Corday slew the rat Marat, but she
shivered at the sight of a mouse.

"And as for the crag above," said Rohan, smiling at her, "I have seen
Jannedik climb it often, and I should not fear to try it myself; it is
easier than St. Gurlan's Craig. Many poor sailors, when their ship was
lost, have been saved like that, when the wind is off the sea; and
they have felt God's hand grip them and hold them tight against the
precipice that they might not fall--God's hand or the wind, Marcelle,
that is all one?"

After this there was silence for a time. Marcelle kept her great eyes
fixed upon the glittering curtain of moss and dew, while Rohan dropped
his eyes again to a book which he held upon his knee--an old, well-
thumbed, coarsely printed volume, with leaves well sewn together with
waxed thread.

He read, or seemed to read; yet all the time his joy was in the light
presence by his side, and he was conscious of her happy breathing, of
the warm touch of her dress against his knee.

Presently he was disturbed in his enjoyment. Marcelle sprang to her
feet.

"If we stay longer," she cried, "I shall have to take off my sabots
and stockings. For my part, Rohan, I shall run."

And the girl passed rapidly towards the Gate and looked for Rohan to
follow her.

Rohan, however, did not stir.

"There is time," he said, glancing through the Gate at the sea, which
seemed already preparing to burst and pour in between the granite
archway. "Come back, and do not be afraid. There is yet a half-hour,
and as for the sabots and stockings, surely you remember how we used
to wade together in the blue water of old. Come, Marcelle, and look!"

Marcelle complied. With one doubtful side-glance at the wall of water
which seemed to rise up and glimmer close to the Gate, she stole
slowly back, and seated herself by her cousin's side. His strength and
beauty fascinated her, as it would have fascinated any maiden on that
coast, and while she placed her soft brown hand on his knees, and
looked up into his face, she felt within her the mysterious stirs of a
yearning she could not understand.

"Look, then," he said, pointing out through the Gate; "does it not
seem as if all the green waters of the sea were about to rush in and
cover us, as they covered the great abbey long ago?"

Marcelle looked.

To one unaccustomed to the place it seemed as if egress were already
impossible; for the great swell rose and fell close up against the
archway, closing out all glimpses of blue air or sky. Out beyond the
arch swam a great grey-headed seal looking with large wistful eyes
into the Cathedral, and just then a flight of pigeons swooped through
the Gate, scattered in swift flight as they passed overhead, and
disappeared in the darkness of the great cave above the Altar.

"Let us go!" said Marcelle in a low voice.

She was superstitious, and the allusion to the old legend made her
feel uncomfortable in that solemn place.

"Rest yet," answered Rohan, as he rose and closed his book and touched
her arm. "In half an hour, not sooner, the Gate will be like the jaws
of a great monster. Do you remember the story of the great Sea-beast
and the Maiden chained to a rock, and the brave Youth with wings who
rescued her and turned the beast to stone?"

Marcelle smiled and coloured slightly.

"I remember," she answered.

More than once had Rohan, who had a taste for mythology and fairy
legend, told her the beautiful myth of Perseus and Andromeda; and more
than once had she pictured herself chained in that very place, and a
fair-haired form--very like Rohan's--floating down to her on great
outspread wings from the blue roof above her head; and although in her
dream she herself wore sabots and coarse stockings, and had her dark
hair pinned in a coif while Perseus wore sabots too, and the long hair
and loose raiment of a Breton peasant, was it any the less delicious
to think of? As to slaying a monster, Rohan was quite equal to that,
she knew, if occasion came; and taking his reckless daring and his
wild cliff-flights into consideration, he really might have been born
with wings.

Just then the incoming tide began to be broken into foam below one
arch of the gateway, and the rocks with jagged teeth to tear the sea,
and the whole side of the Gate, blackly silhouetted against the green
water, seemed like the head and jaws of some horrible monster, such as
the Greek sailor saw whenever he sailed along his narrow seas; such as
the Breton fisher sees to this hour when he glides along the edges of
his craggy coast.

"There is the great Sea-beast," said Rohan, "crouching and waiting."

"Yes! See the huge red rock--it is like a mouth."

"If you could stop here and watch, you would say so truly. In a little
it will begin to lash and tear the water till the red mouth is white
with foam and black with weeds, and the water below it is spat full of
foam, and the air is filled with a roar like the bellowing of a beast.
I have sat here and watched till I thought the old story was come true
and the monster was there; but that was in time of storm."

"You watched it--up in the Trou?"

"It caught me one tide, and I had to sit shivering until sunset; and
then the storm went down, but the tide was high. The water washed
close to the roof of the Gate, and when the wave rose there was not
room for a fly to pass--it surged right up yonder against the walls.
Well, I was hungry, and knew not what to do. It was pleasant to see
the water turn crystal green all along the cavern floor, and to watch
it washing over the rocks and stones where we sat to-day, and to see
the seals swimming round and round and trying in vain to find a spot
to rest on. But all that would not fill one's stomach. I waited, and
then it grew dark, but the tide was still high. It was terrible then,
for the stars were clustered up yonder, and the shapes of the old
monks seemed coming down from the walls, and I felt afraid to stay. So
I left my hat and sabots at the mouth of the cave, and slipped down
from ledge to ledge, and dropped down into the water--it was dark as
death!"

Marcelle uttered a little terrified "Ah!" and clutched Rohan's arm.

"At first I thought the fiends were loose, for I fell amid a flock of
black cormorants, and they shrieked like mad things; and one dived and
seized me by the leg, but I shook him away. Then I struck out for the
Gate, and as I drew near with swift strokes I saw the great waves
rising momently and shutting out the light; but when the waves fell
there was a glimmer, and I could just see the top of the arch. So I
came close, treading on the sea, till I could almost touch the arch
with my hand, and then I watched my chance and dived! Mon Dieu, it was
a sharp minute! Had I swum awry, or not dived deep enough, I should
have been lifted up and crushed against the jagged stones of the arch;
but I held my breath and struck forward--eight, nine, ten strokes
under water, when choking, I rose!"

"And then?"

"I was floating on the great wave just outside the arch, with the sea
before me and the stars above my head. Then I thought all safe, but
just then I saw a billow like a mountain coming in; I drew in a deep
breath, and just as the wave rose above me I dived again; when I rose
it had passed and was shrieking round the Gate of St. Gildas. So all I
had to do then was to swim on for a hundred yards, and turn in and
land upon the sands below the Ladder of St. Triffine."

The girl looked for a moment admiringly on her herculean companion--
then she smiled.

"Let us go, now," she cried, "or the sea will come again, and this
time one at least would drown."

"I will come."

"There, that last wave ran right down into the passage. We must wade,
after all."

"What then? The water is warm."

So Rohan still standing rapidly pulled off his sabots and stockings;
while Marcelle, sitting on a low rock, drew off hers--nervously, and
with less sped. Then she rose, making a pretty grimace as her little
white feet touched the cold shingle. Rohan took her hand, and they
passed right under the portal, close up against which the tide had by
this time crept.

At every step it grew deeper, and soon the maiden had to resign his
hand; and gathering up her clothes above the knee, she moved nervously
on.

No blush tinged her cheek at thus revealing her pretty limbs; she knew
they were pretty, of course, and she felt no shame. True modesty does
not consist in a prurient veiling of all that nature has made fair,
and perhaps there is no more uncleanness in showing a shapely leg than
in baring a well-formed arm.

On one point, however, Marcelle's modesty was supreme. According to
the custom of the country, she carefully curled up and coifed her
locks, which, unlike those of most Breton maidens, were long enough to
reach her shoulders. Her hair was sacred from seeing. Even Rohan in
all their later rambles had never beheld her without her coif.

They had reached the portal and were only knee-deep, but before them
stretched for several yards a solid wall connected with the Gate, and
round the end of this wall they must pass to reach the safe shingle
beyond.

Marcelle stood in despair.

Before her stretched the great fields of the ocean, illimitable to all
seeming--still but terrible, with here and there a red sail glimmering
and following the shining harvest. On every side the tide had risen,
and around the outlying wall it was quite deep.

"Ay me!" cried the girl in a pretty despair; "I told you so, Rohan."

Rohan, standing like a solid stone in the water, merely smiled.

"Have no fear," he replied, coming close to her. "Hold your apron!"

She obeyed, holding up her apron and petticoat together; and then,
after putting in her lap his and her own sabots and stockings, with
the book he had been reading, he lifted her like a feather in his
powerful arms.

"You are heavier than you used to be," he said, laughing; while
Marcelle, gathering her apron up with one hand, clung tightly round
his neck with the other. Slowly and surely, step by step, he waded
with her seaward along the moss-hung wall; he seemed in no hurry,
perhaps because he had such pleasure in his burthen; but at every step
he went deeper, and when he reached the end of the wall the water had
crept to his hips.

"If you should stumble!" cried Marcelle.

"I shall not stumble," answered Rohan quietly.

Marcelle was not so sure, and clung to him vigorously. She was not
afraid, for there was no danger; but she had the true feminine dread
of a wetting. Place her in any circumstance of real peril, call up the
dormant courage within her, and she would face the very sea with
defiance, with pride, dying like a heroine. Meantime, she was timid,
disliking even a splash.

The wall was quickly rounded, and Rohan was wading with his burthen to
the shore, so that he was soon only knee-deep again. His heart was
palpitating madly, his eyes and cheeks were burning, for the thrill of
his delicious load filled him with strange ecstasy; and he lingered in
the water, unwilling to resign the treasure he held within his arms.

"Rohan! quick! do not linger!"

It was then that he turned his face up to hers for the first time; and
lo! he saw a sight which brought the bright blood to his own cheeks
and made him tremble like a tree beneath his load. Porphyro, gazing on
his mistress.

"Half hidden like a mermaid in seaweed," and watching her naked beauty
gleam like marble in the moonlight, felt no fairer revelation.

Rohan, too, "felt faint."

And why? It was only this--in the excitement and struggle of the
passage Marcelle's white coif had fallen back, and her black hair,
loosened from its fastenings, had rained down in one dark shower,
round cheeks and neck; and cheeks and neck, when Rohan raised his
eyes, were burning crimson with a delicious shame.

Have we not said that the hair of a Breton maid is virgin, and is as
hallowed as an Eastern woman's face, and is only to be seen by the
eyes of him she loves?

Rohan's head swam round.

As his face turned up, burning like her own, the sacred hair fell upon
his eyes, and the scent of it--who knows not the divine perfume even
scentless things give out when touched by Love?--the scent of it was
sweet in his nostrils, while the thrill of its touch passed into his
very blood. And under his hands the live form trembled, while his eyes
fed on the blushing face.

"Rohan! quick! set me down!"

He stood now on dry land, but he still held her in his arms. The sweet
hair floated to his lips, and he kissed it madly, while the fire grew
brighter on her face.

"I love you, Marcelle!"



Chapter 4. THE MENHIR



There is one supreme emotion in the life of Love which is never to be
known again when once its holy flush has passed; there is one divine
sensation when the wave of life leaps its highest and breaks softly,
never to rise quite so high again in sunlight or starlight; there is
one first touch of souls meeting, and that first touch is divinest,
whatever else may follow. The minute, the sensation, the touch, had
come to Rohan and Marcelle. Passion suddenly arose full-orbed and
absolute. The veil was drawn between soul and soul, and they knew each
other's tremor and desire.

Many a day had the cousins wandered alone together for hours and
hours. From childhood upwards they had been companions, and their
kinship was so close that few coupled their names together as lovers,
even in jest. Now, when Rohan was three or four and twenty and
Marcelle was eighteen, they were attached friends as ever, and no
surveillance was set upon their meetings. Walking about with Rohan had
been only like walking with Hol, or Gildas, or Alain, her tall
brothers.

Not that either was quite unconscious of the sweet sympathy which
bound them together. Love feels before it speaks, thrills before it
sees, wonders before it knows. They had been beautiful in each other's
eyes for long, but neither quite knew why.

So their secret had been kept, almost from themselves.

But that disarrangement of the coif that loosening of the virgin hair,
divulged all. It broke the barrier between them, it bared each to each
in all the nudity of passion. They had passed in an instant from the
cold clear air to the very heart of Love's fire, and there they moved,
and turned to golden shapes, and lived.

Then, they passed out again, and through the flame, into the common
day.

All this time he held her in his arms, and would not let her go. Her
hair trembled down upon his face in delicious rain. She could not
speak, now, nor struggle.

At last he spoke again.

"I love you, Marcelle!--and you?"

There was only a moment's pause, during which her eyes trembled on his
with an excess of passionate light; then, stirring not in his arms,
she closed her eyes, and in answer to him, then and for ever, let her
lips drop softly down on his!

It was better than all words, sweeter than all looks; it was the very
divinest of divine replies, in that language of Love which is the same
all over the wide earth. Their lips trembled together in one long
kiss, and all the life-blood of each heart flowed through that warm
channel into the other.

Then Rohan set her down, and she stood upon her feet, dazzled, and
trembling; and lo! as if that supreme kiss was not enough, he kissed
her hands over and over, and caught her in his arms, and kissed her
lips and cheeks again.

By this time, however, she had recovered herself; so she gently
released herself from his embrace.

"Cease, Rohan!" she said softly. "They will see us from the cliffs."

Released by Rohan, she picked up her stockings and sabots, which had
fallen on the dry sand, together with those of Rohan, and the book;
all the contents of her lap. Then she sat down with her back to Rohan,
and drew on her stockings, and could he have marked her face just
then, he would have seen it illumined with a strange complacent joy.
Then she softly up-bound her hair within its coif. When she rose and
turned to him she was quite pale and cool--and the sweet hair was hid.

In these consummate episodes a woman subdues herself to joy sooner
than a man. Rohan had put on his stockings and sabots, but he was
still trembling from head to foot.

"Marcelle! you love me? ah, but you give me good news--it is almost
too good to bear!"

He took both her hands in his, and drew her forward to him, but this
time he kissed her brow.

"Did you not know?" she said softly.

"I cannot tell; yes, I think so; but now it seems so new. I was afraid
because I was your cousin you might not love me like that. I have
known you all these years, and yet it now seems most strange."

"It is strange also to me."

As she spoke she had drawn one hand away, and was walking on up the
beach.

"But you love me, Marcelle?" he cried again.

"I have loved you always."

"But not as to-day?"

"No, not as to-day;" and she blushed again.

"And you will never change?"

"It is the men that change, not we women."

"But you will not?"

"I will not."

"And you will marry me, Marcelle?"

"That is as the good God wills."

"So!"

"And the good God's bishop."

"We shall have his blessing too."

"And my brothers also, and my Uncle the Corporal."

"Theirs also."

After that there was a brief silence. To be candid, Rohan was not
quite sure of his uncle, who was a man of strange ideas, differing
greatly from his own. The Corporal might see objections, and if he saw
them he would try, being a man of strong measures, to enforce them.
Still, the thought of him was only a passing cloud, and Rohan's face
soon brightened.

It was a clear bright day, and every nook and cranny of the great
cliffs was distinct in the sunlight. The sea was like glass, and
covered as far as the eye could see with a dim heat, like breath on a
mirror. Far up above their heads two ravens were soaring in beautiful
circles, and beyond these dark specks the skies were all harebell-blue
and white feathery clouds.

They soon sought and found a giddy staircase which, entering the very
heart of the cliff, wound and wound until it reached the summit; it
was partly natural, partly hewn by human hands: here and there it was
dangerous, for the loose stone steps had fallen away and left only a
slippery slide.

This was the Ladder of St. Triffine.

It was a hard pull to the summit, and for a great part of the way
Rohan's arm was round Marcelle's waist. Again and again they stopped
for breath, and saw through airy loop-holes in the rock the sea
breaking far below them with a cream-white edge on the ribbed sands,
and the great boulders glistening in the sun, and the white gulls
hovering on the water's brim. At last they reached the grassy plateau
above the cliffs, and there they sat and rested,--for Marcelle was
very tired.

They could have lingered so for ever, since they were so happy.

It was enough to breathe, to be near each other, to hold each other's
hands. The veriest commonplace became divine on their lips, just as
the scenes around, common to them, became divine in their eyes. Love
is easily satisfied. A look, a tone, a perfume will content it for
hours. As for speech, it needs none, since it knows the language of
all the flowers and stars, and the secret tones of all the birds.

When the lovers did talk, walking homeward along the greensward, their
talk was practical enough.

"I shall not tell my uncle yet," said Marcelle, "nor any of my
brothers, not even Gildas. It wants thinking over, and then I will
tell them all. But there is no hurry."

"None," said Rohan. "Perhaps they may guess?"

"How should they if we are wise? We are cousins, and we shall meet no
oftener than before."

"That is true."

"And when one meets, one need not show one's heart to all the world."

"That is true also. And my mother shall not know."

"Why should she? She will know all in good time. We are doing no
wrong, and a secret may be kept from one's people without sin."

"Surely!"

"All the village would talk if they knew, and your mother perhaps most
of all. A girl does not like her name carried about like that, unless
it is a certain thing."

"Marcelle! is it not certain?"

"Perhaps--yes, I think so--but nevertheless who can tell?"

"But you love me, Marcelle!"

"Ah yes, I love you, Rohan!"

"Then nothing but the good God can keep us asunder, and He is just!"

So speaking, they had wandered along the green plateau until they came
in sight of a Shape of stone, which, like some gigantic living form,
dominated the surrounding prospect for many miles. It was a Menhir, so
colossal that one speculated in vain over the means that had been
adopted to raise it on its jagged end.

It surveyed the sea-coast like some dark lighthouse, but no ray ever
issued from its awful heart. On its summit was an iron cross, rendered
white as snow by the sea-birds; and down its sides, also, the same
white snow dripped and hardened, making it hoary and awful as some
bearded Druidic god of the primeval forest.

The cross was modern--a sign of capture set there by the new faith.
But the Menhir remained unchanged, and gazed at the sea like some calm
eternal thing.

It had stood there for ages--how many no man might count; but few
doubted that it was first erected in the dim legendary times when dark
forests of oak and pine covered this treeless upland; when the sea, if
indeed there were any sea, and not in its stead a rocky arm reaching
far away into the kindred woods of Cornwall--when the sea was so
remote that no sound of its breathing shuddered through the brazen
forest-gloom; and when the dark forms of the Druidic procession
flitted in its shadow and consecrated its stone with human blood. All
had changed on sea and land; countless races of men had winged past
like crows into the red sunsets of dead Time, and had turned no more;
mountains of sand had crumbled, whirlwinds of leaves had scattered;
mighty forests had fallen, and had rotted, root and branch; and the
sea, inexorable and untiring, had crawled and crawled over and under,
changing, defacing, destroying,--washing away the monuments of ages as
easily as it obliterates a child's footprints in the sand, But the
Menhir remained, waiting for that far-away hour when the sea would
creep still closer, and drink it up, as Eternity drinks a drop of dew.
Against all the elements, against wind, rain, snow, yea, even
earthquake, it had stood firm. Only the sea might master it--it, and
the cross on its brow.

As the lovers approached, a black hawk, which was seated on the iron
cross, flapped its wings and swooped away down over the crags into the
abyss beneath.

"I have heard Master Arfoll say," observed Rohan as they approached
the Menhir, "that the great stone here looks like some giant of old
turned into stone for shedding human blood. For my part, it reminds me
of the wife of Lot."

"Who was she?" asked Marcelle. "The name is not of our parish."

It must be confessed that Marcelle was utterly ignorant even of the
literature of her own religion. Like most peasants of her class, she
took her knowledge from the lips of the priest, and from the pictures
of the Holy Virgin, the child Jesus, and the saints. In many Catholic
districts the least known of all books is the Bible.

Rohan did not smile; his own knowledge of the Book was quite
desultory.

"She was flying away from a city of wicked people, and God told her
not to look back; but women are curious, above all, and she broke
God's bidding, and for that He turned her into a stone like this, only
it was made of salt. That is the story, Marcelle!"

"She was a wicked woman, but the punishment was hard."

"I think sometimes myself that this must once have been alive. Look,
Marcelle! Is it not like a monster with a white beard?"

Marcelle crossed herself rapidly.

"The good God forbid," she said.

"Have you not heard my mother tell of the great stones on the plain,
and how they are petrified ghosts of men; and how, on the night of
Nol, they turn into life again, and bathe in the river and quench
their thirst?"

"Ah, but that is foolish!"

Rohan smiled.

"Is it foolish, too, that the stone faces on the church walls are the
devils that tried to burst in when the place was built and the first
mass was said, but that the saints of God stopped them and turned them
into the faces you see? I have heard m'sieur le cur say as much."

"It may be true," observed Marcelle simply, "but these are things we
cannot understand."

"You believe? Master Arfoll says that is foolish also."

Marcelle was silent for a minute, then she remarked quietly--

"Master Arfoll is a strange man. Some say he does not believe in God."

"Do not listen to them. He is good."

"I myself have heard him say wicked things--Uncle said they were
blasphemous. It was shameful! He wished the emperor might lose, that
he might be killed!"

The girl's face flashed with keen anger, her voice trembled with its
indignation.

"Did he say that?" asked Rohan in a low voice.

"He did--I heard him--ah, God, the great good Emperor, that any one
alive should speak of him like that! If my uncle had heard him there
would have been blood. It was dreadful! It made my heart go cold."

Rohan did not answer directly. He knew that he was on delicate ground.
When he did speak, he kept his eyes fixed nervously upon the grass.

"Marcelle, there are many others that think like Master Arfoll"

Marcelle looked round quickly into the speaker's face. It was quite
pale now.

"Think what, Rohan?"

"That the Emperor has gone too far, that it would be better for France
if he were dead."

"Ah!"

"More than that; better that he had never been born."

The girl's face grew full of mingled anger and anguish. It terrible to
hear blasphemy against the creed we believe in all our heart and soul;
most terrible, when that creed all the madness of idolatry. She
trembled, and her hands were clenched convulsively.

"And you too believe this?" she cried, in a low shuddering whisper,
almost shrinking away from his side.

He saw his danger, and prevaricated. "You are too quick, Marcelle--I
did not say that Master Arfoll was right."

"He is a devil!" cried the girl, with a fierceness which showed the
soldier-stock of which she came. "It is cowards and devils like him
that have sometimes nearly broken the Old Emperor's heart. They love
neither France nor the Emperor; they are hateful; God will punish them
in the next world for their unbelief."

"Perhaps they are punished already in this," returned Rohan, with a
touch of sarcasm which passed quite unheeded by the indignant girl.

"The great good Emperor," she continued, unconscious of his
interruption, "who loves all his people like his children, who is not
proud, who has shaken my uncle by the hand and called him 'comrade,'
who would die for France, who has made her name glorious over all the
world, who is adored by all save his wicked enemies--God punish them
soon! He is next to God and the Virgin and God's Son; he is a saint;
he is sublime. I pray for him first every night before I sleep--for
him first, and then for my uncle afterwards. If I were a man, I would
fight for him. My uncle gave him his poor leg--I would give him my
heart, my soul!"

It came from her in a torrent, in a patois that anger rendered
broader, yet that was still most musical. Her face shone with a
religious ecstasy; she clasped her hands as if in prayer.

Rohan remained silent.

Suddenly she turned to him, with more anger than love in her beautiful
eyes, and cried--

"Speak then, Rohan! Are you against him? Do you hate him in your
heart?"

Rohan trembled, and cursed the moment when he had introduced the
unlucky subject.

"God forbid!" he answered. "I hate no man. But why?"

Her cheeks went white as death as she replied--

"Because then I should hate you, as I hate all the enemies of God. I
hate all the enemies of the great Emperor."



Chapter 5. MASTER ARFOLL



They had approached close to the Menhir, and were standing in its very
shadow, while Marcelle spoke the last words. As she concluded, Rohan
quietly put one hand on her arm, and pointed with the other.

Not far from the pillar, and close to the edge of the crag, stood a
figure which, looming darkly against the white sheet of sky, seemed of
superhuman height--resembling for the moment one of those wild
petrified spirits of whom Rohan had spoken, in the act of turning to
life. Lean and skeletonian, with stooping shoulders, and snow-white
hair falling down his back, thin shrunken limbs, arms drooping by his
side, he stood moveless, like a very shape of stone..

His dress consisted of the broad hat and loose jacket and pantaloons
of the Breton peasant. His stockings were black; instead of sabots he
wore old-fashioned leather shoes fastened with thongs of hide, but
long usage had nearly worn these shoes away. His extreme poverty was
perceptible at a glance. His clothes, where they were not hopelessly
ragged, were full of careful patches and darns, and even his stockings
showed signs of constant mending.

"See!" said Rohan in a whisper. "It is Master Arfoll himself."

The girl drew back, still full of the indignation that had
overmastered her, but Rohan took her arm and pulled her softly
forward, with whispered words of love. She yielded, but her face still
wore a fixed expression of superstitious dislike.

The sound of footsteps startled the man, and he turned slowly round.

If his form had appeared spectral at the first view, his face seemed
more spectral still. It was long and wrinkled, with a powerful high-
arched nose, and thin firm-set lips, quite bloodless, like the cheeks.
The eyes were black and large, full of a weird, wistful expression and
wild fitful light. An awful face, as of one risen from the dead.

But when the large eyes fell on Rohan he smiled, and the smile was one
of beatitude. His face shone. You would have said then, a beautiful
face, as of one who had looked upon angels.

Only for a moment; then the smile faded, and the old worn pallor
returned.

"Rohan!" he cried, in a clear musical voice. "And my pretty Marcelle!"

Rohan raised his hat as to a superior, while Marcelle, still
preserving her resolved expression, blushed guiltily, and made no
sign.

There was that in this man which awed her as it awed all others. She
might dislike him when he was absent, but in his presence she was
conscious of a charm. Poor though he was in the world's goods, and
unpopular as were many of his opinions, Master Arfoll possessed that
dmoniac and magnetic power which Goethe perceived in Bonaparte, and
avowed to be, whether fashioned for good or evil, the especial
characteristic of mighty men.

More will be spoken of Master Arfoll anon when the strange events on
which this story is based come to be further rehearsed. Meantime it is
necessary to explain that he was an itinerant schoolmaster, teaching
from farm to farm, from field to field. From his lips Rohan had drunk
much secret knowledge, seated in the open meadows in the summer-time,
or in some quiet cave by the white fringe of the sea, or on some mossy
stone on the summit of the high crags. He was a dreamer, and he had
taught the boy to dream.

Men said that his face was pale because of the awful things he had
seen when the seals of the Apocalypse were opened in Paris. He never
entered a church, yet he prayed in the open air; he preferred perfect
freedom of religious belief, yet he taught little children to read the
Bible; he was the friend of many a cur and many a soldier, but
ceremonies and battles were alike his abomination. In brief, he was an
outcast; his bed was the earth, his roof heaven; but the holiness of
Nature was upon him, and he crept from place to place like a spirit,
sanctifying and sanctified.

It was some months since he had been in that neighbourhood, and his
appearance there at that moment was a surprise.

"You are a great stranger, Master Arfoll," said Rohan, after they had
taken each other by the hand.

"I have been far away this time, as far as Brest," was the reply. "Ah,
but my journey has been desolate: I have seen in every village Rachel,
weeping for her children. There have been great changes, my son; and
there are more changes coming. Yet I return, as you see, and find the
great Stone unchanged. Nothing abides but death: that only is
eternal."

As he spoke, he pointed to the Menhir.

"Is there bad news, then, Master Arfoll?" inquired Rohan, eagerly.

"How should there be good? Ah, but you are children, and do not
understand. Tell me, why should this cold loveless thing abide"--again
he pointed to the Menhir--"when men and cities, and woods and hills
and rivers, and the very gods on their thrones, and the great kings on
theirs, perish away and leave no sign that they have been? Thousands
and thousands of years ago there was blood on that stone; men were
sacrificed there, Rohan; it is the same tale to-day--men are martyred
still."

He spoke in low sad tones, as if communing with himself.

They perceived now that he held in his hand a book--the old Bible in
the Breton tongue, from which he was wont to teach--and that his
finger was inserted between the leaves as if he had just been reading.

He now walked slowly on, with Rohan and Marcelle close to his side,
until he reached the edge of the glassy plateau and lo! lying just
under the very edge of the sea was Kromlaix, with every house and boat
mapped out clearly in the shining sun.

The light fell on glistening gables, on walls washed blue and white,
on roofs of wrecked timber or stone tiles, or of thatch weighted with
lumps of granite to resist the violence of the wind. The houses
crouched on the very edge of the sea. Scattered among them were wild
huts made of old fishing boats, upturned and roofed with straw; and
though some of them were used for storing nets, sails, oars, and other
boating implements and tackle, some served for byres, and many,
occupied by the poorer families, sent up their curl of blue smoke
through an iron funnel. Below the houses and huts, floating on the
edge of the water--for it was high tide now--was the fishing fleet: a
long line of boats, like cormorants with their black necks pointed
seaward.

A village crouching on the very fringe of the wild ocean. The sea was
around and beneath as well as before it; for it oozed below it into
unseen shingly caves, and crawling inland underground for miles,
finally bubbled into the green brackish pools that form the dreary
tarns of Ker Lon. A lonely village, many miles from any other; a
village cradled in tempest, daily rocked by death, and ever gazing
with sad eyes seaward, hungry for the passing sail.

For miles and miles on either side stretches the great ocean wall,
washed and worn into grandest forms of archway, dome, and spire,
beaten against, storm shaken, undermined; gnawed, torn, rent, stricken
by whirlwind and earthquake, yet still standing, with its menhirs and
dolmens, firm and strong; a mighty line of weed-hung scaurs,
precipices, and crags, of monoliths and dark arial caves, towering
above the ever-restless sea:--so high, that to him who walks above on
the grassy edges of the crags the seagull hovering midway is a speck,
and the dark seaweed-gatherers on the sands beneath are dwarfed by
distance small as crawling mice. For many a league stretches the great
wall, and the wayfarer threading its dizzy paths hears underneath his
feet the rush and roar of water, and the flapping wings of winds, and
the screams of birds from foam-splashed gulfs. But here, suddenly, the
wall, rent apart as if by earthquake, leaves one mighty gap; and in
the gap (which widening inward turns into a grassy vale fed by a dark
river) the village crouches, winter and summer, changeless through the
generations, with its eyes ever fixed on the changeless sea.

A village ever doomed and ever saved. For the river, when it reaches
the tarns of Ker Lon, plunges into the earth, and mingles with the
increeping ocean, and so crawls onward unseen; and the houses are
verily rocked upon the waves which moan sullenly beneath them, and the
fountains are brackish wherever they burst, and the village trembles
and cries like a living thing when the vials of heaven are opened and
the great sea threatens with some mighty tide.

That day, however, while Master Arfoll gazed down, all was brightness
and peace. In and about the boats children played, while the men
lounged in twos and threes, or lay smoking on the sands, or lazily sat
in the sunlight mending their nets. The smoke went up straight to
heaven, and heaven was calm. All was quite still, but you could hear
the village just breathing, like a creature at rest.

Higher up the valley and partly on a rising slope stood, surrounded by
its graveyard, the little red granite church, with its stone-tiled
roof and ruddy tower crusted with dark green mosses and a hoary rime
of salt blown from the sea. The sunlight struck along the gorge, so
that even from the height they could see the rude group of the CALVARY
close by, the stone head of the Christ drooping in death, the little
wells of holy water sparkling on the tombstones, and along the wall of
the charnel-house the dark dots where the skulls of the dead, each in
its little pigeon-box, were nailed up as a ghastly memento mori.

"Could the Stone yonder speak," said Master Arfoll, looking down,
"what a tale it could tell! I will tell you something it could
remember. The time when all around us stretched mighty forests, and
when a deep river ran down yonder gorge, and when a great City stood
on the river's banks full of people who worshipped strange gods."

"I have heard m'sieu le cur speak of that," said Rohan. "It is very
strange; and they say that if you listen on the eve of Nol you can
hear the bells ringing, and the dead people flocking in the streets,
far under the ground. Old Mother Brieux, who died last Nol, heard it
all, she said, before she died."

Master Arfoll smiled sadly.

"That is an old wife's tale: a superstition--the dead sleep."

Marcelle felt herself bound to put in a word for her traditions.

"You do not believe," she said. "Ah, Master Arfoll, you believe
little; but Mother Brieux was a good woman, and she would not lie."

"All that is superstition, and superstition is an evil thing,"
returned Master Arfoll quietly. "In religion, in politics, in all the
affairs of life, my child, superstition is a curse. It makes men fear
the gentle dead, and phantoms, and darkness; and it makes them bear
wicked rulers and cruel deeds, because they see in them an evil fate.
It is superstition which holds bad kings on their thrones, and covers
the earth with blood, and breaks the hearts of all who love their
kind. Superstition, look you, may turn an evil man into a god, and
make all men worship him and die for him as if he were divine."

"That is true," said Rohan, with a rather anxious glance at Marcelle.
Then, as if wishing to change the subject, "It is certain, is it not,
that the great City once stood there?"

"We know that by many signs," answered the schoolmaster; "one need not
dig very deep to come upon its traces. Oh yes, the City was there,
with its houses of marble and temples of gold, and its greet baths and
theatres, and its statues of the gods; and a fair sight it must have
been glittering in the sunlight as Kromlaix glitters now. Then the
river was a river indeed, and white villas stood upon its banks, and
there were flowers on every path and fruit on every tree. Well even
then our Stone stood here, and saw it all. For the City was built like
many another of our own with human blood, and its citizens were part
of the butchers of the earth, and a sword was at each man's side, and
blood was on each man's hand. God was against them, and their stone
gods could not save them. They were a race of wolves, these old
Romans! they were the children of Cain! So what did God do at last?--
He wiped them away like weeds from the face of the earth!"

The speaker's face was terrible; he seemed delivering prophecy, not
describing an event.

"He lifted his finger, and the sea came up and devoured that City, and
covered it over with rock and sand. Every man, woman, and child were
buried in one grave, and there they sleep."

"Till the Last Judgment!" said Marcelle solemnly.

"They are judged already," answered Master Arfoll

"Their doom was spoken, and they sleep; it is only 'superstition' that
would awake them in their graves."

Marcelle seemed about to speak, but the large word "superstition"
overpowered her. She had only a dim notion of its meaning, but it
sounded conclusive. It was Master Arfoll's pet word, and it must be
confessed that he used it in a confusing way to express all sorts of
ideas and conditions.

Rohan said little or nothing. In truth, he was slightly astonished at
the exceedingly solemn tone of Master Arfoll's discourse; for he knew
well the wanderer's gentler and merrier side, and he had seldom seen
him look so sad and talk so cheerlessly as to-day. It was clear to his
mind that something unusual had happened; it was clear also, from
certain significant looks, that Master Arfoll did not care to express
himself fully in the presence of Marcelle.

Meantime they had begun descending the slope that led to the village.
Marcelle fell a few steps behind, but Rohan kept by the itinerant's
side, quietly solicitous to discover the cause of his unusual
melancholy.

As they went Master Arfoll's eye fell upon Rohan's book, which he
still carried in his hand.

"What is that you read?" he asked.

Rohan delivered up the book. It was a rudely printed translation of
Tacitus into French, with the original Latin on the opposite page. It
bore a date of the Revolution, and had been printed in some dark den
when Paris was trembling with the storm.

Master Arfoll looked at the volume, then returned it to its owner. He
himself had taught Rohan to see, however dimly, the spirit of such
books as that; but to-day he was bitter.

"Of what do you read there?" he exclaimed. "Of what but blood, and
battles, and the groans of people under the weight of thrones? Ah,
God, it is too terrible! Even here, in what men call God's own book"--
and he held up the old Bible--"it is the same red story, the same mad
cry of martyred men. Yes, God's book is bloody, like God's earth."

Marcelle shuddered. Such language was veriest blasphemy.

"Master Arfoll--" she began.

His large wild eyes seemed fixed as in a trance; he did not heed her.

"For ever and ever, now as it was in the beginning, this wild beast's
hunger to kill and kill, this madman's thirst for war and glory. Who
knows but the great Stone yonder holds the spirit of some mighty
murderer of old times, some Cain the Emperor, turned to rock, but with
consciousness still left to see what glory is, to watch while kingdoms
wither and kings waste and dead people are shed down like leaves?
Well, that is superstition; but had I my will, I would serve each
tyrant like that. I would petrify him--I would set him as a sign! He
should see, he should see! And then there would be no more war, for
there would be no more Cains to make it and to drive the people mad!"

Marcelle only half understood him, but some of his words jarred upon
her heart. She did not address Master Arfoll, but with angry flashing
eyes she turned to Rohan.

"It is only cowards that are afraid to fight. Uncle Ewen was a brave
soldier and shed his blood for France: witness the beautiful medal of
the great Emperor! The country is a great country, and it is the wars
against the wicked that have made it great. It is the bad people that
rise against the Emperor because he is good and so grand; that makes
war, and the Emperor is not to blame."

Master Arfoll heard every word, and smiled sadly to himself. He knew
the maiden's worship for the Emperor; how she had been brought up to
think of him next to God: so without attacking her Idol, he said
softly, with that benign smile which owed its chief charm to an
inexpressible sadness--"That is what Uncle Ewen says? Well, Uncle Ewen
is a brave man. But do you, my little Marcelle, want to know what war
is? Look then!"

He pointed inland, and the girl followed the direction of his hand.

Far away, towering solitary among the winding hedgerows of the vale,
was another deserted Calvary,--so broken and so mutilated that only an
eye familiar with it could have told what it was. One arm and a
portion of the body was still intact, but the head and the other limbs
had disappeared, and what remained was stained almost to blackness by
rain and foul verdure. Beneath, wild underwood and great weeds
climbed,--darnel and nettle made their home there, and there in its
season the foxglove flowered. Yet, broken and ruined as the figure
was, it dominated the inland prospect, and lent to the wild landscape
around it a wilder desolation.

"That is war!" said Master Arfoll solemnly. "Our roads are strewn with
the stone heads of angels and the marble limbs of shapes like that.
The gospel of love is lost; the figure of love is effaced. The world
is a battlefield, France is a charnel-house, and--well, you were
right, my child!--the Emperor is a god!"

Marcelle made no reply; her heart was full of indignation, but she
felt herself no match for her opponent. "That is treason," she thought
to herself; "if the Emperor heard him talk like that he would be
killed." Then she looked again sidelong into the worn wild face and
the great sorrowful eyes, and her anger passed away in pity. "What
they say is right," she thought, "it is not his fault--he has grown
foolish with much sorrow; his lonely life has made him almost mad.
Poor Master Arfoll!"

By this time they had reached the outskirts of the village. Their way
was a footpath winding hither and thither until it passed close under
the walls of the old church. Here Marcelle, with a quiet squeeze of
Rohan's hand and a quick glance at Master Arfoll, slipped away and
disappeared.

The itinerant walked on without noticing her absence; his heart was
too full, his brain too busy, and he held his eyes fixed upon the
ground.

Rohan disturbed him abruptly from his reverie.

"Master Arfoll--tell me--speak--Marcelle is no longer here--what has
happened? Something dreadful, I fear!"

Master Arfoll looked up wearily.

"Be not impatient to hear bad news--it will come soon enough, my son.
There is a thunderstorm brewing, that is all."

"A thunderstorm?"

"That: and earthquake, and desolation. The snows of Russia are not
tomb enough; we shall have the waters of the Rhine as well," he added,
solemnly. "We are on the eve of a new conscription."

Rohan trembled, for he knew what that meant.

"And this time there are to be no exemptions except pres de familles!
Prepare yourself, Rohan! This time even only sons will take their
chance!"

Rohan's heart sank within him, his blood ran cold. A new and nameless
horror took possession of him. Looking up, he saw in the distance the
broken Calvary, like a sign of misery and desolation.

He was about to speak, when the church gate swung open, and forth from
the churchyard stepped monsieur le cur, with his breviary tucked
under his arm, and a short pipe, black as ebony with tobacco stains,
held between his lips.



Chapter 6. "RACHEL, MOURNING FOR HER CHILDREN"



He walked with a waddle, his shoulders thrown back, his chest thrust
forward, and his portly stomach shaking at every step. His legs were
short and bandy, his arms long and powerful, his body long and loose
and well covered with fat. There was nothing of the soft sybarite,
however, about Father Rolland. He could run, leap, and wrestle with
any man in Kromlaix.

His face was coloured almost to a mahogany hue by constant exposure to
sun and wind, and above his dark brown cheeks glittered two eyes as
black as coals, as comic as the eyes of any ignis fatuus. His mouth,
from which he ever and anon drew his pipe to emit a cloud of smoke,
was firm yet merry.

As he came out of the churchyard, he might have been taken for some
comical bird unused to walking; for he waddled like any crow, and the
skirts of his threadbare black cassock were drawn up clumsily, and his
little legs in their worn black stockings appeared peeping out behind.
Marcelle's uncle the Corporal, who exercised the old soldier's
prerogative of inventing nick-names, and who had a keen eye for
detecting odd resemblances, was in the habit of calling the birds who
flocked to his window in wintertime "the little curs of God," and the
robins in particular "the little curs au rabat rouge."

And truth to say, Father Rolland possessed in a large degree two
strong characteristics of the robin redbreast--extreme patience and
contentedness under difficulties, and an immense amount of good-
natured pugnacity.

His life was hard, and had been a perilous one. He rose with the lark,
although (to be quite honest) he not unfrequently went to bed with it!
He lived in a dismal hut, where an Englishman would scarcely keep his
cow; he was liable to be called out at any hour and in any weather to
exercise his holy vocation; his food was miserable; and, to crown all
his miseries, the "drink" of the country was vile!

Now, Father Rolland was a convivial man, a gourmet in good liquors--a
man, indeed, who needed good liquor to loosen his tongue and complete
his good-humour. He was by nature and instinct and habit a gossip. If
the earth had been deserted, and himself left all alone with the Enemy
of mankind, he would have gossiped and drunk with "Master Robert" for
company. And in good sooth, he bore no malice in his heart to any
creature--not even "Master Robert" or Bonaparte.

He had not been long cur in Kromlaix; his predecessor, whom Rohan
Gwenfern had worried so tremendously, having only been removed some
few years. But he was a native of the district, and knew every menhir,
every village roof; and every fireside for miles along the coast. He
still spoke his native Brezonec to perfection, and in using the
politer French he was guilty, especially when excited, of a strong
patois--pronouncing (for example) pome as if it meant an apple
(pomme), couteau, ktay, and chevaux, jvak. In recording his
conversation in an English translation it would be quite impossible to
follow this peculiarity, but the reader must imagine a thick shower of
gutturals, very peculiar and very difficult for any but Bretons to
comprehend.

Father Rolland had passed with a sound skin through all the storms of
the Revolution and the Civil War. He was a man of no "ideas," and he
performed his priestly functions--such as marrying and giving in
marriage, shriving the sick and dying--automatically enough, with a
certain eye to his monetary dues. The great Figures of Contemporary
History passed like contending Titans above his head; he saw them from
afar, and discussed them with unconcern. He was not the stuff of which
martyrs are made. His sole business was with his flock, to whom he
ever commended patience, good gossip, and contented drinking.

To sum up, his intellectual grasp was small, but his scholastic
attainments were fair. He was a good Latinist, an excellent
grammarian, and he counted among his stock of quotations some half-
dozen lines of Homer, among others the famous:

Deine de klagge genet argureoio bioio

and the still more famous and commonplace:

Be d'akeon para thina polyphloisboi thalasses

both of which he hurled at the heads of new acquaintances in a thick
patois with all the charm of novelty.

Conceive, then, a jovial peasant taken from the soil and supplied with
a little learning, and you have Father Rolland.

As he sallied from the church gate he held out both his brown hands to
Master Arfoll, and nodded kindly to Rohan.

He had a greeting for everybody, had Father Rolland--Legitimist,
Bonapartist, or Republican; and Master Arfoll's love of the "rights of
man" did not daunt him. The only recusant and hopeless offender was
the parishioner who had not paid his dues, or who attempted in any way
to diminish the Priest's perquisites! Yet Father Rolland was not mean.
He demanded his rights on principle, and then when they were paid,
whether in the shape of money or grain, he rattled them in his pocket
or stored them in his yard, and incontinently chuckled over them. And
then, perhaps the very next day, he turned them into bread or wine or
brandy, and shared them among the sick and hungry at his door.

"Welcome, Master Arfoll!" cried the cur, "You are a stranger to
Kromlaix; 'tis months since we had a glass or a pipe together. Where
have you been? What have you been doing? Welcome again!"

As he spoke his brown face beamed with pleasure.

Master Arfoll returned the greeting gently. They walked on a few paces
side by side.

Presently the priest, linking his arm familiarly through that of
Master Arfoll, while Rohan strode beside them like the giant that he
was, began to demand his news.

The itinerant shook his head sadly.

"News, father," he exclaimed. "Ah, there is none--only, of course, the
old bad news. Red blood on the battle-field, and black crape in all
the lands around. I do not think that it can last long--the patience
of the world is exhausted."

"Humph!" muttered the cur, with his fat little finger in the bowl of
his pipe. "The world seems topsy-turvy, honest brother--it is standing
on its head."

It seemed odd to the little cur more odd than terrible. He had seen
so much of terror and death that he had no particular horror for them,
or for War. In his heart he loved, as in duty bound, the White better
than the Blue, but he would never have instigated any man to die for
the White. The respectable sort of thing, he believed, was to die,
after "anointing," in one's bed at home. He nevertheless believed
battles, large and small, to be the expression of an irrepressible
element in human nature, and he was not politician enough to blame any
one in particular for encouraging bloodshed.

Master Arfoll continued, in a low voice--"I will tell you something, a
small thing, but a sign of the end. I was stopping in a village far
away east, and I entered the house of a woman who had lost both her
sons in the last campaign, and but a week before buried her husband."

"God rest his soul!" interrupted the cur, making the sign of the
cross.

"She was sitting on a form, staring into the fire, and her eyes seemed
fixed and mad. I touched her on the shoulder, and she did not stir; I
spoke, and she did not hear. By slow degrees I roused her from her
trance. She rose mechanically, my father, and opened her press and set
before me food and drink. Then she sat down again before the fire, and
I saw that her hair was white, though she was not old. When I had
eaten and drunken--for I was very hungry--I spoke to her again, and
this time she listened, and I told her I was a schoolmaster and was
seeking for pupils. 'What can you teach, master?' she asked suddenly
turning her eyes on mine. I answered softly, telling her I could teach
her children to write and read. She laughed, father--ah, it was a
terrible laugh. 'Go then and seek them,' she cried, pointing to the
door, 'and when you have found them in their graves among the snow,
come back and teach me to curse the hand that killed them and buried
them there. Teach me to curse the Emperor, teach me a curse that will
drag him down! Teach me how to kill him, and curse him down into hell-
fire! O my poor boys, my poor boys!--Andr! Jacques!' She shrieked,
and cast herself down on her knees, and bit her hair between her teeth
and spat it out. My heart was sick. I could not help her, and I crept
away."

The cur nodded his head thrice musingly. He was well used to such
grief; and it moved him little. Nevertheless, in the true spirit of a
good gossip, he condoled.

"It is terrible--it is terrible indeed, Master Arfoll!"

"That is but one house out of thousands upon thousands. The curses go
up to God. Shall they not be heard?"

"Softly, Master Arfoll," murmured the cur, with an anxious glance
around, "some one may hear you."

"I care not," cried the schoolmaster. "The Emperor may be a great
tactician, a great engineer, a great soldier, but he is not a great
man, for he has no heart. Mark me, my father, this is the beginning of
the end. It is your Christ against the Emperor, and Christ will win."

The little cur made no reply; such language was terribly serious, and
the times were dangerous. He compromised.

"After all, if the Emperor could but give us peace!"

"Could? And could he not?" asked the itinerant suddenly.

"All the world is against our France," answered the cur.

"All humanity is against our Emperor," retorted Master Arfoll.

"But the Emperor fights for France, Master Arfoll. Without him, the
English, and the Russians, and the Germans would eat us up alive." He
added, seeing Master Arfoll's half amazed, half indignant look, "Well,
I am no politician!"

"You have eyes and you can see, my father. It is well to stay at
Kromlaix by the sea, far away from the march of men, but were you to
wander out on the broad highway, you would know. It is all a living
sacrifice to feed the horrible vanity of one Man. How should he give
us peace? His trade is war. He declares now that it is England that
will not allow him to make peace; he declares that it is for peace he
fights, he lies, he lies!"

"Strong language, Master Arfoll!"

"When last he rode through the streets of Paris, the common people
clamoured to him for peace, peace at any cost. They might as well have
prayed to the great Stone up yonder; he passed on silent like a marble
man, and did not hear them. Ah, God! the people are weary, father!
they would rest!"

"That is true," exclaimed Rohan in a decided tone. The cur glanced at
Rohan.

"Master Arfoll has taught you to think with him in many things, and
Master Arfoll is a good man, whether he is right or wrong. But beware,
my son, of hot speeches here in Kromlaix. What Master Arfoll could say
boldly, might cost you your liberty, and perhaps your life."

He did not explain, what was a fact, that Master Arfoll was by a large
majority of people considered simply insane, and in no way responsible
for the strange things he said and did. Even Bonapartist officials
heard his diatribes with a smile, and touched their foreheads
significantly when he had finished. This is not the only instance on
record of the one sane man in a district being mistaken for a Fool.

"I will remember," answered Rohan, half shrugging his great shoulders.

"The people are right, Father Rolland!" resumed the schoolmaster. "The
wealth and pride of France is being blown away in cannon smoke. The
loss of mere money would be little, had we only strong hands to work
for more. But where are those same strong hands? The conscription has
lopped them off with its bloody knife, and left us only the useless
stumps."

"Not quite all," answered the priest, smiling; "for example, Rohan
here has a pair of strong fists, and there are many bold lads left
beside."

Master Arfoll glanced strangely at Rohan, and then said in a voice
more tremulous than before--"The conscription is famished still--the
monster cries for more human flesh. Out there"--and he pointed with
his lean hand inland, as at some scene afar off--"out there the land
is a desert, ay, darker than the desert of La Bruyre,--for the men
who should till it are lying under the growing grain of strange
countries, or in the deep sea, or beneath the snow. I tell you,
father, France is desolate; she has nursed a serpent in her bosom: it
has stung her children one by one, and it is now stinging her. Oh, how
deaf you must be out here at Kromlaix by the sea, not to hear her
crying--not to hear the new Rachel, wailing and weeping for her
children!"

Master Arfoll had mounted his hobby, and there is no saying how far he
would have ridden in his denunciation of Avatarism; but suddenly
monsieur le cur put his plump hand on his arm and whispered--"Hush!"

Master Arfoll paused suddenly, not too soon, for as be ceased a clear
sharp voice quickly demanded--"Who is this new RACHEL, Master Arfoll?"



Chapter 7. CORPORAL DERVAL DEFENDS HIS COLOURS



The speaker sat on a form in the open sunshine, at his own door, in
the main street of the village. He wore horn spectacles, tied to his
ears by pieces of string, and he held in his hand a paper which he had
just been reading.

His face was as red as a berry; his hair, which was cropped close,
reminded one of a stubble white with hoar-frost.

His dress, half rustic half military, consisted of a loose open
corporal's jacket from which the epaulets and adornments had long been
worn away, loose trousers reaching to the knee, and beneath the knee,
one light red stocking and an old slipper, for he had only one natural
leg, the place of the other being supplied by a sturdy implement of
wood.

"Good morning, Uncle Ewen!" said the cur, anxious to divert attention
from Master Arfoll's last remarks, while Rohan gave good-morrow too,
and shook his uncle's hand.

For it was none other than Corporal Derval who sat there, the hero of
many battles, the liege worshipper of Bonaparte, and uncle to both
Rohan and Marcelle.

The Corporal, who well knew and detested Master Arfoll's sentiments,
was not to be baffled; so after greeting the schoolmaster and shaking
his hand, he repeated his question--

"But what about this new Rachel, Master Arfoll?" he said, taking off
his spectacles.

The wondering scholar thus challenged pointblank, showed the courage
of his opinions, and replied--"I spoke of these latter days of France,
Corporal Derval; another conscription, it appears, is talked of; and
it seems to me the best blood of the country is drained away already.
I compared our poor country to Rachel, who grieved for the children
who had gone from her, and would not be comforted. That was all."

The veteran did not reply, but rose suddenly to his feet.

"That was all!" he repeated, in a voice like low thunder. As he spoke
the forefinger and thumb of his left hand were plunged violently into
his waistcoat pocket, while his right hand made a pass in the air and
was plunged back into one of his coat tails; then forefinger and
thumb, grasping a mighty pinch of snuff; were applied vigorously to
his swelling nostrils, while he threw out his chest and stamped on the
ground with his leg of wood!

In a moment one detected, despite the wooden leg, a curious and
comical resemblance. Viewed cursorily sideways, in his quaint old
imperial coat with its worn facings, in his black hat cocked  1'
Empereur, with his chest thrust forward and his legs wide apart, the
wooden one shut out by the leg of flesh, he looked like a very bad and
battered copy of the great Emperor; like a Napoleon with a Wellington
nose, and six feet high; like (let us say) Mr. Gomersal at Astley's
got up for the part, and really very much resembling the real thing,
but for his nose, his height, and a certain shakiness in his legs.

Seen very closely, his face was deeply bronzed and wrinkled and
scarred, his eyes of a piercing blackness, his chin and neck closely
shaven, with prominent muscles standing out like whipcord, his nose
vermilion-tipped and dew-dropped, his nostrils dilating and looking
very black--the result of a habit of prodigal snuff-taking, which he
shared with his great namesake "the Little Corporal".

It must not be supposed that he was ignorant of his resemblance to his
Emperor and Master. He had been told of it, and he believed and
gloried in it; it was the pride and delight of his existence. He
assumed the imperial pose habitually--legs well apart, chest thrown
out, hands clasped behind his back, head musingly dejected, all in the
well-known fashion. And when Marcelle or some good gossip would
whisper admiringly, "See! would you not say it was the Emperor
himself?" or "God save us, it might be the Little Corporal's ghost!"
his heart expanded exultingly, and his nose took a deeper red, and he
strode on his own threshold like a colossus overstriding the world;
and he saw his neighbours and his foes beneath his feet, like so many
kings and princes; and he sniffed the air of battle from afar, and,
snuffing vigorously, laid the plan of some cabaret campaign; and he
went over his old glories like his Master, and sighed as he reflected
that he could not hasten to further victories on his wooden leg!

Not that he was irreverent. He knew how far off he was from his Idol;
he knew that the resemblance was that of a pigmy to a giant. His
brother's wife was a religious woman, and the arid wind of French
atheism had spared their hearth; so that he believed in God if not in
the Saints, for to him there seemed but one saint in the calendar--St.
Napoleon!

With all his good qualities, Corporal Derval was rather an unpopular
man in Kromlaix. The village lay far away from ordinary political
contagion, and though it had once, like the rest of Brittany, caught a
particle of the Legitimist fever that time was well-nigh forgotten;
but the chief prayer of the honest folk was to let Napoleon fight it
out, and leave them alone. Of course this could not be; so they
heartily cursed the conscription, and, in their hearts, Bonaparte.
There being too many Bonapartist enthusiasts in the place to make open
grumbling safe, the inhabitants held their tongues, sighed secretly
for the days of the old rgime, and avoided in particular any passage
of words with the old Corporal.

"That was all!" repeated the soldier a second time "Humph!--and you,
Master Arfoll, believe that!"

"I am sure of it, my Corporal."

The Corporal's face grew red as the tip of his nose, his black eyes
flashed terribly, he snapped his snuff-box fiercely, then opening it
again, took from it a huge pinch, and drew it up into his dilated
nostrils with a snort of angry scorn.

The action gave him time to master the first rush of savage wrath, and
he answered civilly, though his voice trembled with excitement--"Your
reasons, Master Arfoll?--come, your reasons?"

The schoolmaster smiled sadly.

"You may behold them with your eyes, my Corporal," he said. "Women sow
and reap our fields--women and old men over fifty--the flower of our
youth is gathered up with the bloody sheaves of war, and in a little
time France will fall, for there will scarce be one hand to lift a
sword."

Master Arfoll spoke of course hyperbolically; but as if directly to
falsify his assertion, there suddenly came forth, from the Corporal's
own door, four gigantic youths, in all the bloom of health and
strength, whom Rohan greeted with a smile and a nod. These were the
Corporal's four nephews--Hol, Gildas, Alain, and Jannick.

The Corporal stood aghast, like one who hears blasphemy against his
God; an oath unmentionable to ears polite was hissing between his
teeth, half heard, but incomprehensible.

It was time for the little cur to interfere.

He plucked the old soldier by the sleeve, and whispered--"Calm
yourself, Corporal! Remember it is only Master Arfoll!"

The words were as oil on water, and the Corporal's features relaxed
somewhat. Slowly his stern frown grew into a grim contemptuous smile
as he surveyed his antagonist. His look was supreme, Napoleonic. He
surveyed the itinerant as Bonaparte would have surveyed one of those
liliputians of the period--a King.

Nevertheless heresy had been uttered, and for the benefit of those who
had overheard the abomination, it must be confuted.

The Corporal assumed a military attitude.

"Attention!" he cried; as if addressing a file of raw recruits.

All started. The youths, who had been leaning sheepishly in various
attitudes against the wall, stood up erect.

"Attention!--Hol!"

"Here!" answered the youth of that name.

"Gildas!"

"Here!"

"Alain!"

"Here!"

"Jannick!"

"Here!"

All stood in a row, like soldiers regarding their superior.

"Listen, all of you, for it concerns you all. Attention, while I
answer Master Arfoll."

He turned to the schoolmaster. All his wrath had departed, and his
voice was quite clear and calm.

"Master Arfoll, I will not say you blaspheme, for you have had sorrows
enough to turn any man's brain, however wise; and you are a scholar,
and you travel from village to village, and from farm to farm, all
over the country. Like that a man learns much, but you have something
yet to learn. I have read my history as well as you. France has not
fallen, she is not like that Rachel of whom you speak! She is great!
she is sublime! like the mother of the Maccabees!"

The comparison was a happy one. It was at once patriotic and
religious. The little cur kindled, and looked at Master Arfoll as if
to say, "There! answer that if you can, good friend!" The youths
smiled at each other. They did not understand the allusion, but it was
delivered like a musket-ball and seemed decisive. Rohan smiled too,
but shrugged his shoulders with secret contempt.

The Corporal looked for a rejoinder, but none came.

Master Arfoll stood silent, a little pale, but with a pitying light on
his sad and beautiful face that spoke far more than words; and his
eyes rested on the Corporal with that sad affection good men feel for
antagonists hopelessly deluded.

The veteran threw out his chest still more, displaying more
prominently the medal of the Legion of Honour: and again, this time
with a proud victorious smile, gave the word of command.

"Attention! Hol, Gildas, Alain, and Jannick!"

The youths became rigid; but Jannick, who was the youthful humourist
of the family, winked at Rohan, as much as to say, "Uncle is going
ahead!"

"These are my boys; they were my poor brother's, and they are mine;
you see them; they are mine, for my brother gave them into my keeping,
and I have been a father to them, and to their sister Marcelle. I call
them my sons, they are all I have in the world; I love them, I. They
were little children when I took them, and who has fed them since that
hour? I! Yes, but whose hand has given me the bread I gave to them?
The Emperor, the great Emperor! God guard him, and give him victory
over his enemies!"

As he spoke, his voice now trembling with emotion, he raised his hat
reverently and stood bareheaded, the bright light burning on his
bronzed face and snow-white hair. Such faith was as touching as it was
contagious. Even a chouan might have been tempted to cry like those
four youths with their voices of thunder: "Vive 1' Empereur!"

The veteran replaced his hat upon his head, and held up his hand for
silence.

"The 'Little Corporal' forgets none of his children--no, not one! He
has remembered these fatherless ones, he has fed them, and he has
enabled them to become what you see! They have been taught to pray for
him nightly, and their prayers have mingled with the prayers of
millions, and these prayers have brought victory to him over the wide
earth."

Master Arfoll, though gentle as a lamb, was human. An opportunity
occurred of answering the Corporal's former furious fire, and he found
it irresistible. While the veteran paused for breath, the Schoolmaster
said, in a low voice, not raising his eyes from the ground--

"And what of their three brothers, Corporal Derval?"

The blow struck home, and for a moment the blood was driven from the
soldier's cheek. Far away in foreign climes slept, with no stone to
mark their graves, three other brothers of the same house, who had
fallen at different times--two among the awful snows of Moscow.

The veteran trembled, and his eyes glanced for a moment uneasily into
the house, where he knew sat his brother's widow, the mother of those
dead and these living. Then he answered sternly--"Their souls are with
God, and their bodies are at rest, and they died gloriously as brave
men should die. Is it better to fall like that, or to breathe the last
breath in a coward's bed? to die like a soldier, or to pass away like
an old woman or a child? They did their duty, Master Arfoll--may we
all do ours as well!"

"Amen!" said the little cur.

"And now," continued the Bonapartist, "if the 'little Corporal' away
yonder should hold up his snuff-box"--he suited the action to the
word--"and cry 'Corporal Ewen Derval, I have need of more of your
boys,' they would smile--Hol, Gildas, Alain, and Jannick--they would
smile all four!--and I, the old grenadier of Cismone, Arcola and
Austerlitz, I, do you see, with my rheumatism and my wooden leg, would
march to join him--rat-a-tat, rat-a-tat--quick march!--at the head of
my Maccabees!"

Strictly speaking, the enthusiasm of the Maccabees seemed greatly
reduced by the sepulchral turn the conversation had taken. Hol,
Gildas, and Alain did not this time cry "Vive 1' Empereur," and the
irreverent Jannick put his tongue in his cheek.

Another voice, however, now chimed in enthusiastically--

"And I would march with you, Uncle Ewen!"

It was Marcelle.

Standing on the threshold of the cottage, with her eye flashing and
her cheek burning, she looked a Maccabee indeed.

Uncle Ewen turned quickly, and surveyed her with pride.

"Thou shouldst have been a man-child too!" he exclaimed, snuffing
vigorously to conceal the emotion that filled his throat and dimmed
his eyes; "but there, go too!" he added, with a grim laugh, "thou
shalt be the vivandire of the Maccabees and watch the bivouac fire.
But, mon Dieu, I forget, chouan that I am. I am keeping your reverence
in the street--will you not walk in, Father Rolland?"

So saying, he stalked, clip-clop, to the door, and stood there bowing
with a politeness uncommon among his class, but characteristic of the
Breton peasant. The little cur followed, with a friendly nod to
Master Arfoll, and the two disappeared into the cottage.

Master Arfoll stood with Rohan in the middle of the road; then, after
hesitating a moment, he said hurriedly, holding out his hand--"Meet me
to-night at thy mother's--I must go now!" Without awaiting any reply,
Master Arfoll retreated rapidly down the narrow street leading to the
sea, leaving Rohan to the society of his cousins--the gigantic
Maccabees.



Chapter 8. THE CORPORAL'S FIRESIDE



All that day Marcelle was full of the stirring of a new sweet trouble;
she moved to and fro like one in a dream, to a music unheard by any
ears save hers; her colour went and came, her hand trembled as she cut
the black bread and made the galettes; she was low-spoken and loving
with her brothers, and she had strange impulses to kiss her mother and
the Corporal. Her mother looked at her very curiously, for, having
loved herself; she half suspected what it all meant.

Silent love is sweet, but love first spoken is sweeter, for it brings
with it calm assurance and love's first kiss. Up to that day Rohan had
never spoken what was moving in the hearts of both; up to that hour he
had never done more than kiss her on both cheeks, in the ordinary
Breton fashion.

Now their lips had met, their silent plight was sealed. The meeting
with Master Arfoll had somewhat depressed her, but the cloud soon
passed away. She did not in her heart doubt for a moment that Rohan
was a good Christian in both senses, believing first in God and
secondly in the great Emperor.

Marcelle's religious education had been twofold.

Her mother, a simple peasant woman, still retained in her heart all
that passion for Church formulas, old superstitions, and sacerdotal
legends, which the Revolution had endeavoured, most unsuccessfully, to
root out of France by force. She was a faithful attendant at every
ceremony in the little chapel, she fell on her knees and prayed
whenever she passed a Calvary, and she believed simply in all the
miracles of all the saints. She had escaped the worship of her class
for Kings, for the curs and vicaires of Kromlaix had never been
enthusiastic Legitimists; but she detested the Revolution.

She had been a fruitful woman. Her husband, the Corporal's elder
brother, was a fisherman, who had perished in the great gale of 1796,
and the Corporal, then a private soldier coming home on leave from
Italy, had found her a widow with a large circle of helpless
children--from the eldest, Andr, now fast asleep in Russian snow,
down to the youngest born, Marcelle; not to speak of Jannick, who was
then stirring unborn beneath her widowed heart.

Then and there, with his brother's children clinging round neck and
knees, and his brother's widow weeping on his shoulder, Ewen Derval
had sworn a great oath that he would never marry, but be a father to
the fatherless, a brother to his brother's wife. And he had kept his
word.

Fighting through many a long campaign, serving his Master with the
strength of idolatry, he had carefully avoided all temptation to waste
his hard-earned rewards; he had sometimes, indeed, been deemed a mean
and a hard man in consequence; but the little family had never wanted,
and the brave man nourished them, as it were, with his very blood.

At last, at Austerlitz, he fell and lost a leg; his service was ended,
and from that hour forth he was no use to his Master. His discharge
pay was not illiberal, and he could still do his duty to his
"children," as he ever called them, though he could no longer follow
the great Shadow that was sweeping across the world.

Worn, weather beaten, wooden-legged, covered with medals, a heart full
of gratitude and his pocket full of presents for the children, he
returned to Kromlaix by the sea; and there, a hero, an oracle, and
quite a family man despite his bachelorhood, he had resided peacefully
ever after.

Good Corporal Ewen had preserved, throughout all the dissipations and
disbeliefs of a military life, a purity of character and a simple
piety of soul which were not ordinary characteristics of Napoleon's
veterans. He had a respect for women quite removed from the rude
freedoms of an old campaigner; and, as we have said, he believed in
God. He was certainly not what people call a good Catholic, for he
seldom or never went to confession, and he heard mass only once a
year, at midnight, on Christmas Eve; but he would doff his old hat
whenever the angelus sounded in the distance, and mingle the great
Emperor's name with that of the good God.

So no sceptical jests from his mouth, no such coarse infidelities as
distinguished the period, interfered with the quiet holy teaching with
which the Widow Derval reared her children, who were taught to love
and revere Christ and the Saints, and to honour monsieur le cur, and
to go through life reverently, as became the offspring of a godly
woman.

But in the long winter nights, when the wind swept in from the sea,
and the snow lay deep without, the children would cluster round the
old veteran, while the widow spun in the corner, and would listen
open-mouthed to his stories of the great Man who of all living men was
next to God.

Strange to say, these stories sank deepest into the heart of the
little girl, Marcelle. She was more passionate and reverent than her
brothers. Taught from her infancy to believe that the Emperor was
divine, she gave him her heart's worship, with a faith that never
could be shaken, with a love that could never die. She had heard of
him as early as she had heard of God; God and he were in her
imagination hopelessly interblended; and with every prayer she
uttered, and every dream she dreamed, the Emperor became holier and
holier, in a fair religious light.

On this one day of all her days, on this day of love to be marked for
ever with a white stone, Marcelle almost forgot her Idol in the
rapture of the new joy. Ever and anon, as she flitted about the
cottage, she felt herself uplifted in Rohan's arms, and heard the
murmuring of the summer sea, and felt her virgin hair unloosening and
raining on the passionate upturned face.

Fair indeed she seemed in her quaint Breton dress, moving to and fro
in the fading sunset gleam. Her brightly coloured petticoat and snowy
bodice shone against the dark walls in the dim, Rembrandtesque light
of that quaint "interior."

In its general aspects the room resembled that of its neighbours. It
was the living room, salle--manger, and kitchen all in one. There
were the customary forms, and the polished table with its soup-wells
hollowed out of the wood; the spoon-rack and bread-basket suspended by
a pulley from the great polished black cross-beams, which were well
stored with an odd mixture of eatables and wearables, candles and
stockings, oil-cans, skins of lard, strings of onions, Sunday boots
with great thongs of leather, some goatskin jackets, and a fitch of
bacon. In a corner near the chimney stood one lit clos--or what the
Scotch call "press-bed"--reaching to the ceiling like a large
clothespress, with sliding panels black as ebony and quaintly carved;
and in the opposite part of the room was another and smaller bed of
the same description. A great black pot stood on the embers of the
turf fire, and blazing pieces of turf were also piled over its lid.

All was clean, fresh, and bright, with no coarser scent than that of
fresh linen from the lits clos, or a whiff from the old veteran's
pipe--a quaint old German pipe of china, which lay, well blackened
with use, upon a shelf in the ingle.

A staircase, ancient, quaintly carved, and black as ebony, led to the
upper portion of the little cottage, the earthen floor of which was
baked hard as bricks by the heat of an ever-burning fire.

They had just finished their supper of galettes and milk. The corporal
had hobbled off to discuss campaigning with a neighbour; the twins
Hol and Gildas, were leaning back on their forms against the wall;
Alain was smoking at the door, and Jannick was crouching by the fire;
while the mother still sat by the table--brooding in housewife's
fashion, with her large eyes fixed on the glow.

The mother watched Marcelle quietly; the youths rebuked her for her
silence and her blunders, and Jannick, the humourist, her junior by
two years, made her the subject of divers practical jokes.

"What is the matter with Marcelle?" asked Hol presently. "She has not
spoken a word for hours, and she stares this way and that, like mad
Jeanne who lives by the Fol-Fouet."

Marcelle blushed, but said nothing.

"Perhaps," jokingly suggested Gildas, the other twin, "she has seen
the kourigaun."

"God and the saints forbid!" cried the widow, crossing herself
rapidly. For the Breton kourigaun, like the Scotch banshee, is a
spirit presaging evil and perhaps death to whomsoever it haunts in the
desolate Breton ways.

"Nonsense!" cried Marcelle.

"The child is pale" said her mother anxiously. "She eats too little
and she works too hard. She does not lounge about like you others,
idle as grand seigneurs when you are not at the fishing. This is a
full house, and two pair of women's hands have hard work to keep it in
good order."

There was a moment's silence, and Marcelle looked gratefully at her
mother, to whom that one glance betrayed her secret. The mother
dropped her eyes and looked at the fire; the daughter began hurriedly
to clear away the remnants from the table.

"That is all very well," said Jannick, stretching out his long
shapeless limbs and grinning with his dark, beardless baby face; "that
is all very well, but Marcelle does not do her housework at the Gate
of St Gildas."

Marcelle started and almost dropped the dish she was carrying; pale
now instead of red, she gazed with no amiable expression at the
speaker, who only replied by an irreverent wink and a grimace.

"What does the boy mean?" inquired the widow.

"He is a wicked imp, and should be beaten," said Marcelle in a low
voice.

The gigantic hobbledehoy burst into a horse-laugh.

"Fetch thy heart's delight and let him try," he cried. "Mother, ask
her once more--doth she wash her linen at the Gate of St. Gildas? and
if she answers nay, ask why she lingered there so long to-day."

The mother looked inquiringly at Marcelle, who was still quietly busy.

"Wast thou there to-day, my child?"

There was no hesitation in the reply.

"Yes, my mother."

Marcelle's large truthful eyes gazed steadfastly now at her mother.

"It is a long way to walk. What took thee so far, my child?"

"I went down the Ladder of St. Triffine on to the shore to look for
dulse, and the tide was low, and I wanted to see the great Gate and
the Trou  Gildas; and, mother, the tide came in quick and nearly
caught me, and I had sore work to come round through the great Gate
back to the strand."

The widow shook her head.

"Thou art too fond of wandering into dangerous places; thou wilt be
lost one of these days, like thy father. A maid's work is in the
house, and not out yonder or on the sea. I have lived in Kromlaix,
maid and wife, for nigh fifty years, and I have never seen the Gate
yet save once, from thy father's boat, when he took me out with him in
the wicked days to hear the blessed mass at sea."

By this time the housewife had risen and settled down again by her
wheel, where she began to spin busily. She was one of those thrifty
energetic women to whom idleness is death, and who fill the houses
they inhabit with a busy hum of work, sometimes quite beelike in its
misdirected waste of energy.

"I will tell you," said Jannick, rising and stretching his limbs, "of
something we saw this day when coming home from the fishing. We were
drifting with the flood close by the great Gate, as near as a boat may
sail, when Mikel Grallon, who has eyes like a hawk, cried out, 'Look,'
and we looked, all, in at the Gate. We were too far to make out faces,
but what we saw was this: a man like a fisherman wading up to his
waist, and carrying a maiden in his long arms. The tide was high, and
he carried her round from the Gate, and sat her down upon the shore.
Turn thy face this way, Marcelle! Then the man kissed the maid, and
the maid the man, and after that we slipped round the point and saw no
more."

The twins laughed, and all looked at Marcelle. She was quite calm now,
and shrugged her pretty shoulders with a charming air of indifference.
Jannick, irritated by her composure, turned to his mother.

"Mother! ask her if she went to the Gate of St. Gildas alone!"

Before the question could be put Marcelle herself answered, looking
defiantly at the imp who was torturing her.

"Nay, both going and coming I had company, as you have told. Listen,
mother! Jannick is a goose, and sees wonders where older people would
see nothing strange. I found a comrade on the beach, and he guided me
through the Gate, and after that, when the tide rose, he carried me
through the Gate again, and then--what the stupid Jannick says is
true--I kissed him on both cheeks for thanks! It was only Cousin
Rohan, and but for his help, mother, I might have been drowned this
day."

There was another general laugh, this time at Jannick's expense.
Marcelle's rambles with Rohan were well known, and Rohan's connection
with the family was so close that they elicited little.

Only the mother looked grave.

"That is not true," cried Jannick, angry at having the laugh against
him. "When I came up the street yonder, Rohan was with the priest and
Master Arfoll, and when I entered the house thou hadst not come home.
Besides, he who carried thee--for thee it was, I swear--was not taller
than I, and he embraced thee too close and too often to be Rohan
Gwenfern or any of thy kin."

The widow broke in sharply--

"Whoever it was--and the Holy Virgin forbid that Marcelle or any child
of mine should speak a lie--whoever it was, Rohan or another, Marcelle
should not have wandered there. It is no place for maids, nor for any
but mad creatures who bear their lives in their hands, like Rohan
Gwenfern. Besides, all the country knows the spot was cursed by the
blessed St. Gildas, and turned into a place of ill. All men know that
wicked spirits walk there by night, and the souls of monks who denied
the holy Cross: altogether, 'tis an evil spot, and even Rohan himself
does wrong to venture there."

Here for a space the conversation ceased; but that night, when all the
house was still, Marcelle fell secretly on her mother's breast and
told her all. She had intended to be silent, but she could not bear
the loving questioning eyes that followed her with fond maternal
solicitude and anxiety, all about the house.

The mother was not altogether unprepared for the reception of the
truth. It certainly gave her little pleasure; for Rohan Gwenfern was
not the husband she would have chosen for her only daughter. He was
too eccentric and too reckless, too careless an attendant at mass and
too diligent a pupil of that terrible Master Arfoll, to suit her old-
fashioned taste; and often indeed, in her secret heart, she pitied her
half-sister for having such a son. His physical beauty and his
affectionate disposition were both known to her, and she loved him
well; but she viewed his vagaries with alarm, and feared at they might
lead him to no good.

It would be absurd to affirm that Marcelle's confession took her
altogether by surprise. She had for some time feared and suspected
that Rohan, on his part, regarded her daughter with more than cousinly
affection, and numberless secret presents from his hands--such as
brooches, embroidered belts, silk neckerchiefs, and other simple
fineries purchased at the pardons--had only confirmed her suspicions.
As happens in most such cases, she had temporized, never quite
believing that there was any danger of a love affair; and lo! here lay
Cupid full-grown before her eyes, sleeping under the snowy kerchief
that covered her daughter's breast.

A mother and daughter on truly affectionate terms soon understand each
other, and these two at once came to an arrangement. It was promised,
on the mother's side, that no notice should be taken at present of
what had occurred; that all the family, and the Corporal in
particular, should remain in complete ignorance of Rohan's sentiments;
that Rohan should be received in the house on the old footing, as in a
measure one of the family; and, finally, that not one word should be
breathed as yet to Rohan's mother. It was conceded, on Marcelle's
side, that no final answer amounting to secret betrothal was to be
given to Rohan; that Marcelle should not again wander in his company
so far from home, or in any way do more to awaken suspicion or cause
scandal; that she should lead Rohan to understand that the confession
made in a moment of passion was in no way binding, and that all would
depend on the good or bad opinion of the widow and the Corporal.

Naturally enough, the widow was a little shocked. Conventional
propriety had been so far violated that two young people had taken the
initiative, instead of leaving themselves to be disposed of by their
elders in the usual fashion. Properly speaking, and according to
strict etiquette, Rohan should have sent a deputy to the Corporal,
explaining his wishes formally and stating his prospects; it would
then have been the Corporal's task to consult the widow, and if the
widow was willing, simply to explain, with no particular attention to
the girl's wishes in the matter, that Rohan Gwenfern was to be her
future husband!

To have refused an excellent match, arranged for her by her superiors,
even if the match was with one whose face she had never seen, would
have darkly tarnished the fame of any Kromlaix maiden, and her
prospects of marrying would thenceforth have been almost as uncertain
as those of a girl who had actually committed a breach of chastity.

The lovers in the present instance being cousins, who had from
childhood upward been accustomed to each other's society, there was
little or no fear of scandal or misunderstanding. Marcelle had only to
be careful, and Rohan discreet!

At the same time the widow prayed in her secret heart that Marcelle
might in time be cured of her fancy for Rohan Gwenfern.



Chapter 9. ST. NAPOLEON



Had the Widow Derval beheld her daughter's face as she stood
undressing in the upper chamber that night, she would have felt that
her prayers were almost useless.

The little chamber contained two small beds in the wall, each white as
snow, as is the linen of the poorest Breton cottage. In one of these
the widow, fatigued with a long day's work, slept soundly and
peacefully, while Marcelle, preparing for rest, lingered over her
toilette with a rapture which she had never known before.

The floor was black and bare, the walls were black too, and round the
beds themselves were hooks, whereon hung sundry articles of female
attire. The chief furniture in the room was a table and a form; on the
table stood, burning low, an old-fashioned oil lamp. In a press in the
corner stood a great oaken chest, whence came the smell of clean
linen, perfumed with little bags of dried rose-leaves; and not far
from the chest, fixed in a frame against the wall, was a rude mirror
of common glass.

Marcelle had divested herself of her outer skirt, her sabots and
stockings, her bodice, and her white coif; and now, in undress as pure
as samite, she stood loosening her beautiful long hair, and caressing
it with her two pretty hands. As the dark tresses rained over her
shoulders, she gazed at her image in the glass, and blushed to see it
looking back at her with eyes so sparkling and cheeks so bright. Then
winding one long tress around her forefinger, and contemplating
herself serenely, she went over again in her mind the scene of the
morning. She felt the strong embracing arms, she heard the softly
murmuring sea, she was conscious again of loving kisses on the lips.
Then, thoroughly pleased with herself, she smiled; and the image
answered her from the darkness of the wall. She bent closer, as if to
view herself the better. The image stooped and brightened. Then,
carried away by an impulse she could not resist, she put her red lips
against the glass, close against the lips of the image, in one long,
soft, caressing, loving kiss. A kiss for herself, with whom she was
thoroughly well pleased!

She unloosened her hair, and touched it lovingly. It was such a
treasure as few Breton maids possessed; not a lock of it had ever been
sold to the travelling barber, and she preserved it in her coif as a
precious though secret possession. Not "Gold-hair," whom our poet of
passion had so sweetly sung, loved her bright growth better. Marcelle,
too, would have prayed to have it with her in her grave.

What is more divine on this low earth than Beauty lingering over
herself, not in vanity, not in folly or pride, but with that still joy
in its own deliciousness which a sweet flower might be supposed to
feel, with that calm rapture of its own light which lives in the being
of a star? From the soft caressing fingers, to the pink and prettily
formed feet, Marcelle was fair, a softly rounded form of perfect
womanhood--perfection from the dark arched neck to the white and
dimpled knee. And she knew it, this Breton peasant girl, as Helena and
Aphrodite knew it; not, as it were, with her mind, not, as it were,
quite consciously, but as simply felt in her breathing, stirring in
her heart, whispering in her ear: just as though a flower might enjoy
its own perfume, while softly shedding it on the summer air.

At last she upbraided her hair, and stood hesitating for a moment;
then, gently as a fountain falls, she sank on her knee before the
chair, and bowing her face between her hands, began to pray.

Right over her head painted on cardboard, and hung against the wall,
was a figure of Our Lady, with the Infant in her lap holding a lily
and brightly smiling. Though the figures were covered with gold and
silver tinsel, and the very stalk of the lily was stuck on in gold
leaf, the faces were comely enough, and the whole suggestion atoned
for the vulgar execution.

And Marcelle prayed. "In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and
of the Holy Ghost. Amen."

She thanked the Lord for His favours; she begged Him to make her sins
known unto her, whether against God, or against her neighbour, or
against herself. Then she repeated the general Confession.

Then, uplifting her eyes to the picture, the Litany of the Blessed
Virgin.

Presently, in a low clear voice, she prayed for those who loved her
and whom she loved. For the soul of her dead father, for the old
Corporal and her beloved mother, for her brothers Hol, Gildas, Alain,
and Jannick. Lastly, in a lower voice still, she breathed the name of
Rohan Gwenfern, and trembled as she prayed. "Bless my love for Rohan,
O blessed Lady, and grant me now thy grace, that I may never offend
against thee more."

There was a pause. Her prayer seemed finished; she was silent for a
moment. Then uncovering her eyes, she looked up, not at the picture of
Our Lady and her Son, but at another picture, less large and highly
coloured, which hung on the same wall.

It was that of a Man in soldier's costume, standing on an eminence and
pointing down with still forefinger at a red light below him, which
seemed to come from some burning town. His face was white as marble;
and at his feet crouched, like dogs waiting to be unleashed, their
heads close against the ground, several grizzly grenadiers, moustached
and bearded, with bloodshot eyes each with his bayonet set.

The picture was rude but terrible, vulgar but sublime. It was the
lurid representation of a fact which a more artistic treatment might
have ruined.

Not with a less gentle love, not with a less deep reverence, did
Marcelle regard this picture than the other. Her eyes lingered over it
tenderly, her lips moved as if they would have kissed it; then her
face softly fell into her hands, as before some higher Presence.

She prays again; and as she prays, mark how above the bed wherein she
is to lie are hung suspended a gun and bayonet, and above these, on a
high shelf, lie, clean and carefully brushed and folded, an old
knapsack, haversack, cartouche-box, shako, and great coat. These too
are sacred; for the old Corporal has worn and borne them in many a
war. He does not, like some veterans, parade them ostentatiously over
his fireplace; he keeps them here apart, in the sanctity of this
virgin bed.

"And lastly, O merciful God, for the sake of Jesus thy Son and Our
Holy Mother and all the Saints, preserve the good Emperor, and give
him victory over his enemies, and cast down the wicked who seek to
destroy him and his people, and fill his lap with blessings, for the
sake of the blessings he has given us. Amen, Amen!"

And so the last and perchance not the worst of Saints, St. Napoleon,
stands impassive, pointing downward, while the maiden rises from her
knees, her eyes dim with the intensity and earnestness of her prayer.

Soon she has unclothed her limbs and blown out the lamp, and crept
into bed; and very soon after she is sound asleep; while the old
bayonet, which has drunk many a human creature's blood, keeps its
place above her head, and the figures of the Virgin and of St.
Napoleon, side by side, remain near her through the watches of the
night.



Chapter 10. AT THE FOUNTAIN



"Speak low, for it is the Kannerez-noz who sing; stoop, hide, lest the
Kannerez-noz may see; for they wash their bloody linen white as snow,
and their eyes look hither, and they sing together no earthly song.
Holy Virgin, keep us! Son of God, protect us! Amen! Amen!"

Thus, in the wild words of an old Celtic sne, murmurs the wayfarer as
he moves by night along the silent ways, and peers here and there with
timid eyes, and sees spectral shadows assail his path, till his heart
leaps at the sight of the light in his cottage window afar. Well may
he fear the dreadful Washerwomen of the Night, for these are no fairy
fancies bred in the bright imaginations of a sunny place, but
spectres, lonely and horrible, of darkness and death. Doomed is he who
thus beholds them in the loneliness of the night, since it is his
shroud they are washing with skeleton fingers, and it is his face-
cloth they stretch to dry on the starlit sward beside the brook, and
it is his dirge they are singing as they stoop above the glimmering
stream in the shadowy wood or by the lonely shore.

Night after night the Kannerez-noz are busy; their work is never done,
for the long line of the Dead ceases never. Sometimes in the haunted
forest, oftener under the shadowy crags, they wash and wring. And the
fisherman from his craft by night sees them as often as does the
waggoner crossing the great moors with his loads of salt. Down here at
Kromlaix--even here, where most men would die of old age were it not
for the accursed conscription--they ply their trade. Drifting along
under the shadow of the Menhir, floating close to the Gate of St.
Gildas, and dozing at the helm, many a Kromlaix man has seen the crags
part open, revealing a spectral village, with a silver kirk in the
midst from whence the angelus rings, a graveyard bright with silver
tombs, a Calvary where the figures were not stone but white skeletons,
and far away houses thatched with silver with crimson window-panes and
shadows moving within; and then, half wakening and shivering, he has
beheld the strand below, the spectral village all bestrewn with linen
white as snow, and has seen--ah, God, with his living eyes has seen!--
the Kannerez crouching close beside the sea, and has heard their
terrible voices singing the dirge of dread. What avail to cross
himself now, and call on Jesu and the Blessed Lady and all the Saints?
for sure it is that that man's shroud is woven, and all that remains
uncertain is whether he will die on firm land or out there in the
great sea.

At the front of Mother Gwenfern's cottage door, situated apart in the
shadow of the crag, stood Rohan and Master Arfoll, looking downward
towards the strand and calmly contemplating the very scene on which
superstition has based its horrible dream of the Washerwomen of the
Night. For it was a calm night, of little wind; the moon every minute
was darkened by slowly drifting cloud, and few stars were visible; and
down on the sand, murmuring and sometimes singing, were shadowy
figures stooping over hidden pools, and all around them were gleams of
whiteness, as of linen spread upon the shingle. Here and there a
lantern glimmered from the ground, or moved hither and thither in
unseen hands. Behind these murmuring groups with flitting lights lay
Kromlaix, the moonlight shimmering on its roofs, the red lights
gleaming in its windows--as strange as any spectral village seen in a
half-dream.

It was dead low water, the fountains were upbursting from the hidden
river far below, and the women and maidens of Kromlaix were collected
there, washing their linen or dipping their pitchers for water, while
they gossiped over the news. Here, night or day, whenever it was low
water, they gathered, old and young; and, naturally enough, the
Fountain was the leading centre of all the scandal and gossip of the
place.

That fancy of the Kannerez had occurred to Master Arfoll, as he
quietly contemplated the far-off busy scene.

"It is so, mark you, that 'superstition' constructs its tales," he
said. "Could you not fancy now that the Kannerez-noz were before you,
washing their white shrouds in the pure pools? The Kannerez! not
pretty maids like your Cousin Marcelle, with their white feet tripping
on the warm sand!"

"Nevertheless, Master Arfoll," returned Rohan, laughing, "there are
many there who would pass for the Kannerez even by broad day. Old
Mother Barbaik, for example."

Master Arfoll did not laugh, but kept his sad eyes fixed, as he said--

"Poor women! poor old mothers, with their weary limbs and broken
hearts, and hearts that will soon be broken more! Ah, Rohan, it is a
pleasant thing to be young and strong and pretty like Marcelle, but it
is a sore thing to grow old and despised like Mother Barbaik of whom
you speak. Hath she not a son?"

"Yes."

"An only son?"

"Yes; Jannick--you will know him, Master Arfoll, by sight--he walks
lame, and hath a great hunch on one shoulder, and two of his right-
hand fingers have never grown!"

"God has been very good to him!" said Master Arfoll quietly.

"Good, Master Arfoll!"

"To him--and to his poor old mother. Better, Rohan, in these days to
be born halt and lame, or deaf and blind, than to grow up into man's
strength. Happy Jannick! He will never go to war! Mother Barbaik can
keep her child!"

There was a long pause. Both men watched the Fountain and the sea, but
with different emotions. The itinerant's heart was full of the
terrible calm of pity and unselfishness. Rohan's was stirred by a
stormy passion.

At last Rohan spoke. He seemed like one concluding a long train of
reflection rather than opening a subject.

"After all, my name will be on the list!"

"No doubt."

"And my number may be drawn?"

"Perhaps;--but God forbid!"

Rohan turned his face full on his companion's, and laughed fiercely,
quickly; a laugh with no joy in it, only desperation.

"God forbid?--I am sick of hearing God's name mentioned so!"

"Never be sick of hearing God's name," said Master Arfoll gently.

"God forbid? What does God forbid? Cruelty, butchery, battle, hunger,
disease! None of these! He sits calm, if He is at all, giving his
world over to devils. Ah, Master Arfoll, you know! You have seen! And
yet--you have faith!"

Rohan laughed again almost contemptuously. As he stood thus, towering
by the frail figure of Master Arfoll, he seemed (with his fair hair
and leonine locks) like some mighty giant of the north.

"I have faith," answered Master Arfoll, and his face shone beautiful
in the moonlight; "I have faith, and I think I shall have it till I
die. You have seen little of the world; I have seen much. You have
suffered nothing; I have lost all; and yet I say to you now, my son,
as I would say to you in your despair: God forbid--that I should doubt
my God!"

"And yet, mark you, He suffers these things."

"It is so," answered Master Arfoll simply. "While men remain ignorant,
these things will be; when men grow wise, these things will cease.
Man, not God, is the scourge of man. God made the world beautiful, and
God is joy; the wicked are unhappy, see you, and they do not know
God."

"Who knows Him, then?--Those only who weep?"

"Those who help Him, Rohan."

"How?"

"By fulfilling His law of love; by loving all things, hoping all
things, enduring all things. But stay, my Rohan, perhaps my God is not
yours. Mine is not the god of monsieur le cur, nor the god of Uncle
Ewen, neither the god of priests nor the lord god of battles. He is
the Voice within my own heart, answering all the voices that cry
around me, 'There is no hope! despair, despair!'"

Rohan inclined his head, not irreverently, for he had been an apt
pupil and he adored his master; but the spirit of wrath was still
strong within him, and his eyes burnt angrily. The blood of the
Gwenferns was fire. In this man native passion and pride had been
subdued by accidental culture into something eminently noble; but the
elements were there, and it only needed some insufferable outrage or
indignity to turn him again into the original savage Adam. "Let me
speak again of the conscription, Master Arfoll," he said in a voice
trembling with agitation. "It is coming again, and the Emperor may say
to any man, 'Follow me!' Tell me then--is this the will of God?"

"It is not!"

"And a man would be justified in answering the Emperor, 'No, I will
not follow, for thy leadership is accurst'?"

"There is no escape--he who is called must go!"

"But first answer--would that man be justified?"

"Before God he would."

Rohan Gwenfern threw his hands up into the air.

"Then, remember, if ever that call should come to me, if ever the
bloody hand should be laid upon my shoulder and the bloody finger
point me forward--remember, then, what I swear now--I will resist to
the last drop of my blood, to the last fibre of my flesh; though all
the world should be against me, even what I loves best, I will be
firm; though the Emperor himself should summon me, I will defy him.
They may kill me, but they cannot make me kill. Master Arfoll, if the
time comes, remember that!"

The words poured forth in a torrent. Could the speaker's face have
been seen, it would have appeared quite bloodless--the lips
compressed, the eyes set, the whole countenance in one white heat of
passionate resolve. Almost involuntarily, as he concluded, Gwenfern
crossed himself--a custom which he seldom followed, but which he now
adopted in the vehemence of his feeling, as if calling God to witness
his oath.

Master Arfoll sighed. The words seemed wild and raving, and he had
heard such frantic protestations made before, but the end had ever
been the same--despairing submission to inevitable destiny.

A few moments afterwards the men shook hands, and Master Arfoll made
his way up the cliff side.

"God forbid, indeed," he thought, "that the lot should ever fall on
him! He is a lamb now, for he has known only green fields and the
breath of peace; but I see the wild spirit within him--the first blood
of battle would change him into a wild beast!"

While this dialogue was proceeding the scene at the Fountain was
growing brisker. Seen closer, it lost much of its weird mystery, and
became a lively human picture.

About midway between high and low water-marks glimmered numerous
pools, fresh dug by the hands of the women; for wherever holes were
scooped the fresh water bubbled up; and around the pools, kneeling on
boards and old thwarts of boats, and sometimes even on the shingle
with their bare unprotected knees, were busy groups of white-capped
women and girls, washing, beating their linen with their wooden bats,
laughing and chattering as merrily as a sisterhood of rooks which the
moon keeps awake in the tree-tops.

The sands were still luminous with the ebbed tide, and strewn with
tangled weeds and gleaming jelly-fish. The air was warm, but piquant
with the odours of ocean, and every breath of it wafted inland the
night-moths and large gnats that people sandy places.

At intervals there came from the dim sea the cry of some belated and
solitary gull; and once a great white owl, while prowling purblind
among the clefts of the moonlit crags, blundered across the open space
of the Fountain, and, uttering a startled scream, buried itself in the
gloom of the cliffs beyond.

Among the pools were some preserved for domestic purposes, and at
these were young girls and children with earthen pitchers and wooden
pails, some standing, others coming and going.

Among those lingering stood Marcelle, her pitcher balanced on her
head, her eyes turned to the groups of women who chattered near her in
the moonlight.

She was not a popular member of that assembly, for she had two great
drawbacks in the eyes of the women--her beauty, and her connection
with the old Corporal.

As a rule, the Fountain (the place of many pools was always spoken of
thus, in the singular number) was a scene of extraordinary animation
and merriment. Every matter of public or private interest was
discussed and analyzed there; characters were beaten to shreds by
tongues as hard as the wooden bats of their owners; the foibles of
friends and neighbours were turned inside out and well scrubbed, amid
a blinding spray of prattle. Not the congress of women, in the great
play of Aristophanes, kept up a more incessant chatter. It must be
admitted, moreover, that much of the humour ventilated at the Fountain
had an Aristophanic broadness,--reminding one terribly of the
"Lysistrata." The gaudriole had its place vindicated here, as much as
in the page of Branger. Yet these were modest matrons, meek as mice
before their husbands, God-fearing, loving, gentle. They merely
prattled together over the secrets of their matronhood, and, though
they sometimes laughed coarsely, meant no harm.

As for the younger females, they clustered together, and discussed
their love affairs, with much tittering and whispering, and no
naughtiness whatever. There were lovely maids among them, but none
quite so lovely as Marcelle. Marcelle was stately as a grande dame,
and never condescended to foolishness; for which characteristic
hauteur, be certain they loved her none the more.

So there she stood lingering in the moonlight, fair and happy as
Marguerite before she learned to sing "Meine Ruh' ist hin, mein Herz
ist schwer!" Something in the gossip of the elder women had struck her
ear, and she had paused to listen.

That night there was laughing and singing and chattering enough, but
these had ever and anon been interrupted by pauses of thoughtful
silence, broken betimes by low anxious whispers.

"Ah, mon Dieu! it is all true enough, little Joan, as some of us shall
soon know to our sorrow!" cried one of the women.

"It will be a sore day for Kromlaix," said another, looking up from
the pool over which she was leaning. "Our Piarik was taken the last
time, and he has never come back yet."

"Ah, but he lives!" said the first speaker.

"Yes, he lives!"

"It is your house that has the luck," cried a grizzly giantess with
grey hair, whose brawny arms were busy in the same pool. "My Jannick
and my Gillarm are gone, with never a priest to give them a blessing
or a friend to pray their poor souls to God!"

She drew a heavy breath, while her face was contorted with agony, but
she had a mighty man's heart, which would break rather than find
relief in tears.

"No one says it is not true," said the girl called Joan, a small but
adult girl who walked lame, "but the time is not fixed, and some say
the Emperor himself does not know his plans. It may be a year--two
years--none can tell. Father Rolland was telling mother to-day--for
when she heard of it she was very anxious about Hol and Lon, as you
conceive--that the lists do not mean very much. The men may not be
wanted for a long time; and, again, there may be peace, and no one may
have to go at all."

"One cannot understand why the Emperor does not make peace. Is he not
the master? When one is master like that, peace is easy."

The masculine woman who had formerly spoken gave a fierce laugh.

"The Emperor!--Say the Devil, and all is said--does the Devil make
peace?"

This was more than Marcelle could bear.

"Silence, Yvonne Penvenn; you have no right to say such things; and as
for your sons, they are better where they are than where they used to
be, at the cabaret fighting and cursing."

Yvonne lifted up her worn face and glared at the speaker, but Marcelle
was not to be daunted.

"You know well that what I say is true, and the good God knows I pity
you, but you should not talk as you do Listen! It is the English who
will not let the Emperor make peace."

All became attentive. Marcelle spoke as one having authority.

"My Uncle Ewen says the Emperor would be glad to rest, but the English
have bought over all the kings with their gold, and they will not
suffer him. Have you seen a swarm of wasps round a man going to market
across the sandhills of Traonili? Well, it is like that! They cannot
hurt the great Emperor, these wasps of Prussians and English, but they
can keep him troubled--they can prevent him from making peace!"

A general murmur of voices was the answer; some agreed with Marcelle,
many dissented strongly--each spoke according to her own stake in the
game.

"But why, then," asked a young matron, "is the sergeant in such a
hurry about preparing the lists? If there was to be no drawing at
all--or only after six months or a year--why should there be such
haste to get the names? For my part, I understand it all--the Emperor
has a new plan in his head, and we shall hear of it before harvest."

A general groan followed this unpopular prophecy.

As the speaker finished, a little old woman, bent nearly double with
age, hobbled in among the group with a crock in one hand and a stout
ash staff in the other. Setting the vessel down on the shingle, she
stood panting for breath; then, clasping the staff with both hands and
resting her chin on her wrists, she surveyed the speaker with a
strange glitter in her black eyes.

Meantime, the little maid called Joan answered the would-be
prophetess.

"Come must, come will," she said, sententiously. "There is at least
this comfort, the Emperor does not want all; each man takes his
chance; and the lots are in God's hands, after all."

"And one can light a candle up at Notre Dame de la Garde," said the
other. "There is hope yet, and to blame the Emperor is not fair."

She was a young mother, and all her children were little fledglings,
who had but lately left the nest of her enfolding arms. So what cared
she? Her husband was fishing on the cod-banks of Newfoundland, and all
her brood was safe.

"I cried when our poor Antonin died in the fall of the leaf," said a
girl who had not yet spoken, and who was quietly filling the crock of
the old woman who had last arrived. "I cried then; but now I do not
care, if God has taken him instead of the conscription."

A pathetic murmur answered her. The old woman stood still, leaning on
her staff, as if fascinated.

"For our part, we are safe," cried Joan; "I have only one brother, and
the Emperor does not take the only sons."

Marcelle, who was slowly retreating, turned sharply at this statement.

"It is a good thing," she cried, with a scornful laugh, "to have three
full-grown brothers left, and none of them cowards. One of mine, at
least, will look upon the Emperor. Would I were a man that I might
go!"

One or two girls echoed the sentiment: it is so easy to be courageous
when one is in no personal peril.

"But as for your only sons," she continued, "the Emperor has changed
all that this time. Every strong man will take his chance--all except
the blind and the poor idiots will have to go if 'tis the Emperor's
will. What then? Vive 1' Empereur!"

Not a voice echoed her; the women surveyed her in grim silence, and
made signs to each other. Only the infirm old creature leaning on her
staff uttered a feeble wail. Hobbling over to Marcelle, she clutched
her arm.

"That is false, Marcelle Derval!"

"What is false, Mother Goron?"

"That the only sons will be drawn. That is what the sergeant says, but
it is false."

"You are right, Mother Goron," sympathetically murmured several
voices; and angry faces crowded round Marcelle.

The old woman trembled like an aspen leaf and her thin voice piped
despairingly--"Ah, God, it cannot be true. The sergeant says that no
one will be exempt--no one at all, but it cannot be true. I have
talked to the sergeant, and he says the Emperor must have men--
thousands, millions--soon! It is to cut the throats of the Germans,
and that is just. But the Emperor shall not have my boy. I have prayed
that the Emperor might have victories; while he left me my boy, I say,
I have prayed for the Emperor every night. The others are dead--they
died young--and I have only Jan."

Marcelle was touched, and laid her hand softly on those of the old
woman.

"Have no fear, Mother Goron!" she said. "The sergeant knows all that--
and that you have no one but Jan. He will not let him be put down in
the lists, and even if his name was drawn, he would not suffer him to
go."

"My curse upon them all!" cried the old crone madly. "My Jn is tall
and strong, and they always draw the strong and the tall. Ah, they are
cunning; they cheat in the drawing, and take the best. And the Emperor
is making ready once more! But he shall not have my Jan: as God is in
Heaven he shall not have my Jan!"

With a look of pity, Marcelle departed, walking slowly up the beach in
the light of the moon, which had now grown brighter, and was lying
like silver on the sands and on the sea. As she reached the shadow of
the village, a dark figure joined her, and a low voice murmured her
name.

"Marcelle!"

"Rohan!"

There was a silent kiss in the moonlight, and then Rohan lifted up his
hands to take the pitcher of water.

"Let me carry it for you--it is heavy!"

"No, it is quite light!"

He persisted, but she would not suffer him to release her of her
burthen; so he followed quietly at her side.

"You are late at the Fountain, Marcelle. The tide has turned."

"Yes."

That was all they said till they were near the Corporal's door. Rohan
was unusually gloomy and taciturn, but to Marcelle there was a
delicious pleasure in this silent companionship.

"Will you not come in?" she said, setting down her pitcher.

The street was empty, and they were quite alone.

"Not to-night," answered Rohan.

He had both her hands now, and was drawing her face quietly to his.
All at once she drew back, laughing, and said--

"After all, then, the news is true!"

"What news?" he asked, kissing her.

"There will be more war. The Emperor is mad against the Germans."

It was as if the lips of a corpse had been put to his; he drew back
shivering.

"What is the matter?" she asked softly.

"It is nothing; only the night is cold. And so there will be more war?
Well, that is old news at the best."

He was trying hard to conquer the emotion that was fast mastering him;
and his voice did not tremble. All at once, and absolutely for the
first time, it flashed upon the girl, looking in his face, that this
man, her lover, might be called among the rest. A sharp pain ran
through her heart.

"Ah, Rohan," she said, self-reproachfully, "I had forgotten--I did not
think--the only sons will be drawn too!"

Rohan laughed. The laugh had fierceness in it, which Marcelle, in her
own emotion, scarcely noticed.

"What then?" he asked.

The maid hung her head, still with both her hands clasped in his, and
answered, using for the first time that night the endearing second
personal pronoun--

"And thou!"

There was a pause. Rohan shivered and did not reply. Presently the
girl, coming close to him and putting both her arms around his neck,
so that he could feel her heart beating against his own, kissed him
passionately on the lips of her own accord.

"My Rohan! my brave Rohan! It is true; thy name is down, and may be
drawn, and if so, thou wilt leave me--thou wilt go away to serve the
great Emperor, and to fight for France. I will not speak falsely--I am
praying that thou mayst not go; but if thou goest, I will not cry--I
will be brave. It is hard to part with one's best beloved--ah yes, it
is hard; but it is for the Emperor's sake--and, for that what would we
not do? If it is his will and God's, I will not be sorry. Nay, then, I
will be proud!"

She passed her hands across her eyes, which were moist with tears.
Just then a voice from the Corporal's threshold cried loudly--

"Marcelle!"

Kissing her lover quickly once again, Marcelle caught up her pitcher
and hurried rapidly away, leaving Rohan standing silent in the shadow
of the street. He had not answered her, nor interrupted her; he was
too amazed, too sick of heart. Her very kiss had seemed terrible to
him. He felt now, for the first time, how far their feelings ran
apart; how their souls prayed asunder, like worshippers who adore
different gods.

And with all this the love within him rose wave by wave, ever stronger
and stronger, till, between its rapturous excess and the new terror
that was pursuing him, he seemed as a man gone mad.

Nevertheless, as he walked in the moonlight hour after hour that
night, sometimes conjuring up the beloved face again and feeling the
passionate embrace, sometimes shuddering as he remembered all the
fierce bigotry and adoration of the heart he had pressed against his
own, he more than once raised his hands to Heaven and cried silently--

"I have sworn it, O my God! Never, never!"



Chapter 11. THE RED ANGEL



"For I will pass through the land of Egypt this night, and will smite
all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, both man and beast; and
against all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgment: I am the Lord!
And the blood shall be for a token upon the houses where my people
are!"

So whispered Jehovah in the ears of Moses and Aaron, in Egypt long
ago, and the passover lambs were slain, and the Angel of the Lord
passed over the houses where the blood was set as a token, and the
Lord's chosen were saved, and all the hosts of the Lord went out from
the land of Egypt.

So was it in Egypt long ago, and there was safety at least for those
the Lord loved. So was it not in France at the opening of this
century, for the Lord was silent afar, and there were no Moses and
Aaron to lead His beloved out of the wicked land.

And instead of God's passover and the blood of the Lamb upon the
dwellings of the people, there was a great darkness, and blood indeed
upon the houses, but not of lambs; for on almost every threshold there
gleamed a crimson token, not God's token but Cain's;--a token, not of
deliverance, but of doom.

As a spent storm flies across the earth, Napoleon had hastened from
Moscow to Paris, little daunted by the loss of 500,000 men, little
heedful of the cries and tears of innumerable widows and orphan
children. How had he been greeted by the people of his Empire? With
curses and groans, with passionate prayers and appeals? On the
contrary, with blessings and acclamations. The cities of his Empire--
Rome, Florence, Milan, Hamburg, Mayence, Amsterdam--put their smartest
raiment on, and wore lilies in their hair. The public officials
flocked in to offer their felicitations. "What is life," cried the
Prefect of Paris, "in comparison with the immense interests which rest
on the sacred head of the heir to the Empire?" "Reason," cried M. de
Fontagnes, grand-master of the Imperial University--"Reason pauses
before the mystery of power and obedience, and abandons all inquiry to
that religion which made the persons of Kings sacred, after the image
of God Himself!" To this tune, and with even more hideous flourishes,
danced, raved, and blasphemed the scented arch-priests of the imperial
Baal.

And meantime the heavens opened and buried the Grand Army deeper and
deeper under the silent snows; and in every home there was an empty
place, in every house an aching heart; and from every ruined home
there went up a bitter cry--"We beseech thee to hear us, O Lord!"

But the lord meant by those who cried was not Jehovah, nor the All-
unseen and All-merciful, nor any God of the cold heavens whence these
snows came covering those dead. The lord of the broken heart was
Napoleon, who usurped the Divine seat, and whispered his awful fiat
across a desolated world.

"We beseech thee to hear us, O Lord!"

He brooded in the midst of his city, and his eyes surveyed the silent
earth. As a spider in the heart of its web, he lay and waited in the
heart of his city. The creature whom Paris had borne in those travails
which shook the world, the child of the Revolution which began with
the cry of liberated souls and ended with the clang of souls in
chains, the soldier fashioned out of fire, the King-destroyer and
King-liberator, was now known veritably for what he was--Avatar, and
lord of Europe, master and dictator of the earth. What wonder if
madmen in their frenzy fell praying in his presence, as to very God.

"We beseech thee to hear us, O Lord!"

If he heard, he smiled. If he understood, he smiled also. But we may
believe, indeed, that he neither understood nor heard. An Avatar
cannot understand, for he has no wisdom; he cannot hear, for he has no
ears. He has neither eyes, nor understanding, heart, nor ears. He
looks not upward, for he cannot conceive of God; he gazes not
downward, for he cannot perceive humanity. Blind, deaf, irrational,
pitiless, terrible, he sits as God--an earth-god, deadly, and born to
die.

We shall be answered here that Napoleon was what strange speakers and
writers of all times have called a Great Man; that, being such, he
must have been supremely human, as indeed many of his utterances and
doings seem to show. The explanation is simple. Great men of a certain
sort are great through their very negation of ordinary human
qualities. Voltaire was great because he could not revere. Rousseau
was great because he was incapable of shame. Napoleon was great
because, as a sovereign, he was perfectly incapable of realising the
consequence of his own deeds--because, in fact, he did not possess
even an ordinary share of that faculty of verification which is
allotted to common men, to men who are in no respect great.

It is curious, as illustrating this truth, that Napoleon, when he saw
suffering, pitied it. He could not bear to contemplate physical pain
in any shape, and, like Goethe, he carefully avoided it. As a human
being he had his humanities. As a great man, as the conqueror of
Europe, he was simply an ignorant and irresponsible Force, without
eyes or ears, or heart or understanding, an automaton moved by a blind
and pitiless will to dark designs and ever fatal ends.

They were not far wrong, therefore, though they expressed the truth in
an image, who pictured him as ever attended in secret by a certain Man
in Red, his familiar. This secret familiar, however, was his own
miraculous invention. Napoleon, indeed, was the Frankenstein of the
War-monster which he had himself created, and which, from the hour of
his creation, never suffered him to sleep in peace.

He might be as God to the people; to this Monster he was a slave.

"Thou hast created me out of chaos--feed me: my food is human life.
Thou hast conjured me out of the mighty democratic elements--clothe
me: my raiment shall be woven by fatherless children. Thou hast
fashioned me and fed me, and clothed me in God's name--find me a
Bride, that my race may increase, and inhabit the earth." And the name
of the Bride was Death.

"We beseech thee to hear us, O Lord!"

Perchance, indeed, he might have heard, perchance he did hear, and
hesitated. But the Monster continued, "Quick! more food, for I am
hungry; more raiment, for I walk naked in rags; and another Bride, for
she you gave me is too cold. Deny me, and I will devour thee: thee and
thy seed, and thine Empire, and thy hopes for evermore." So the
Emperor cried, in this dark year of 1813, "Peace, Monster! and I will
do thy behest;" and leaving the da??? in the darkness of his secret
chamber, he passed smiling forth, amid the worship of his creatures,
and flowers were strewn beneath his feet, while music filled his ears.
More food was ready--more raiment was being woven. Another ghastly
Bride was soon prepared; and the name of this Bride was Slaughter,
youngest born of three sisters, whose other names were Famine and
Fire.

So Napoleon returned to the Monster and cried unto him, "Be thou my
Red Angel, speeding across the land in the darkness of the night; and
as thou goest set on each door a crimson mark; and whatsoever house
thou markest shall yield up its best beloved to thee and thy Bride.
For I am Napoleon! And the blood shall be as a token upon the houses
where our victims are!"

"We beseech thee to hear us, O Lord!"

The cry went up, but to what avail? The Evil Angel had flown across
the earth, and at dawn the crimson signs were on the doors.

And the number of the newly chosen children of France was two hundred
thousand and ten thousand; and at his call they answered, each in his
dwelling; and no passover lambs were slain, but each one of the two
hundred thousand and ten thousand presented himself as a lamb for the
sacrifice, ere the hosts of Napoleon went out anew from the land of
France.



Chapter 12. CORPORAL DERVAL HARANGUES THE CONSCRIPTS



Those spring days were bright at Kromlaix; fish were plentiful, and
the people had never known a more promising time. The air was full of
sweetness, the heavens were blue and peaceful, the sea like a mirror.
Yet the Shadow was creeping nearer, and the dreaded hour of the
Drawing of Lots was close at hand.

It was now known for certain that Napoleon had raised up his fatal
hand, making the signal of the Conscription.

Previous to this, the hundred cohorts of the National Guards--a sort
of militia, enrolled under the declaration that they were never on any
pretence to cross the frontier--had been turned into regular troops of
the line; while the sailors and marines of the French fleet had been
gathered in from the sea, and from the sea-ports and villages which
they occupied, and turned into corps of artillery. Then to crown all
came the decree of the Senate granting to the Emperor the anticipation
of the Conscription of 1814--a force of some two hundred thousand raw
recruits, which, united to the marines and to the youths of the
National Guard, would comprise a new army of at least 340,000 men.

There was much public noise and jubilation, much bustling of
functionaries and rejoicing of corporations, but by the fire-side
there was silence and a great dread. It was soon made known far and
near that, owing to the great national losses and the immense drain on
the lives of the population during the last campaigns, the old pleas
of exemption from service were to be disallowed. Only sons were to
take their chance with the rest. A rigorous inspection would follow
the ballot, and few indeed would escape on the score of deformity or
bodily infirmity. Every conscript who drew a fatal number would have
to go. As to purchasing a substitute, that would be out of the
question.

One mercy was afforded to the people, that of immediate relief from
the agony of suspense. The ballot was to take place at once, in the
little neighbouring town of St. Gurlott.

The morning of the fatal day came soon, and came with blue skies,
white clouds, and the softest of winds upon the sea.

As the sun slowly rose, colouring all the ocean to delicate rose and
burning brightly on the little village, a head in a red nightcap was
thrust out of the street door of Corporal Ewen's house, and the eyes
of the Corporal himself looked with an approving twinkle at the
weather.

"Soul of St. Gildas!" he muttered to himself; "it is a good omen. The
morning of Austerlitz was not more sunny."

Here, however, he heaved a sigh, and looked down contemptuously at his
wooden leg, of which Austerlitz was the cause.

Then, hobbling into the house, he proceeded with his toilette, shaving
carefully, brushing up his best semi-military clothes, polishing his
red cheeks till they shone again, and chattering to himself like some
invalid daw in the privacy of his cage.

When all his preparations were finished, he sat down, in his shirt
sleeves, before the fire--which he had already lit with his own
hands--and began to smoke his usual "pipe before breakfast."

He was an early riser, and invariably the first to move about the
house and light the fire. He would cook his own breakfast, too, upon
occasion, with the skill of an old campaigner.

Hol and Gildas--the twins--were still snoring in one of the lits clos
in the kitchen; the other, just vacated by the Corporal, was lying
open.

The first to descend the black wooden stairs was Marcelle. She wore
her coif and her face was very pale.

The Corporal turned at her step, drew the pipe from his mouth, and as
she came up and kissed him on the weatherbeaten cheek, exclaimed
quickly.

"Thou, little one! But where is thy mother?"

"She sleeps still, and I did not waken her; it is still early."

Uncle Ewen puffed rapidly, and looked at the fire. It was a fact
almost unprecedented to find the busy widow lying in bed after her
daughter had risen but the Corporal almost guessed the truth, or some
of it. Bright as the day might seem to him, to her it was a day of
trouble; and all night long she had been weeping and thinking of her
three dead sons, and praying that the good God might spare her those
who remained.

"Humph!" grunted the old soldier, glancing at the sleeping twins.
"They, too, are sound. Hol! Gildas! It is time to rise."

While Marcelle walked to the door, leaning against the doorpost and
looking out into the street, the young giants rose and were soon
sitting with their uncle by the fire. Presently down came Alain and
Jannick, looking very cross and sleepy; and last of all, Mother Derval
herself white as a ghost, and very silent.

Meantime Marcelle stood in the street, watching the little village
wake. Brighter and brighter grew the light windows and doors were
thrown open, heads were thrust out, voices were heard; and presently a
little girl passed, going to the fountain, for it was low water. The
little girl wore a tight white cap, wooden shoes, and a stiff bright.
coloured holiday petticoat.

"How, Marrianic," cried Marcelle, "art thou, too, going to St.
Gurlott?"

"Yes," answered Marrianic eagerly. "I am going with mother and Uncle
Maturin and my brothers. There will be great fun--as good as at the
Pardons. I must run now, for mother is waiting for water."

And she ran on down the street, smiling gaily and singing to herself
an old Celtic song. The Conscription to her meant a holiday, and she
was too young to comprehend sorrow in any shape.

Marcelle sighed. Her enthusiasm for the great cause remained, but
somehow her mother's tears had troubled her, and she was thinking very
sadly of her three dead brothers--and yes! of Rohan. She was selfish
enough, despite her principles, to pray that Rohan might not be taken.
Her first sip of Love had been so delicious, and her nature was
composed of such passionate elements, that she could not bear to lose
her lover so soon.

The sun was fully up, and Kromlaix, like a great bee-hive, stood in
the sunshine, with its inhabitants moving in and out. Nearly all wore
their best. The white caps and coloured skirts and embroidered bodices
of the women shone gaily in the sun. The men lounged hither and
thither, some in coloured cotton nightcaps, some in broad hats of
felt; many in loose breeches and sabots, but the greatest number in
tight trousers, black gaiters, and rude leather shoes. Early as it
was, some had already set forth inland, on the road to St. Gurlott.

Re-entering the house, Marcelle found breakfast ready, her mother
still stooping over the fire, the Corporal and his four nephews seated
round the table eating black bread. Each of the men had also a tin mug
before him, and on the table was a stone jug with cider. The Corporal
was rattling his mug and addressing "the Maccabees."

"Attention! I drink to the Emperor!"

The others joined with a certain enthusiasm, for the cider was good,
and moreover an unusual luxury. Marcelle sat down and began to break a
little bread, but her mother did not turn round.

"Mother, mother," cried Uncle Ewen, with reproachful gentleness,
addressing the widow, "come! thou wilt put us out of heart. Have
courage! See now, all the world will not be drawn, and perhaps none of
thine. If the worst comes to the worst, little woman, thou wilt be
proud to serve the Emperor in his trouble, and he may send thee back
what thou lovest safe and sound."

The widow's answer was a deep sigh. As for the young men, they looked
cheerful enough. They were not sufficiently old to grieve over danger
before it came; and besides they all possessed a certain pugnacity and
raw courage which the enthusiasm of Uncle Ewen had almost developed
into a sentiment.

"For my part," cried Hol, "I shall take my chance. If I go, I go. It
is in God's hands."

"If the drawing is fair!" cried Gildas suddenly, scowling.

The old Corporal struck his fist on the table.

"Soul of a crow! does not the Emperor see to that! And who doubts the
Emperor? What Hol said was right--it is God that shuffles the
numbers, and we that draw. He that God picks out should be proud. Look
at thy sister Marcelle! Were she a man she would break her heart if
she did not go."

"It is all very well to talk," said Hol, "when one is a woman."

"Bah! then hear me, I who am a man!" said the Corporal, oblivious of
the fact that his nephews had heard him almost too often. "This is the
way to look at it, mother! When a man's time comes, when the Angel
with the white face arrives and knocks, we must get up and let him in.
It is no matter where he hides--on land or sea, here or there--he will
be found; it may be to-morrow see you, it may be twenty years after;
it may be when he is a babe at breast, it may be when he is an old
stump like me. Well, that is God's way! You cannot live longer by
staying at home if it is God's will that you should die."

"That is quite true, Uncle Ewen," said the widow, "but--"

The Corporal waved his hand with a grim smile.

"Look at me, mother! Look at thy good man's brother, little woman! I
have been a soldier--I have seen it all--I have dined on thunder and
gunpowder, I--and yet I live. Corbleu! I live, and but for this
accursed leg of a tree, as sound as any man. Have I not followed the
Little Corporal to Egypt, to Italy, and across the Alps? Was not that
red work, little mother? I knew him General at Cismone, boys, and I
lived to see him crowned Emperor of France!--and a year after that I
lost my leg! A leg--bah! If it had been the two legs I should have
laughed, since it was for the Emperor. But, see you, I did not die--I
live to tell you all this. I have had bullets round me like rain, but
I was never struck. Why, little mother? Because every bullet is marked
by the Hand you know, and not a man falls but it is God's will."

In this strain, talking volubly, sometimes addressing his nephews,
sometimes turning to his sister-in-law and Marcelle, the veteran
endeavoured to inspire the household with confidence and courage. He
was to a certain extent successful, and even the mother assumed a sort
of cheer.

Previous to that day Uncle Ewen had not been idle. Stalking from door
to door, wherever he was on friendly terms, stumping along in his old
uniform with the cross of the Legion of Honour upon his breast, his
nose in the air as if he smelt the battle afar off his face crimson
with enthusiasm, he had canvassed all Kromlaix on behalf of the
Emperor. Such enthusiasm is contagious, and the young fishermen began
to laugh and swagger as if the Conscription were a good joke--at all
events, they determined not to show the white feather.

So on this bright morning of the drawing of lots all seemed quite
festal.

If a quivering lip or a wet cheek was visible here and there, it was
soon forgotten in the general display of rustic splendour--embroidered
waistcoats, silk-sewn bodices, bright petticoats, snowy caps,
ornaments of coarse silver and gold. True, many a poor mother had
quietly stolen out in the early grey of dawn to kneel under the
Calvary and say a prayer of entreaty to the Blessed One carved in
stone in its centre. But now grief seemed all forgotten. There was
laughing and shouting as the groups gathered, and more than one man
had already been drinking deep.

Fresh and glorious shone the sea, happy and glad seemed the village,
with its black boats crowding, like a flock of cormorants, on the
water's edge. But over all, dominating the scene, stood the Menhir--
black, forbidding, like the imperial Idol looking down upon his
creatures.

Out sallied the Corporal at the head of his four nephews.

By his side walked Marcelle, very pale, but dressed, in colours bright
as May, with a coif like snow, its lappets reaching to her waist, and
her feet clad in pretty shoes with buckles. Then came a strain of wild
music; for Jannick carried his biniou--or bagpipe--tricked out with
long streamers of a dozen colours, and Alain was blowing into his tin
whistle.

"Forward!" cried Uncle Ewen.

There was a cheer in the street, and the party was soon joined by many
young men, friends of the "Maccabees." Among them came a thin,
sinister-looking young fisherman, whom the Corporal greeted by name.

"Good morrow, Mikel Grallon!"

Mikel answered quietly, and joined the party, thrusting himself as
close as possible to Marcelle, who noticed his approach with courteous
indifference. Her thoughts were elsewhere. She was looking up and down
the street for one tall figure; but it was not there.

The Corporal, too, was on the qui vive.

"He is late," he muttered. "Pest on him, to lie a-bed on such a day as
this!"

"For whom are you looking?" asked Mikel Grallon, as they all paused
close to the old cabaret, which was distinguished by the bunch of
withered mistletoe hung over the door.

"For another sheep of my flock," returned Uncle Ewen. "His name is
down in the list, yet he delays."

Grallon smiled significantly.

"If you mean Rohan Gwenfern, I fear he will not come. I met him
yesternight, and he told me he should be too busy to go--that thou or
another might draw in his name."

The Corporal stood aghast. The very announcement seemed blasphemous.
"Too busy" to obey the summons of the Emperor! "Too busy" to perform
his duty like a man on that day of all days! Soul of a crow! it was
stupefying.

But the Corporal shook his head, and would not believe it.

"By the bones of the blessed St. Gildas!" he cried, naming again the
patron saint often invoked by his brother's wife, "it is unheard of--
it is not true, Mikel Grallon. If Rohan said that, he was mocking at
thee. I see it plain, boys! The rascal has stolen a march upon us and
hurried on to the town to be first among the fun. Forward! we shall
find him there."

Alain and Jannick played loudly, and the whole party turned again up
the street. Marcelle said nothing then, but she remembered that, some
few nights before, Rohan had hinted that he might be absent. "But if I
am," he added, "let thou or our uncle draw for me in my name; it
matters little, for the luck will be the same; and if the lot is
against me, I shall be as content as if I had drawn myself." He had
said this in the twilight, and his voice was firm; and, fortunately or
unfortunately, she had not seen the terrible expression on his face.

As they left the village and hastened along the road they found
themselves with many other groups going the same way--women young and
old, aged men, young fishermen, and even little boys and girls. As
they passed the church and Calvary, Alain and Jannick ceased to play,
the Corporal took off his hat, and Marcelle and her brothers knelt
down for a moment.

The little cur was standing at the church door, with his vicaire (or
curate), a spectral young man fresh from college. Father Rolland
stretched out his plump hands in blessing, and they hurried on.

The town of St. Gurlott lay a good twelve English miles away, in the
middle of a fertile valley, but the road to it was through a waste
country of heather and enormous granite rocks, most dreary to the eye.
It was an old cart-road well worn in between banks of heather and
thyme, amid which glimmered the little yellow stars of tormentil. If
one lark sang in the hot blue air all around them, there sang a
thousand!



Chapter 13. THE DRAWING OF LOTS. "ONE!"



Despite his wooden leg, Uncle Ewen pegged forward gallantly, but after
a few miles he was glad enough to take a seat in a rude cart which was
jogging along, full of brightly dressed girls, and drawn by two little
fat oxen. Marcelle, too, found a seat, while the musicians Alain and
Jannick, with Hol, Gildas, and the rest, followed behind, it was very
merry indeed!

Everywhere along the road Marcelle looked for her lover, but he was
nowhere to be seen--nor, indeed, the maiden thought to herself any man
fit to be his peer.

They had travelled along drowsily for some miles more, and were not
far from the town--which was now visible in the sunlight before them--
when Marcelle beheld old Mother Goron clinging to the arm of her son--
a powerful-looking youth very plainly attired. As they came up, he
begged a seat in the cart for his mother, who seemed spent with
fatigue; but as they lifted her up, not ungently, she fainted away.

When she recovered she did not speak a word, but sat staring like one
in a dream. She was very weak and feeble, and the mental anxiety and
bodily fatigue had been too much for her. Her son walked close by the
cart's side, for she still held his hand firmly, and would not let it
go.

At last they crossed a rude bridge of wood and entered the district
town.

It was the quaintest of little old towns, with odd little houses of
granite opening on the narrow streets, and old-fashioned churches
everywhere. Every street was crowded, and every church was full. In
the market-place, which they soon reached, carts stood full of fresh
arrivals, wooden stalls were erected for the sale of refreshment,
crowds of men and women were jostling together, and all sorts of
scenes were being enacted--from the wailing group surrounding some
poor woman whose son had drawn a fatal number, down to the laughing
skirmish of boisterous farm girls with their rude admirers.

In the corner of the square stood a miserable stone building, in front
of which strutted the military officials, in their ridiculous fine
plumage. This was the Town Hall, within which the drawing had already
commenced.

It must be admitted that few signs of discontentment or grief appeared
on the surface. Everything had been done to impart to the affair the
appearance of a gala. Flags were hung out from many of the house-
roofs, music was heard on all sides, and everywhere old soldiers and
agents of the Government were circulating among the peasantry,
treating, chatting, telling stories of the glory of the Empire. Many
of the young men who were to take their chance that day were
hopelessly intoxicated; a wrestling match had begun here and there,
and blows were given and taken. Of all the faces gathered there, only
those of the elder women seemed utterly despairing.

Alighting from his cart and heading his little procession, Uncle Ewen
soon made his way to the Town Hall. Marcelle clung to his arm
nervously, and still looked on every side for Rohan.

Corporal Derval was well known, and way was soon made for him. The
officials, always instructed to treat disabled veterans of the Empire
with respect, greeted him familiarly, and smiled at his attendant
band. If his influence had failed, Marcelle's pretty face would have
conquered--for a pretty maid is always a power, and most of all to the
heart of a military Jean Crapaud.

"Uncle," she whispered, as she crossed the threshold under the
admiring gaze of the "cocked hats," "uncle, Rohan is not here."

"Malediction!" cried the old Corporal. "But perhaps he is within!"

As he entered the sacred precincts he took off his hat. Squeezing his
way, and drawing Marcelle behind him he was soon in the body of the
hall.

It looked very grand and imposing.

At the upper end of the hall, before a large table on which stood the
fatal ballot-box, sat the mayor--a grim consequential little man--with
the other magnates of the town, and an officer of the line. The mayor
had a military look, and wore a blue scarf decorated with several
orders. Behind him stood a file of gendarmes, all attention. At one
end of the table sat a clerk with a large open book, ready to register
against each name as it occurred the numbers as they were drawn; and
at the other end stood bareheaded a grizzly sergeant of the Grand
Army, ready to read the number aloud for the edification of the
public.

Each village or hamlet came separately in alphabetical order. As the
name of each was proclaimed aloud, those men of the village whose
names were on the list came forward personally or by deputy and drew.

After this drawing, there was still one solitary chance of escape. A
week or so later would come the medical examination, when those
conscripts who were disqualified would be exchanged for those whose
names came next by number. When the total number from each district
had been selected, the Conscription would be over, and the conscripts
would march.

Now, the number of men demanded from each hamlet was fixed; so each
that came to draw knew the odds against him. From Kromlaix the Emperor
demanded five and twenty conscripts, and therefore he who drew any
number up to five and twenty was chosen, while those who drew above
that number were free, always providing the whole five and twenty were
pronounced "fit for service."

The men of Kromlaix had not long to wait before their turn came. The
neighbouring hamlet of Gochlon was being disposed of, and as each
name was read, sad or glad comments came from the audience. Uncle Ewen
surveyed the men critically as they came up one by one, while Marcelle
still looked everywhere for Rohan Gwenfern.

At last the officer at the table called out--"Kromlaix."

The men of Kromlaix crowded up towards the table, while the sergeant
rapidly read over the names, including those of Marcelle's brothers,
Mikel Grallon, Jn Goron, and Rohan Gwenfern, among a long list of
others.

The crowd near the Corporal trembled, and those whose names took
alphabetical precedence were shuffled to the front. But the old
Corporal kept his ground, and stood, with Marcelle beside him and his
nephews close behind him, in the very front row.

Now, as we have said, Uncle Ewen was a well-known character, and so
the sergeant whispered to the officer, and the officer to the maire,
and then all three smiled.

"Good-day, Corporal!" said the maire nodding.

He knew his cue well, and he was not the man to overlook or snub one
of Napoleon's veterans.

The Corporal saluted, and reddened with pride as he looked round on
his party.

"You are welcome," said the maire again, "and I see you bring us an
old soldier's best gift--a nosegay of brave lads for the Emperor. But
who is that pretty girl at your side? Surely she is not upon the
lists?"

At this all laughed, and Marcelle blushed, while the Corporal
explained--

"She is my niece, m'sieu, and these are her brothers; whose names are
down?"

The magnate nodded, and the business proceeded. Name after name was
called out, and number after number read aloud, while each man came
back from the table and rejoined his friends. Many came back quite
merry, and, strange to say, some of those who had drawn fatal
numbers--those under twenty-five--laughed loudest, from sheer
indifference or simple despair.

"Alain Derval!"

Forward stepped Alain, having handed over his whistle to Jannick. He
saluted the authorities, and thrust his hand rapidly into the ballot-
box, while Uncle Ewen, watching intently, drew himself up to his full
height, and set himself still firmer upon his legs.

Alain drew out his paper, read it rapidly, and without moving a muscle
of his countenance, handed it to the Sergeant.

"Alain Derval--one hundred and seventy-three!"

Main came back with real or assumed disappointment on his face.

"Just my luck," he whispered to Marcelle; "I would rather have been
drawn!"

"Gildas Derval!"

The gigantic twin of that name stepped forward, while those at the
table surveyed his proportions with admiration.

"What a man!" whispered the maire to his neighbour.

The veteran watched with a grim smile, while Gildas phlegmatically
drew his number, and read it quietly. Having read it, he scowled, and
did not seem well pleased; but he shrugged his shoulders as he handed
it to the Sergeant.

"Gildas Derval--sixteen!"

"Vive 1' Empereur!" said the Corporal, while Marcelle uttered a little
cry. Gildas came slouching back, and when the Corporal shook him by
the hand evinced little enthusiasm. "But I don't care," he said, "if
they draw Hol also!"

"Hol Derval!"

The second twin strode out, and, as if eager to know his fate, dipped
quickly into the box.

A moment afterwards the Sergeant cried--

"Hol Derval--twenty-seven!"

The Corporal started, Marcelle drew a deep breath. Hol himself looked
dumfounded. Twenty-seven was all very well if the whole previous
twenty-five passed the medical inspection; but that was scarcely
possible. So Hol came back and joined Gildas, with a nervous grin.

There was a slight pause here, the clerks writing busily in their
books; and Marcelle whispered eagerly to her uncle--"Uncle Ewen!--it
is very strange, but Rohan is not here. What is to be done? He will be
blamed, and perhaps punished."

The Corporal paused.

"There is but one way!--I will draw for him!"

Marcelle looked down for a moment, then said quickly, "No, let me! He
made me promise to do so if he did not come."

"Corbleu!" cried the Corporal. "But they will laugh--"

"Hush!" said Marcelle.

Business was brisk again, and the Sergeant read out loudly--

"Jannick Goron!"

Goron stepped forward from the crowd, while his infirm mother, white
as death, was held forcibly but kindly back. He was very pale, and his
hand trembled ever so slightly. He drew forth his paper, and without
opening it, was about, in his nervousness, to hand it to the Sergeant.

"Read it first!" the Sergeant said.

The man, with one pathetic glance at his mother, opened it, and read
in a low voice:

"Two hundred!"

"Jn Goron--two hundred" said the stentorian tones.

Through a blinding mist of joyful tears Goron strode back to his
mother, who had fainted away at the good news.

Not a soul there begrudged the loving and dutiful son his good luck.

"Mikel Grallon!"

The fisherman came forward nervously, cap in hand. He was very white,
and his little fox's eyes twinkled with dread. He bowed somewhat
servilely to the authorities, and stood hesitating.

"Draw, my man!"

Grallon had drawn before, and had always been lucky; but this did not
lessen his present alarm.

"Mikel Grallon--ninety-nine!"

Grallon slipped back to the crowd, and looked delightedly at Marcelle,
as if seeking her sympathy in his good fortune. But Marcelle was
deathly pale, and with her eyes fixed intently on the box, was praying
to herself.

There was another pause; then, loud and distinct, the name--"Rohan
Gwenfern!"

No one stirred. The Corporal looked at his niece, she at him.

"Rohan Gwenfern!" repeated the voice.

"Where is the man?" asked the maire, pausing and frowning.

The Corporal stepped forward with Marcelle.

"My nephew is not here, m'sieu: he is indisposed; but either I or my
niece will draw in his name."

"What sayest thou, little one?" said the maire. "His sweetheart,
perhaps?"

"I am his cousin," said Marcelle simply.

"And cousin in good French, little one, means often sweetheart too!
Well, thou shalt draw for him, and bring him luck!"

All the grim officials looked on graciously as Marcelle put her pretty
hand into the box. She let it stay there so long that the officers
smiled. She was still praying.

"Come!" said the officer, stroking his moustache and nodding
encouragingly.

She drew forth a paper, and handed it to the Corporal, who opened it,
read it with a stare, and uttered his usual oath.

"Read, Corporal!" said the officer, while Marcelle looked wildly at
her uncle.

"It is incredible!" cried Uncle Ewen, with another astonished stare.
"One!"

He handed the paper over.

"ROHAN GWENFERN--ONE!" shouted the Sergeant, while Marcelle clung to
her uncle and hid her face upon his arm.



Chapter 14. A DAY AT SEA



Had the Corporal and his party, as they paused in the centre of
Kromlaix on their way to St. Gurlott, turned their eyes oceanward and
carefully searched the water, they might have perceived far out to sea
a black speck, now visible, now hidden in the deep trough of the
waves. This black speck was a boat--a small fishing-boat with a red
lug sail, which, with the peak set, and the rudder fastened to
leeward, rocked to and fro softly, now "lying-to" admirably, again
falling off and running along with the calm breath of the morning
breeze.

In the stern sat a man, restless-eyed yet plunged in thought;
sometimes looking eagerly towards the shore, where the cold morning
light glimmered along the crags and on the sparkling roofs of the
village; at others turning his gaze wistfully seaward, where far away
on the dim horizon line some white-sailed argosy of England might be
dimly seen creeping along to the west.

Rohan Gwenfern had risen before light, and launching the little craft,
had urged it, with sail and oar, out to sea, until, at a distance of
several miles from land, with the water surrounding him on every side,
he could breath freely and feel comparatively secure. Rocking thus, he
saw the village awaken--marked the grey smoke gradually arise to
heaven--saw bright movements here and there as of folk astir--and
caught faintly the sound of music, mingled with far-off inland cries.
He had seen such a picture often, but never with such emotions as this
day; he had watched before with a sweet indifference, but now he gazed
with a sickening fascination.

His hair was wild around a face pale with many sleepless nights; his
eyes bloodshot, his brows contracted; but nothing could destroy or
even mar the superb beauty of the man. The broad dreamy brow, the
brooding eyes, the firm yet mobile smile, were all there, preserving
the leonine likeness. There was no ferocity in his look, but something
even more dangerous--the strength of an unconquerable will.

Yet the man shivered as if with fear, and looked all round him as if
expecting to see some unearthly pursuer upspring from the waves; and
laughed to himself sometimes almost hysterically; and wore such a
weary, waiting, listening, expectant look, as poor hunted beasts wear
when they catch from far away the murmur of voices and the sound of
coming feet.

Well, he had thought it all over, again and yet again, and the more he
had thought, the more his soul had arisen in determination and in
dread. He knew his name was at last on the lists of the Conscription;
that the fatal day had broken, and that before night he would hear his
doom; and he knew also that his part was chosen--if the worst
happened, as he feared, resistance to the death.

He felt with what a power he would be contending. That his country,
his fellow-villagers, his own relations, even, perhaps, Marcelle,
would be against him; but this did not shake his resolve in the least.
He would not serve the Monster of his abhorrence: he would rather die.

It would be most tedious and difficult to describe the long series of
thoughts and emotions which had awakened in Rohan Gwenfern's heart his
horror and dread of public War; we can do no more than glance again
rapidly at the history of his mind. To begin with, he was a man whose
life had been very solitary, and in whom solitude, instead of
developing morbid introspections, had strengthened the natural
instincts of pity and affection. Combined with his extraordinary
enjoyment of physical freedom, he possessed a unique sympathy with an
attraction for things which were free like himself. He hated bloodshed
in any form, and his daily creed was peace--peace to the good God
overhead, to man and woman, to the gentle birds that build their nests
in the crags, to the black seals that came near to him in the caves
and looked at him with human eyes. His immense physical strength had
never been exerted for any evil, and even at the inland wrestling
matches--whither he had sometimes gone with his gigantic cousins--he
had never fought brutally or cruelly. That he rejoiced in his strength
is unquestionable; but he had the affections of a man, as well as the
magnanimity of powerful animals.

Courage of a certain sort he did not lack; that we have shown already.
He had no equal in daring among the cliffs or upon the sea; and his
constant explorations, which made him familiar with every secret of
that craggy coast, showed even a more adventurous spirit. Yet, the
fact is not to be denied, the mere dread of being drawn for the
Conscription paralyzed him with fear--filled his heart with the sick
horror cowards feel--seemed to touch the inmost springs of his
enormous strength, and make him tremble to the very soul.

Prejudices, passions, and affections such as Rohan Gwenfern felt do
not grow naturally in a peasant's breast. Fine as the man was by
nature, he would never have felt the subtleties of either love or
terror, the ecstasies of either freedom or fear, if he had never known
Master Arfoll.

Fresh from the teachings of the poor distracted cur, Father Rolland's
predecessor, Rohan had encountered this other instructor, this
peripatetic of the fields and crags. Many a strange lesson had he
received secretly while sitting under some lonely dolmen, or in some
bright nook on the shore. He had heard the low cadences of the Psalms
mingled with strange tales of the Time of Terror, and had followed in
his mind, perhaps during the same hour, the mystery of the birth of
Jesus and the horror of the death of Marat.

It was thus that Master Arfoll sowed his seeds.

For the most part they fell on barren soil--on soulless natures that
could not comprehend. Sometimes, and notably in this instance, they
bore fruit that astonished the sower; for soon Rohan's abomination of
tyranny and bloodshed equalled that of Arfoll himself, and in the end
his horror of the Napoleonic Phantom became as deep as that of any
living man.

And the more that Rohan's thoughts grew, the more food they received.
As in a glass darkly, he got bloody glimpses of the history of
society--he saw the white luminous feet of a Redeemer passing over the
waters of a world yet unredeemed; he heard the terrible persiflage of
Voltaire and the emotional Deism of Rousseau, translated for him by
his teacher into pleasant Brezonec; he was taught to comprehend the
sins of Kings and the righteousness of Revolutions; he learned to
loathe Robespierre and to love Lafayette. This influence from the
world without deepened instead of lessening his enthusiasm of physical
freedom. Suspended from the highest Kromlaix crag, swimming in the
darkest under-cavern where the seals breed, rocking on the waters, he
enjoyed his liberty the more because he learned that it was unique. He
pictured himself vistas of enslaved generations led by mad and cruel
leaders to misery and death, and he thanked the good God who made him
a widow's only son.

Slowly, year by year, under Master Arfoll's occasional instructions,
he became conscious that Humanity, in the failure of the French
Revolution, had lost the mightiest of its chances; that instead of the
holy Goddess Freedom, a mighty Force was dominating France and all the
world. With his own eyes, year by year, he had seen the Angel of the
Conscription parsing over Kromlaix and marking the doors with blood
for a sign; with his own ears, year after year, he had heard the
widows wail and the children weep; with his own soul and his own
reason, still more strongly as every year advanced, he had appraised
the ruling Force as the Abominable, and had prayed, while yet
rejoicing in his strength and freedom, for the martyrs of the
Consulate and Empire.

And now perhaps his turn had come!

What mighty, what loving arms are those of the great calm sea! What a
soft beating is this of its solemn heart, as it lifts us in its arms
and rocks us on its breast! The stormy spirit of Rohan grew hushed, as
he rose and fell in the stillness of the morning light.

The freedom of the waters was with him, and he breathed now securely.
As a floating seagull, now hidden, now visible, the boat rose and fell
on the great smooth waves.

He heard the tinkling of the chapel bell, he saw the village astir, he
caught the hum of music. Then all was still.

As the hours rolled on, the sea-breeze rose a little, and he let the
boat run close to the wind. His eye sparkled and his sense of freedom
increased. He almost forgot his fear in the delight of the rapid
motion.

Midday came, and still he was upon the water. By this time he had
reached a great patch of glassy calm, covered with black masses of
guillemots and shearwaters, over which the great gulls sailed and the
small terns hovered and screamed. As the boat crept in among them, no
bird was disturbed; he might almost have reached them with his hand.
He leant over the boat's side, and suddenly, like a lightning flash,
he saw the innumerable legions of the herring pass, followed closely
by the dark shadows of the predatory fishes, from the lesser dog-fish
to the non-tropical shark. There was a tremor and a trouble of life
all below him; above him and around him, the tremor and trouble too.

As he hung over and gazed, sick fancies possessed him. In the
numberless creatures of the ocean he seemed to see the passing of
great armies, pursued by mighty legions mad with blood. The mystery
and the horror of the Deep troubled him, and he threw up his face to
the sunlight. And the predatory birds were killing and feeding, the
porpoises were rolling over and over in slow pursuit of food, and half
a mile off, a bottle-nosed whale rose, spouted, and sunk.

Before now, it had all appeared most beautiful and pleasant; now it
seemed very cruel and dreadful. He was face to face with the law of
life, that one thing should prey upon another; and here, in the
deepness of his own personal dread, he realized almost for the first
time the quiet cruelty of Nature.

Calmer thoughts ensued. After all, he might not be drawn, though the
chances were against him, and the Conscription, he knew, had a
mysterious knack of picking out the strongest men. God might be good,
and spare him yet. Then he went over in his mind the names of fellow-
villagers who, like Mikel Grallon, had escaped again and again, though
their names had been repeatedly upon the lists. He was yet perhaps too
free, and had been so recently too happy, to feel as acutely as Master
Arfoll the pangs of others. His emotion was just now that of a strong
animal surrounded, rather than that of a beneficent man feeling for
his fellows. It did not even occur to him that his escape would be
another man's doom; these were subtleties of sympathy he had yet to
learn in sorrow. It was a day of anguish and horrible uncertainty. If
he knew his fate he would be prepared, but he could not know it yet.
He must wait and wait.

He had been accustomed to go for long days without food, and this day
he neither ate nor drank. All his hunger and thirst were in his eyes,
watching the land. And lo! as chief cynosure in the prospect, he saw
the black Menhir, like some fatal and imperial form, towering over
Kromlaix, and warning him away from home.

The day declined. A land breeze rose again, and he beat for a mile
against it, towards the shore; and now the sun had declined so far
that the purple shadow of the boat ran beside him on the sea, and
Kromlaix was glistening in the rays of the afternoon sun, and he could
see the stone Christ standing piteous, high up on the hill.

Suddenly he started and listened, like a wild beast afraid. Then he
stood up in the boat and gazed eagerly up the hill, where the sunlight
illumined the old church and the white road at its gate. He was alone;
not another boat was upon the water but his own. The whole village
seemed deserted and still. From inland, however, he had caught the
sound of music and of human voices.

Yes, they were now quite audible: they were returning; his fate was
known. He shuddered and shivered. The sounds came nearer and nearer;
he recognised the pipe of the biniou and the voices of men singing the
national song.

He waited and waited, listening and watching, until he saw the crowd
coming over the hill: conscripts marching about half-mad with wine,
fishermen and villagers shouting, girls in bright-coloured raiment
running and laughing, the biniou playing, many singing. Over the hill
they came, and up to the church gate, and the little cur came out and
blessed them, asking the news meanwhile. Rohan could see it all. He
could recognise the cur's black figure among the crowd.

Then they came flying downhill.

His first impulse had been to land and meet them. Strange to say,
eager as he had been all day to know the day's proceedings--whether
his name had been drawn at all in his absence, if so, who had drawn in
his name, and whether his number was lucky or fatal--eager as he had
been to know all this, he now shuddered to hear it. The closer the
crowd came, the louder the noise grew, the more his heart sickened
within him. He saw the children and old women coming out to the house
doors, he heard the little village gradually growing busy, he watched
the crowd from the town as they marched down nearer and nearer, he
heard the murmur of many voices.

Then, instead of hastening to land, he turned his boat's head round,
and ran, with a free sheet, out again to sea.

Night had quite fallen, and the lights of Kromlaix were twinkling like
stars on the water's edge, when Rohan Gwenfern ran his boat into the
little creek below his mother's house.

All was still here, though a confused murmur came from the village.

He drew the boat up the shingle by means of a wooden windlass and a
rope, placed there for the purpose, and put it safely above high-water
mark. Then, still keeping in the shadow of the crags, he approached
the door of his home.

As he came nearer, a sound of voices fell upon his ears. He stopped,
listening, and while doing so, he became conscious of dark figures
congregated round the door. He hesitated for a moment; then summoning
up all his resolution, strode on.

In another minute he found himself surrounded by an eager crowd, and
as the light from the door fell upon his face, all uttered a shout.

"Here he is at last!" cried a voice, which he recognised as that of
Mikel Grallon.

Then another, that of Gildas Derval, cried in stentorian tones:

"Vive l'Empereur!--and three cheers for NUMBER ONE!"



Chapter 15. "THE KING OF THE CONSCRIPTS?"



While the shouts still rang in his ears and the biniou began to play
up outside, Rohan pushed his way into the cottage. The moment he
crossed the threshold he saw the kitchen was full of men and women, in
the midst of whom, with his back to the fire, stood Corporal Derval
declaiming.

On a form close to the fire, with her face covered with her apron and
her body rocking to and fro in agony, sat the mother, weeping
silently; and round her gathered, some crouching at her feet, others
bending over her and talking volubly, several sympathizing women. The
scene explained itself in one flash, and Rohan Gwenfern knew his fate;
but pale as death, he strode across the floor to his mother's side.

As he went he was greeted with cries articulate and inarticulate. The
Corporal ceased declaiming, the mother threw the apron off her face
and reached out quivering hands to her son.

"Rohan! Rohan!"

Scarcely looking at his mother, Rohan sternly addressed the others.

"What is the matter? What brings you all here?"

Many tongues answered him, but in the confusion few were intelligible.

"Silence!" cried the Corporal, frowning fiercely

"Silence all! Listen, Rohan! I will tell thee all that has taken
place. Malediction! these women--they make one deaf! They say I bring
thee bad news; but that is false, as I tell them. Thy name has been
drawn, and thou art to serve the Emperor--that is all!"

"No, no!" cried Mother Gwenfern--"he cannot go! If he goes I shall
die!"

"Nonsense, mother!" said the Corporal. "Thou wilt live and see him
come back covered with glory. Ha, ha, boy, thou wilt make a grenadier;
the Emperor loves the tall fellows, and thou wilt soon be corporal.
Shake hands with thy cousin Gildas. He is drawn too."

Gildas, who had entered by this time, approached, holding out his hand
with a feeble hiccup. It was clear that he had been drinking deep, for
his eyes were glazed and his legs most unsteady.

Without noticing the outstretched hand, Rohan glared all round.

"Is this true?" he panted. "Tell me--some one who is sober!"

The Corporal scowled. Jn Goron came forward quietly and put his hand
on Rohan's shoulder. They were old friends and companions.

"It is all over, as they say. God has been good to me and my mother,
but thou art drawn."

There was a general murmur of condolence from the old women, and a
wail from Mother Gwenfern. Like one dazed, stupefied now his fate had
come, Rohan stood silent. Several men flocked round him, some
sympathetically, others with jests and laughter. Just then Jannick
Derval gave a comic scream with his bagpipes, and there was a loud
roar of merriment, in which even the conscripts joined.

"Hands away!" cried Rohan fiercely, thrusting out his arms, and
adding, while the men shrank back before him, "It is false! you are
doing this to make a jest of me! How can I be drawn? I was not there!"

The Corporal, who, like the rest, had imbibed a little, replied, with
a wink at the conscripts--"Oh yes, that is all very well, but the
Emperor is not to be done in that way, mon garz. More shame for one to
be skulking in a corner when he should be standing forth like a man!
Thank thy good fortune that thou hadst a brave uncle there to
represent thee and explain thy absence. It is all right! Vive 1'
Empereur!"

Rohan quivered through all his powerful frame. "It is the will of
God," said an old woman aside.

"Thou hast drawn in my name!" cried Rohan.

Uncle Ewen nodded, but proceeded to explain.

"Thou wast not there, mon garz. Thy duty called thee, but thou wast
elsewhere. Well, I would have drawn for thee, but my pretty Marcelle
was by, and she craved so to draw, saying thou hadst bidden her do so
if thou wast away. Corbleu! how they smiled when the little one came
forward and put her hand into the great box. She groped about for a
long time--like this!--and I thought to myself 'Parbleu! she is
feeling about for the lucky number.' 'Courage!' cried m'sieu le maire,
and she drew it out!"

"Marcelle?"

"Have I not said so, mon garz! Ah, she is a brave little one, and
brings luck both to thee and to the Emperor. Thou shouldst be proud!
Thou art at the head of all in Kromlaix! Thou art King of the
Conscripts--and all through the little hand that drew for thee and
pulled out 'number one'!"

"Rohan Gwenfern--number one!" roared Gildas, mimicking the tones of
the Sergeant of the lists. There was a laugh, and Jannick again
performed his ridiculous squeak on the biniou.

The drink had circulated freely, and the conscripts, what ever their
secret feelings might be, were publicly uproarious. Gathering round
the door, and flocking into the room, they loudly called on Rohan to
join them, Gildas most vehemently of all. But there was no real joy or
enthusiasm there. No woman smiled, and many wept bitterly.

Suddenly the cries without increased, and into the house flocked a
troop of young girls singing the national hymn. At their head
Marcelle.

Pale with excitement, with one hectic spot burning on either cheek,
she entered the chamber; then, seeing Rohan, she paused suddenly, and
looked at him with questioning eyes.

He had not stirred or spoken from that moment when he had uttered
Marcelle's name; he had heard the Corporal declaim, and the conscripts
cry, in a horrid stupefaction. Now, when Marcelle entered, he only
turned his eyes rapidly towards her, then averted them, and grew more
deadly pale.

A hard struggle had gone on in the heart of the girl. When first she
had drawn the fatal number she had been horrified and stupefied. Then
she had reasoned with herself and her adoration for the Emperor had
risen up in her heart, until, carried away by her uncle's enthusiasm,
she forgot her self-reproach, and determined to act an heroic part in
all the scenes which were to follow.

Few of the conscripts had taken their ill luck personally to heart,
and she did not calculate for any extraordinary resistance on the part
of Rohan. True, she had often heard him express his loathing of
warfare and of the Conscription; but then, so had the other men of
Kromlaix; and yet, when the hour came and they were called, they made
merry and went.

"Look, Rohan," she cried, holding up in her hand a rosette with a long
coloured streamer. "Look! I have brought it for thee!"

Every one of the conscripts wore a similar badge, and the old
Corporal, to complete the picture, had stuck one upon his own breast.
All cheered as Marcelle advanced.

Rohan looked up wildly.

"Keep back! Do not touch me!" he cried with outstretched arm.

"Hear him!" derisively called Mikel Grallon.

"The boy is mad!" cried the Corporal.

"Rohan, do you not understand?" cried Marcelle, terrified by her
lover's look. "I drew for thee as I was bidden, and though I did not
wish thee to go, God has arranged it all, and thou wilt serve the good
Emperor with Gildas and the rest. Thou art not angry, my cousin, that
it is so? I had it from thine own lips, and I drew in thy name, and
thou art King of the Conscripts, and this is thy badge. Let me fasten
it now upon thy breast!"

From the pocket of her embroidered apron she drew a needle and thread
and came nearer. He did not stir, but his features worked
convulsively; his eyes were still fixed upon the ground. In a moment
her soft fingers had attached the rosette to his jacket.

Another cheer rose, and the Corporal nodded, as much as to say, "That
is good!"

"And now--forward!" cried the Corporal. "We will drink his health."

There was a movement towards the door, but suddenly Rohan started as
if from a trance, and cried--"Stay!"

All stood listening. Mother Gwenfern crept close and gripped his hand.

"You are all mad, I think, and I seem going mad too. What is this you
tell me about a Conscription and an Emperor? I do not understand. I
only know you are mad, and that my uncle there is maddest of all. You
say that my name is drawn, and that I must go to be killed or to kill?
I tell you only God can draw my name, and I will not stir one foot,--
never, never. Hell seize your Emperor! Hell swallow up him and his
Conscription! I commit him as I commit this badge you have given me--
to the flame!"

Furious to frenzy, he tore the rosette from his breast, and cast it
into the fire. There was a low murmur, and Mother Gwenfern wailed
aloud.

"Hush, mother!" he said; then turning again to the conscripts and to
the Corporal, he cried; "Your Emperor can kill me, but he cannot
compel me to be a soldier. Before God. I deny his right to summon me
to fight for him, for he is a Devil. If every man of France had my
heart, he would not reign another day, for he would have no army, no
sheep to lead to the slaughter. Go to your Emperor and do his bloody
work--I shall remain at home."

All this time he had not once turned his eyes on Marcelle. She now
approached him again crying--"Rohan! for God's sake be silent! These
are foolish words."

Still he did not look at her or answer her. Gildas Derval broke in
with a coarse oath--

"It seems to me that there is only one word for my cousin Rohan. He is
un lche!"

Rohan started, but controlling himself looked quietly at the speaker.
By this time the old Corporal, who had stood perfectly paralysed with
amazement and indignation, recovered his breath.

"Attention!" he cried aloud, purple with passion. "Gildas is right,
and Rohan Gwenfern is a coward, but he is something more. He is a
choun, and he blasphemes. Listen, you who are going to fight like men
for your country:--this man is a lche, a choun, and he blasphemes.
Mother Gwenfern, thy son is accurst! Marcelle, thy cousin is a dog! He
has spoken words treasonable and damnable--he has cursed the holy name
of our father the Emperor. And yet he lives!"

The scene had now grown terrible. Rohan stood erect facing his uncle
and his other antagonists, but still clasping his mother's hand.
Mother Gwenfern, poor woman, could not bear to hear such words uttered
of her son, and she cried through her tears--

"Ewen Derval, you are wicked to speak so of my boy!"

"Hush, mother!"

The momentary storm was over, and Rohan stood now subdued.

"Attention!" again cried the Corporal. "We will be charitable--perhaps
the boy is not well, is under a charm--we will try to think so, my
braves. He may come to-morrow and ask forgiveness of the good Emperor,
and pray to be allowed to join you others who fight for your country.
If not, mark you, we will come to fetch him; he shall not disgrace us
without a cause. He thinks he is very strong, but that is a man's
strength against ours, against the Emperor's? I tell you we will hunt
him down if need be--like a fox, like a dog; and look you, I his uncle
will lead you on... Yes, Mother Loz, I will lead them on!...With or
without his will he will join you, remember that; and if he goes
unwillingly, may the first bullet in his first battle find him out and
strike the coward down!"

Rohan said nothing, but still stood with a ghastly smile upon his
firm-set face. Words were useless now, since the terrible hour had
come. There was a dead silence, during which the men gazed savagely
enough at the revolter. Then Marcelle crept up, and stood between
Rohan and her uncle.

"Your words are too hard, Uncle Ewen, and you do not understand. Rohan
did not mean all he said; he spoke in passion, and then men do not
utter their right minds. And he is no coward, but a brave man--yes,
the bravest here!"

At this there was a general groan.

"Silence, Marcelle!" said the Corporal.

"I will not be silent, for it is my fault, and it is I that have
brought bad luck to my cousin. Rohan, wilt thou forgive me? I prayed
it might not be so, but God has willed it--God and His saints, who
will watch over you when you go to war!"

Rohan looked sadly into the girl's face, and when he saw the wet eyes,
the quivering lips, his heart was stirred. He took her hand and kissed
it before them all.

An ill-favoured face was suddenly thrust forward between them.

"It is a pity, is it not," cried Mikel Grallon, "to see a pretty girl
wasting all her comfort on a coward, when--"

He did not complete the sentence for Rohan, scarcely stirring his
frame, stretched out his hands and smote the speaker down. Grallon
fell like a log. A wild cry arose from all the men, the women
screamed, Marcelle shrank back aghast, and Rohan strode to the door,
pushing his way out.

"Seize him! hold him! Kill him!" cried many voices.

"Arrest him!" cried the corporal.

But Rohan hurled his opponents right and left like so many ninepins.
They fell back and gasped. Gildas and Hol rushed forward, their great
frames shaking with wrath. Rohan turned suddenly and faced them at the
door, but in a moment they were upon him, hurling themselves forward
like two huge battering-rams. It was only for a moment that Rohan
hesitated, remembering that his opponents were his cousins and the
brothers of Marcelle. Then, with a dexterous trick well known in
Brittany, he tripped up the huge Hol and grappled with the huge
Gildas. Now, Gildas was at no time quite a match for Rohan, and just
now he was half seas over; so in another moment he lay shrieking and
cursing by the side of his brother.

Then Rohan turned his white face rapidly on Marcelle and passed
unmolested out into the darkness.

Late that night the little cur, or vicar, sat in the vicarage before
a snug fire. His room was furnished with an oaken table, strawbottomed
chairs, and a bed with dark serge curtains, and ornamented by rude
pictures of saints and a black ebony cross on a stand, before which
was a low prie-dieu. The little cur was reading, not his breviary,
but a strongly spiced history of the doings of the Church previous to
the Revolution, when a loud knock came at the door.

Directly afterwards the old serving-woman showed in a man, whom Father
Rolland recognised at a glance as Rohan Gwenfern.

The moment they were alone, Rohan, who was pale as death, approaching
the cur and leaning his hand upon the table, said in a low, emphatic,
yet respectful voice, "Father Rolland, I have come to ask your help."

The priest stared, but closing his book and motioning to a chair,
said, "Sit down."

Rohan shook his head, and continued to stand.

"I have been drawn for the Conscription. My own hand did not draw the
fatal number, and I might perhaps protest, for I was absent at the
drawing; but it would be equal--I knew from the first there could be
no escape. The Emperor chooses the strong, and I am strong. But my
mind is made up, Father Rolland; I shall never go to war, I have
thought it over and over and I will rather die. You open your eyes
amazed, as if you did not understand. Well, understand this--I will
not become a soldier. That is as certain as death, as unchangeable as
the grave."

Father Rolland had encountered such cases before--many a weeping
mother and miserable son had come to him for advice--but none had
spoken like this man. They had come in tears and gone in tears,
resigned. This man, on the contrary, though under dreadful excitement,
was tearless, proud, almost insolent. He stood erect, and his eye
never once quailed as it met the priest's.

Father Rolland raised his shoulders and rubbed his hands together.

"You are drawn?--I am sorry for you, my poor fellow, but you will have
to submit."

"There is no exemption?"

"None."

"Although I am my mother's only son?"

"Ah, that is nothing now. Even the lame and deformed are called upon
this time. It is hard, but the Emperor must have men."

There was a pause, during which Rohan looked fixedly at the priest, to
the latter's great discomfort. At last he spoke.

"Very well, Father Rolland;--you have heard my decision. The Emperor
will not spare me, my countrymen will not help me. So I have come to
you."

"To me!"

"To you. You are a holy man; you profess to give absolution, to
prepare the souls of the dying, to represent God on earth. I appeal
against the Emperor to your God, your Christ crucified. I say to Him
and to you that war is abominable, that the Emperor is a devil, that
France is a shambles. I will keep your God's commandment--that is, I
will do no murder; I will not obey the Emperor--that is, I refuse to
do wickedness because I am tempted by the Devil. Your God is a God of
Peace; your Christ died rather than raise His hand against His
enemies; you say your God lives, your Christ reigns--let Him help me
now! It is for His help that I have come."

It was difficult to tell whether the speaker's manner was quite
serious or partly ironical; his tone certainly seemed despairingly
aggressive. He stood quite still, always deathly pale, and his voice
did not tremble. Father Rolland was staggered. He himself was no
particular friend to the Emperor, but such words seemed dreadful under
the circumstances. He answered good-naturedly but firmly, with
soothing waves of the hand--

"My son, you should be on your knees when you come asking help from
God. To the contrite heart, to the spirit that comes in humility and
prayer, He grants much--perhaps all. It seems to me you are angry. It
is not in anger that Christ should be sought--hem!"

Rohan answered at once, in the same tone.

"I know that; I have heard it before. Well, I have prayed often, but
to-night my knees will not bend. Let me ask you, Father Rolland--you
who are a good man, with a heart for the poor--is it right that these
wars should take place? is it right that five hundred thousand men
should have perished as they did with last year's snow? is it right
that the Emperor should now call for nearly four hundred thousand
more? That is not all. Are not men brothers? Was not that proved in
Paris? Is it well for brothers to murder each other, to torture each
other, to wade in each other's blood to the ankles? If all this is
right, then, mark you, Christ is wrong, and there is no place left in
the world for your God!"

This was terrible. The cur started up violently and cried aloud--

"No blasphemy!"

Then, standing before the fire and putting on a severe look, he
continued--

"You do not understand these things. I do not say that you have no
cause for complaint, but as to what you say, there has always been
war, and it is in the Book of God. Men are quarrelsome, look you; so
are nations; and a nation or a man, it is all one. If a man struck
you, mon garz, would you not strike him again? And you would be
defending your rights? Well, a nation has rights as well as you."

Rohan smiled strangely.

"Is that what your Christ says? Did he not say rather, 'If a man smite
thee on one cheek, hold up to him the other'?"

The priest coughed and looked confused; then he cried--

"That is the letter, mon garz, but we must look to the spirit. Ah yes,
the spirit is the thing! Now, we are alone, and I will tell you
honestly I do not love the Emperor; he has been rough with the Holy
Father, and he is not a King by Divine Right; but there he is, and we
must obey, all of us--the Church as well as you others. I will give
another quotation, my Rohan. 'Render unto Csar the things which are
Csar's, and to God the things which are God's.' Now this is the way
to look at it. Your soul belongs to God, and He will watch over it;
but as for your perishable body, it belongs in the meantime to--
humph!--well, to Csar--in other words, to the Emperor!"

Rohan did not immediately reply, but walked slowly up and down the
room.

The little cur thinking to calm him, said in a low solemn voice--

"Let us pray!"

Rohan started.

"To whom?" he asked in a hollow voice.

"To the good God."

"To whom my soul belongs?"

"Ah yes. Amen!"

The priest crossed himself and approached the prie-dieu.

"But not my body?"

"Not thy body, which is dust."

The priest was about to sink upon his knees, when Rohan placed his
strong hand upon his shoulder.

"Not to-night, Father Rolland; I have heard enough; and I know now you
cannot help me."

"How is that, my son? Come, prayer will soothe your troubled spirit,
and let you hear the still voice of God."

"No, I cannot pray; least of all to Him."

"What!"

"Do not be angry, Father Rolland; I am not to be won by fear. You are
a good man, but your God is not for this world, and it is this world
that I love."

"That is sin."

"Father, I love my life, and my strength, and the woman that is in my
heart, and my mother--all these I love; and peace. You call my body
dust; well, it is precious to me; and my soul says, 'Other men, too,
feel their bodies precious,' and I have sworn never to do any murder
at any man's bidding. I will defend myself if I can, that is all;
defence may be righteous. Good night."

He was at the door, when Father Rolland, whose humanity was large, and
who really detested to behold suffering of any sort, cried eagerly--

"Stay! stay! my poor fellow, I will assist you if I can."

"You cannot," replied Rohan; "nor can your God, Father Rolland. He
died long ago, and He will never come again; it is the Emperor who
rules the world, not He."

Before another word could be uttered, Rohan was gone. The little cur
sank into a chair, and wiped the perspiration from his forehead.

At that very hour, while Father Rolland and Rohan Gwenfern were
talking together, Marcelle Derval was on her knees in the little
chamber already described.

She was alone, the poor weeping mother not having yet retired to rest;
and below there was much angry discussion, much tippling, much savage
denouncement of Rohan Gwenfern. Of course, no one believed that Rohan
would seriously think of resisting the Conscription; there was no
chance of that, for the country was all on the qui vive for deserters,
and no boats of any size were putting to sea. For all that, he was un
lche, and the tipsy giant Gildas was loudest of all in his
denunciations.

But Marcelle prayed, under the two pictures of Our Lady with the
Infant and of St. Napoleon. For the soul of her dead father, for the
old Corporal and her beloved mother, for her brothers (and chiefly for
poor Gildas, who was drawn); and lastly, she breathed the name of
Rohan Gwenfern. "Bless my love for Rohan, O Holy Lady, and bring him
back to me from the terrible wars, and make him forgive me for drawing
his name out of the lists, and grant me now thy grace, that I may
never offend more."

Then she looked up, as was her nightly custom, at the picture of the
Emperor.

"And, O merciful God, for the sake of Jesus thy Son and our Holy
Mother and all the Saints, preserve the good Emperor, for whom my poor
Rohan and Gildas, my brother, are going to fight; and give him victory
over his enemies, and bring him back to us safe, as thou bringest
them. Amen!"

She rose and walked across the room to the window. The moon was
shining bright, for it was at the full.

She could see far out on the water the still and vaporous light, and
on the housetops it was bright, and in the open streets; but the
houses cast great shadows.

Presently something stirred in the shadow of the opposite house, and
she saw the figure of a man, leaning and looking up at her window.

Love has wonderful sight, and she recognised Rohan Gwenfern.

She crept close to the window and opened it. The moon shone on her
snowy coif and bodice, as she leant out whispering softly--

"Rohan! Rohan!"

He had answered that call, but this time he did not come. He looked up
no longer, but moving forward into the open moonlight he passed down
the street, without once raising his head.



Chapter 16. A GOOD MAN'S BLESSING



On a bright sunny day, about a week after the drawing of lots in the
town of St. Gurlott, there gathered, in a green field twenty miles
away, a strange group. In the centre sat an elderly man, with a book
in his hand, reading aloud in clear and even tones. Gathered around
him, some looking over his shoulders, others seated on the ground--a
few indolent and indifferent, most attentive--were eight human
figures.

The reader was Master Arfoll; the rest were his pupils.

The eldest was a good-humoured but stupid-looking peasant of about
five and twenty, who wore a broad beaver hat and an old-fashioned
rusty suit--black jacket, loose black breeches, and black gaiters. He
sat with his mouth and eyes wide open, a model of stupidity and
curiosity. Next to him was a slender youth of eighteen, with close-
shaven hair, like a klorek or religious student; but he too was a
farm labourer, or farmer's son. Next to him, two plump stolid girls of
fourteen, with bright skirts, enormous coifs, and sabots. Then two
clumsy and ill-favoured boys. And finally, looking over Master
Arfoll's shoulders, a little boy and a little girl of six--the most
comical little figures imaginable the boy clad exactly like the adult
peasant--in a black suit, tiny sabots, and a broad-brimmed hat; the
girl with an enormous coif the broad ends of which reached to her
waist, a black bodice, a very stiff black skirt, and black stockings
terminating also in wooden shoes. The children looked as solemn as a
little old man and woman, the girl with her hands folded primly on her
bosom, the boy with his little hands stuck firmly in the waistband of
his bragou-bras.

Inland, scattered here and there, sometimes surrounded by fir trees,
more often not sheltered at all, were a number of little farms, from
which these pupils came. The green field in which they sat was part of
a great plain of heath and gorse, interspersed with broad green pieces
of pasture, and stretching along the low granite cliffs of the sea.
All was very calm and still, and Master Arfoll, from the knoll where
he sat, could trace the sea-coast for many miles away--the blue capes
stretching dim in the distance, the cream-white surf breaking in sandy
bays, the dark blue waters moving softly under the shadows of the
wind.

Here and there on the plain rose a menhir or dolmen; others lay
overthrown among the furze. Not twenty yards from the knoll, a moss-
grown dolmen--so high that a tall man might stand within it erect--
cast its dark shadow on the grass.

Master Arfoll ceased; then he turned smiling to the little maiden, and
said--

"Now, my little Katel, read after me."

The girl came closer, put her little face close into the book, and
followed Master Arfoll's finger as it slowly traversed the lines. It
was the New Testament she was reading, translated into modern French.
When she had read a verse, with much blundering and confusion of
Brezonec and French proper, the teacher patted her on the head.

"Good," he said, and Katel blushed with delight.

Then the little boy tried, with less patience and less success. His
French was utterly unintelligible.

"Take time, my Roberd!" said the teacher. But Roberd, although he took
time, fared no better than before.

Presently, when the adult peasant came up to try, it was worst of all.
His pronunciation of the letters was barbarous, and the smallest word
of one syllable was beyond his powers. Nevertheless, he seemed to take
great delight in the pursuit of knowledge, and when the other pupils,
particularly little Katel, laughed outright at his blunders, he only
grinned and scratched his head with the utmost good-humour.

It was a scene for a painter. The sun shone brightly on the happy
group, and softly touched the careworn lines of Master Arfoll's face
and lit up the quaint costumes of his pupils; while all around him it
gleamed on fields and farms, and on the great plain of furze, and on
the twinkling sea. Ever and anon a white sea-gull, sailing in from the
cliffs, passed softly over their heads; and right above, the dolmen,
rising ever higher and higher, a lark was singing.

Then Master Arfoll took the old weather-beaten book, and turning over
its worn leaves, read a part of a chapter, translating it rapidly
aloud into melodious Brezonec. It was the fourteenth chapter of the
Gospel of Luke, and the part he read was the parable of the man who
gave a great supper.

All listened eagerly; it was a story, like one of the tales told at
the veille, and they hearkened open-mouthed. When he had finished he
said suddenly--

"My children, let us pray!"

All knelt around him, from the peasant to little Katel, who fingered
meanwhile a small rosary of oaken beads that hung over her white
stomacher.

This was Master Arfoll's prayer--

"Pour forth, I beseech thee, O Lord, Thy grace into the hearts of
these Thy children; that they, when the time comes, may know Thee and
not Antichrist; may feel Thy Divine assistance always with them, may
recognise Thy truth and Thy knowledge, nor come and go upon the earth
even as brute beasts of the field. Enlighten them, since they need
light. Amen! Teach them, since they are willing to be taught. Amen!
Strengthen them, that they kneel not to any graven Image or to any
wicked Man. Amen! May their souls through life know the great gospel
of love and peace, and may they meet at Thy great Supper, when the
days of their life are done. Amen, Amen!"

At every repetition of "Amen," little Katel crossed herself
vigorously. To none of the scholars did the prayer seem different from
other prayers, though Master Arfoll extemporised it, as was his
custom, with profounder meanings.

Then all rose, and clustered round Master Arfoll in the sunlight.

"That is enough for to-day," he said, with his hand on little Katel's
head. "To-morrow we will meet here, my children, at the same hour."

"Master Arfoll!" cried little Katel.

"Well, little one?"

"Mother is angry that thou hast not stayed with her since thou camest
to Traonili. She bids me tell thee that she hath a pair of leather
shoes for thee, and more."

The schoolmaster smiled kindly.

"Tell thy mother I will stay with her to-night."

"Nay, that is not fair," cried out one of the older girls. "You
promised Aunt Nola to stay with us."

This vehemently, but with a curtsy.

"We will see, we will see," said Master Arfoll, nodding his head.
"Now, hasten home, for the noonday angelus has already sounded.
Goodman Penvenn, till to-morrow! Patience! You will be a scholar yet!"

The last words were addressed to the eldest of the class, who grinned
a delighted reply, and in a thick patois pressed the schoolmaster soon
to visit his brother, Mikel Penvenn, on whose farm he was a labourer.

A minute more, and the "school" was scattered: Penvenn making his way
straight across the plain, the young girls and the lad walking slowly
this way and that, the two young boys running with shouts and cries
across the fields, and little Katel and her brother trotting hand in
hand to the nearest farm.

While the schoolmaster, with a dreamy eye, is watching his little
flock retreat, it may be well to explain the peculiarities of his
strange vocation.

Before the great Revolution, Brittany had been full of itinerant
teachers, educated by the Church, who travelled from village to
village, and from farm to farm, teaching children the Latin prayers,
the Angelus Domini, and the Catechism. They were generally men whose
hopes of following the priesthood had been disappointed. Their lives
were hard, their food the commonest, their whole profession allied to
mendicancy. Their lessons were given at all hours and under all
conditions. Sometimes in the fields, in the intervals of labour;
sometimes in the stable and cowshed; sometimes under the Cross in the
highway; sometimes within, but oftener without. Their pay was
miserable: six sous monthly from each family or value for that amount.
Besides this, they had perquisites and presents--bacon, honey, linen,
measures of corn. They were welcome to bed and board, wherever they
liked to stay, and had a certain honour among the ignorant people; for
an odour of sanctity hung about them, seeing that they had been reared
in the bosom of the Church. They passed thus from village to village,
till they were too weak to travel any longer afoot; then some of them,
in their age, contrived to procure an old mule or donkey to bear them,
feeding it in the fields or by the deep roadsides, and finally, when
they were quite decrepit and beyond imparting the little they knew,
many became professional mendicants, begging their bread from door to
door.

With the fiery breath of the Revolution, these itinerant schoolmasters
were scattered as sparks, and most of them disappeared for ever.
During the later years of the Empire, when it was most the cue of
Napoleon to appear as the father of religion and the establisher of a
new and holy rgime numbers of them reappeared, following their old
vocation.

At the time of the Revolution, Master Arfoll must have been about
thirty years of age; but none in that district of Brittany remembered
seeing his face before about the beginning of the new century. His
first appearance was as a grave elderly man, who wore upon his
features the mark of some terrible trouble, and many of his utterances
were so wild and peculiar that his sanity was often called in
question. None knew if he had ever studied in any Church seminary;
none knew whether or not he was a Breton born. It was generally
reported that he had been a dweller in one of the great cities, and
that there, during the years of Terror, he had known such experiences
as had turned his hair prematurely grey.

However that may be, the people knew him and loved him. A good man,
whatever his opinions, disarms opposition; and besides, Master Arfoll
never paraded opinions. He was welcome at nearly every farmhouse and
little cottage; and when hospitality failed him, he had black bread in
his wallet and could find cresses in the brook. His life might be
called hard in a certain sense, but it was nevertheless the life of
his desires.

The scholars were soon out of sight, and Master Arfoll turned his face
towards the sea. He had been "sowing his seed," and he felt happy. A
gentle light slept upon his careworn face as, holding his Bible in one
hand, and with both hands behind his back, he moved past the moss-
grown dolmen.

He was passing by, when suddenly he heard a sound behind his back; at
the same moment, a hand was placed upon his shoulder. He turned
quickly, and there, as if sprung from the very bowels of the earth,
stood Rohan Gwenfern.

Not at the first look did Master Arfoll recognise his pupil; for
already the man was cruelly changed. His hair was wild and his beard
unshaven, his eyes bloodshot and sunken, his face careworn and pale.
It does not take many hours, of hunting to turn a human being into an
animal; and already Rohan had the wild listening look of a hunted
thing. He seemed almost like a man uprisen from the grave; for his
clothes were torn and covered with damp loam, one sleeve of his jacket
was rent and his arm bare to the elbow, and, to crown all, his feet
were bare.

His height and powerful frame betrayed him most. Moreover, despite his
wild appearance, he was still physically beautiful. The head was still
that of a lion, the hair still golden; the eyes still full of their
far away, visionary, leonine look.

"Rohan!" at last ejaculated Master Arfoll, half questioningly, for he
thought Rohan was many miles away, and could scarce believe his eyes.

"Yes, it is I!" answered Rohan, with a quick forced laugh, as if in
mockery of his own appearance; and he added, shaking the hair from his
eyes, "I was hiding within the dolmen, waiting till you were done with
your pupils. By St. Gildas, it was a gloomy tomb that, for a living
man I thought you would never have done."

He laughed again. There was a curious restless recklessness in his
manner, and his eyes instinctively looked this way and that, all round
him.

The schoolmaster placed his hand gently on his arm, looking anxiously
into his face.

"Rohan! how is this? What has happened?"

Rohan set his teeth together and answered the look.

"It has come as I feared--that is all."

"What has come?"

"The Conscription."

"That I knew. But then?"

"And I am drawn!" answered Rohan. "Ten days ago was the drawing, and
the day before yesterday was the medical inspection. A week since old
Pipriac and a file of soldiers called to pay me their first visit.
Unfortunately, I was not at home, and could not entertain them."

He laughed again, a laugh full of fierceness and fear. All was now
clear to the schoolmaster, and infinite pity filled his heart.

"My poor Rohan!" he said, softly. "I have been praying for thee ever
since we parted, and it has come to this. It is a sad fatality, my
son, a sad fatality. And thou art in revolt--God help thee, for it is
terrible!"

Rohan turned his face away, to hide the mist that clouded his eyes.
These tender words shook him like a charm. Suddenly he took both the
schoolmaster's hands within his own.

"I knew that it was coming, and it came, though I did not attend the
drawing, and the number was drawn in my name. When the conscripts
returned, I defied them and the Emperor; some one reported that I was
refractory. A message came commanding my appearance at Traonili. I did
not go. Another; and I stayed at home. After that it spread, and they
came to arrest me. My own friends were worst, for they could not bear
that they should go and I should escape. Four days ago they hunted me
from home. I laughed at them, for I knew the ways a thousand times
better than they. Well, I was in despair: I thought of thee. I have
walked two nights following thee and asking after thee. Yesterday I
was nearly trapped in a strange village out there; I had to fling away
sabots and to run; but a soldier caught me by the sleeve, as you see.
It is hot work, Master Arfoll. It is so they hunt wolves in the Forest
of Bernard."

He spoke rapidly, as if fearing and deprecating any censure. At every
sentence his friend's face grew paler and graver. At the end he sadly
shook his head, and was silent. Rohan continued--

"I questioned at night, when they could not recognise me, and I found
you were in Traonili. This morning I followed you, always hiding when
strangers appeared, for they might know. When you came this way I saw
you were not alone, and I hid yonder and waited. I was in dread that
you might accompany them up to the farms. Then I sprang out, as you
see!"

The plain was solitary, and they walked on side by side seaward. The
sward was soft and green beneath their feet, the furze all around them
grew breast-high, finches twittered on every spray, and many larks
sang overhead. Here and there grew bunches of primroses, and wild
violets were stirring under the sod. Beyond, the sea was sparkling,
and the purple shadows of the capes stretched out far away.

"Speak, then! what am I to do?"

Master Arfoll started, for he had been plunged in deep thought.

"My son, it is terrible!--I am stupefied---I cannot advise you, for I
see no hope."

"No hope?"

"Only one."

"And that?"

"To deliver yourself up to the authorities and crave forgiveness; men
are precious now, and they will rejoice over thee. Otherwise I see no
way; for if they find thee afterwards, it is death."

Rohan made a scornful gesture.

"I know that; but in any case I can die, and they shall not take me
alive against my will. But say, is this your advice, that I should
give myself up?"

"I see no other way."

"That I should become a soldier of the Emperor?"

"If it is against thy will God will acquit thee. Rohan, it is a man
against the world."

"Go on."

"And even in battle thou mayst serve God. Thou wilt bear a weapon, but
it will be thy fault if it takes any creature's life; and then, thou
mayst come back living when all is done."

Rohan listened with downcast eyes.

"What more?" he asked.

"No more. I know no other hope, my son."

"Can I not escape?--out of France?--to another country?"

Master Arfoll shook his head and pointed.

"That way lies Vannes; that way Nantes; that way Brest; and between
these towns thousands of villages. On every roadside, at every
cabaret, they are watching for deserters."

"If I could reach Morlaix, where there are ships!"

"It is impossible. From hence to Kromlaix is the loneliest part of
Brittany; all the rest is full of eyes. No disguise would save thee,
for thou art a man in a hundred. Thou hast felt it already. They would
discover thee, and then,--no mercy!"

Rohan seemed not in the least astonished. He had not questioned Master
Arfoll with the air of a man having much hope left: rather like a man
who had weighed all his chances and knew them well beforehand. When
the schoolmaster had finished, Rohan said quietly, looking up--

"To yield myself up! To become a soldier of the Emperor! Well, that is
not the help for which I came."

He paused, and then continued rapidly--

"My father--for you will let me call you that!--you do not do me
justice; you think I am weak and infirm of purpose; you advise me as
if I were little Katel yonder, or her brother, or any child. That is
not fair; for I am a man. When a man swears an oath before God it is
that man's place to keep it or die. My father, do you remember that
night when we watched the women at the Fountain, and when I asked you
would a man be justified?"

Master Arfoll inclined his head in assent. His eyes now sought Rohan's
face with a new astonishment, for he saw there a soul in open revolt
with nature against the inhumanities of man. He felt rebuked, for
indeed he had given his counsel as to any common creature, hoping and
instructing for the best. But now he was reminded, as in many a
happier day he had been reminded before, that Rohan Gwenfern was no
common creature, but one made in the most unique mould of nature.

"Yes, you remember!" continued Rohan. "Well, your counsel was unkind,
for it bade me break my oath. I said I would never become a soldier;
that while breath filled my body I would never cause another
creature's death; that I might be killed, but that I would never kill.
The time has come, and I am to be proved. You say there is no escape;
but, as I said before, I can die."

All the wild recklessness had departed, and he spoke now in a low
voice, solemnly and gently. His tones and looks were not to be
mistaken; they expressed a decided will and purpose. Master Arfoll's
seed had borne fruit indeed; it was the Pupil now who taught and
admonished the Master.

Tears were on Master Arfoll's cheeks, and Rohan saw them--saw them and
trembled at them, though there were no tears on his own. They walked
slowly on, till they came to the edge of the cliffs, and saw beneath
them the sea rolling in on dark ribbed sands. Then Rohan sat on a rock
close to the edge, and, leaning his cheek on his open palm, looked
seaward.

Presently he said, quietly, with the air of one fisherman making a
remark to another, "There will be wind to-night, and rain. Look at
that bank of clouds creeping up in the south-west."

Master Arfoll did not reply; never had he seemed so reticent. After a
pause, not changing his attitude, Rohan spoke again.

"Master Arfoll, you are not angry?"

Angry! With those tears still gathering in his eyes, with that tender
trouble still lingering on his face! He turned to Rohan and answered
him, placing one hand on his shoulder.

"I am angry with myself. To be so weak! to feel so helpless! to know
such things are done, and yet be unable to lift a hand! My son, I
deserved your rebuke, for you are right and I was wrong. It is wrong
to acquiesce in evil, even to save one's life; it is accursed to draw
a sword for that man, even though France itself is threatened. I weep
for thee as for my own child, to see thee so troubled, so pursued; but
I say in my heart, 'God bless him! he is right!--he is a brave man,
and were I indeed his father I should be proud of such a son."

Long before the words were finished Rohan had risen to his feet.
Stretching out his hands, he cried--

"My father, you have spoken at last, and it was for those words I
came."

He stood trembling, with the sunlight playing on his hair, and on his
face a look which, if seen in a poet or a musician, would be called
inspiration.

"I came for those words! All are against me, save my mother and thou!
all are against me, even the one I love best in the world. A good
father would rather have his son die than live dishonoured; and thou
art my good father, and to go to war is dishonour, though they think
it glory. Thou hast made me strong, my father--strong and happy. Give
me now thy blessing, and let me go!"

Master Arfoll started and trembled.

"My blessing! Rohan, it is not worth giving! You would say so, if you
knew all."

But Rohan had sunk upon his knees, looking up to Master Arfoll's face.

"Bless me, my father! Thou art the only good man I know; men say too
thou wast once a Priest. Your words, your love, have made me what I
am, and your blessing will make me better and stronger still. You have
told me that I am right, that God will approve me, that I shall be
justified. Now bless me, and leave all the rest to God."

He bowed his head; and then and there, touching his hair with gentle
hands, and uplifting a pallid face to heaven, Master Arfoll blessed
him. Worse blessings have been given, even by Saints well known in the
Calendar!



Chapter 17. IN THE STORMY NIGHT



Rohan Gwenfern's well-trained eyes had not deceived him. The bad
weather was coming, and that afternoon it came.

Parting from Master Arfoll, who slowly retreated up to the peaceful
farms among which he was then dwelling, Rohan pursued his way along
the brink of the crags. Between him and the island the yellow-
blossomed furze grew a tall man's height, and more than once, to find
a path, he had to crawl down and creep like a fly along the very face
of the crag, which was touched here and there by the sun to rosy
light, with silver glimmers of mica and felspar. The solitude grew
lonelier the further he went. Not a soul was to be seen on that dizzy
path which wound slowly out to the great promontory of Pointe du
Croix.

The expression of his face was now tolerably calm. The wild hunted
look had vanished, to be replaced by a sad self-possession; for as the
dark waves broke at his feet, as the white gulls hovered over his
head, as the goats of the crags walked slowly and fearlessly from his
path, he felt the companionship of Nature, the happiness and freedom
of a solitude that was not solitary, of a loneliness that was not
quite alone. He had always loved such joys; now he loved them almost
to madness, for he was a man against the World.

He was in revolt against his fellows. He had refused to follow the
Phantom that was beckoning his generation.

Instead of being bound like a slave in a soldier's livery and carrying
a soldier's butchering load, he was free--he could move and live as he
pleased, and if necessary he could die as he pleased. Not a sea-bird
on the wing, not a seal softly floating in the watery empyrean, was
more justified than he. The heart of Earth throbbed with him--he could
feel it as he threw himself down on the soft green grass. The living
waters leaped and rejoiced with him; he could see them glancing for
miles on miles with rhythmic joy. The air exulted and blew joyfully
upon him; he drank it with slow heavings of the breast, and his
strength grew. It was something, after all, to be a man. It was more
to be admitted to the sacrament of Nature, partaken of by all those
creatures and creations which bemoan the cruelty of Men.

The last touch of this sacrament came from a good Man's blessing.
Before that was given he had been weak and afraid; now he came back to
Nature, happy and resolved.

Yes, momentarily happy; for persecution brings its happiness, when it
draws forth the untold treasures of courage and self-confidence that
hide in a human breast. Rohan Gwenfern had always felt himself
superior to his fellows; since, let us admit it at once, he combined
with his natural beneficence a fierce animal pride. He was not common,
nor felt like mere slaves of the sword or the plough. Revolt developed
this pride to a passion. He loved the frightful odds against him, and
he was ready to meet them.

These were the thoughts and feelings that kept his heart up for many a
mile, and made him almost forget his mother and Marcelle; but as the
afternoon darkened, and the weather began to change from sunshine to a
thin dreary rain, he began again to be conscious of desolation.

By this time he had reached the utmost verge of the promontory of
Pointe du Croix.

It was desolate as Death. The rain was now falling heavily. A slate-
coloured mountain of water rose over the point, turned to livid white,
hovered, and broke in a fourfold cataract right over the outmost
rocks. The sound was terrible, like the sound of innumerable chariot
wheels, like the roar of a thousand cannon. On the extremest place of
safety sat in rows hundreds of cormorants, both black and green; and
although the cataracts of foam broke momently close to their webbed
feet, many were asleep with their heads beneath their wings.

Here Rohan sat and rested, far away from mortal view. The cormorants
below sat within thirty yards of his feet, but none heeded him. Two
ravens, a male and a female, passed constantly to and fro above his
head, wheeling in beautiful circles, and hunting the cliffs like hawks
of prey; often they wheeled so close that he might have struck them
with a stone.

Presently he drew from his breast a piece of black bread, and began to
eat. He looked round for water, but none was near; so he caught the
rain in his hollowed hands, and drank it, and was refreshed.

All this was nothing new. Hundreds of times he had done for sheer
pleasure what he now did from sore necessity. Never, however, had
solitude possessed so keen a zest.

It was here, seated alone on the promontory of Pointe du Croix, that
he conceived his plans. When he arose and walked again, his ideas were
all matured, and he turned his steps eastward, to his native village.

When night fell it found him walking before a wild storm of wind and
rain on the desolate track of moorland called Vilaine. Not a
habitation was to be seen, not a sign of humanity in any form. Herds
of wild cattle crouched together in the rain, and on the edges of the
crags ran flocks of wild goats. Lines of menhirs covered this plain,
like lines of giants petrified, and as the wild rain smote upon them,
and ran like dark tears down their jagged cheeks, they seemed coming
to life and stirring in answer to the Spirit of the Storm.

Amidst these stony phantoms Rohan fled. Fortunately, the wind was at
his back and smote him on. Sometimes he paused to shelter in the
shadow of a menhir; then after a time he hastened on again.

The night grew blacker and blacker, till he could scarcely see a yard
along the plain. The rain fell in torrents and the wind shrieked.
Overhead there was a confused motion and murmur--

"Dant etiam sonitum patuli super quora mundi"

--the sound of the clouds roaring over the waters of the wide-
spreading upper world. On his left hand, a motion and murmur no less
terrible--that of the storm-vexed sea sounding upon its shores. Heaven
and ocean seemed confusedly mixed together, as in the awful Promethean
tempest. Woe to the traveller on the plain of Vilaine that night, if
he had been any other than Rohan Gwenfern.

But Rohan fought his way as if by instinct. He had more than once been
on the great plain before, and he knew by the situation of many of the
menhirs how to steer his course. Soaked to the skin, drenched so
terribly that the wind tore off parts of his dress in strips,
bareheaded and barefooted, he rushed along, as a boat with rent sail
flees before the wind.

Suddenly he paused and started back.

A flash of crimson light arose from the very edge of the ocean,
illuminating the darkness.

At first superstition seized him, and he shrank afraid; but in a
moment he recovered himself; crept forward, and looked again.

The flash continued, now coming, now going, like the gleam of a
lighthouse lamp.

Suddenly, instead of turning away, he ran forward in the direction of
the light. The rain fell heavily, the storm shrieked, but he saw all
clearly soon--a great crimson fire burning on the very edge of the
crag, and sending a wild stream of light out upon the tempestuous sea.

He crept closer, and saw distinctly, surrounding the fire, some dozen
figures running round and round like the fiends of an Inferno.

An ordinary Breton would have crossed himself and flown; and indeed
such an apparition, seen in such a solitude and on such an night,
might well appal even the stoutest heart. Rohan was not so daunted. He
paused and looked, and now, wafted on the wind, he distinctly heard
voices.

Then crouching down almost to the ground, he crept fifty yards closer
still, and gazed in horror once again.

Close to the edge of the cliffs--held down by ropes attached to
enormous stones--stood a huge cage of iron, in which burnt a fire of
bog oak, bushes of furze, and dry sods of peat; and surrounding it, as
the flame leaped and darted in the wild breath of the tempest, were
seven or eight men and two or three old women. Some, running round and
round the cage, momently shut out the light from the sea; others sat
on the grass glaring at the flame, their features horribly
illuminated; and one groach, or old woman, like a very Witch of Endor,
was leaning forward over the flame and chattering wildly as she warmed
her skinny hands.

Within a few yards of this group stood a low menhir, partly sheltering
them from the torrents of rain; and crawling up close in the shadow of
this, Rohan listened and watched.

"Bad luck to Penruach this night!" said a voice. "It is too dark out
there even to see our fire."

"That's as St. Lok wills," croaked the old woman. "If he means to send
us luck, the luck will come."

Rohan shuddered. He knew his company now. The creatures on whom he
gazed were fishers from Penruach, whose wrecking propensities even the
severe laws passed after the Revolution had never been able to
extinguish, and who regarded every passing ship as legitimate plunder.
This St. Lok of theirs, by whom the old crone swore, had been a
wrecker too; for, if tradition was to be believed, he was an antique
Christian who spent his time in luring to destruction the ships of
infidel invaders, and who was presently canonised for his pains!

Outside the point of vantage where this group gathered, stretched for
miles one black neck of fatal reefs, partially covered and partially
submerged. Dark as the night was, Rohan could see the flashing of
foam-white breakers far out at sea; and wherever the horrible light
from the cage fell in one long stream across the water, it shone only
on the whiteness of broken foam or on black edges of rock.

Rohan hesitated. He knew and loathed the horrible work the creatures
were about, but he was also cognizant of his own danger and wished to
act with caution. His resolution was soon taken, and he acted upon it
at once.

"Lok! Lok! send us a ship!" cried another woman, using the first line
of an old distich. "St. Lok is deaf it seems!" she added bitterly.

"Don't cry so loud, mother," cried a man. "'Tis enough to waken the
dead. Come, drink! Luck to St. Lok, and luck to the men of Penruach!"

A bottle was passed across to the woman, and she raised it to her
lips. As she did so a wild shriek, startling and shrill, broke upon
the night. All, men and women alike, leaped panic-stricken to their
feet.

"See!" shrieked a man. "An I du! an I du!" and he pointed at the
menhir.

On the very top of the stone stood a gigantic figure waving its arms,
with an unearthly scream. Its form seemed misshapen and bloody, its
face glared horribly. Elevated so high, it seemed unspeakably
terrible, and the boldest man there was panic-stricken.

"It is St. Lok himself!" shrieked one, flying past into the night.

"An I du! An I du!" said the others, stumbling, shrieking, flying,
scattering themselves like foam into the darkness.

In a minute the place was deserted, and Rohan, with a wild laugh,
leaped down. His stratagem had succeeded. By fixing his hands and feet
in the fissures of the stone, he had slowly attained its summit, and
emerged upon the awe-struck sight of the wreckers. Not without some
peril was this accomplished, for the sea was shrieking beneath his
feet, and one false trick of the wind might have cast him over.

Springing down upon the cage, he seized it with all his strength,
loosened it from its ropes and stones, and cast it over into the
boiling sea. For one moment it illumined the waters, then it sank and
disappeared.

The darkness that followed was so complete that Rohan, whose eyes were
blinded by the light, could at first distinguish nothing; and
overwhelmed by the fury of wind and rain, he cast himself upon the
ground.

Rising presently, when his eyes were accustomed to the darkness, he
silently pursued his way.



Chapter 18. THE PRAYERS OF TWO WOMEN



The drawing was over, the medical inspection had taken place, and the
conscripts of Kromlaix knew their fate.

Gildas Derval passed the inspection with flying colours; and being by
this time fully plied with brandy and martial inspiration, he
swaggered about like a very veteran.

Now, it so happened that the wish of his heart was granted, and Hol
was a conscript too. Hol had drawn "twenty-seven," and as two of
those who had drawn lower numbers turned out unfit for service, not to
speak of Rohan, who was non est, he was enrolled and passed among the
fatal twenty-five. The Corporal was in his glory, the twins full of
bravado, the mother disconsolate. In a few days they would receive
their tickets, and have to march.

Meantime, the hue and cry had begun for the refractory "number one."

A body of gendarmes from St. Gurlott, headed by old Jacques Pipriac,
were scouring the village day and night while the conscripts were
aiding them as far as lay in their power. All in vain. After the first
attempt made to arrest him, Rohan was invisible.

"Malediction!" cried Pipriac to poor Mother Gwenfern one day, as for
the fourth or fifth time they searched her cabin. "Could I but lay my
hand on him, he should sweat for it. Thou hast him hidden--deny it
not! Out with him! A thousand devils!"

And they prodded the mattresses with their bayonets, and turned out
cupboards too small to conceal a dog, and looked everywhere into most
unlikely places, while Mother Gwenfern cried bitterly--

"Ah, Sergeant Pipriac! I never thought you could be so cruel to his
father's son!"

The Sergeant, a little one-eyed, hook-nosed martinet, very fond of the
bottle, twirled his grey moustache and scowled.

He had been a great friend of her husband, and his present conduct
seemed ungrateful.

"Malediction! one must do one's duty. Mother, thy son is a fool; and
were I not after him, there would be others far worse to do the job!
Come, let us have him, and I vow by the bones of St. Triffine that he
shall be pardoned, and become a brave soldier of the Emperor."

And while one of the gendarmes pushed his head up the chimney, and
another held his nose over the black swinging-pot, as if expecting to
find the fugitive there, the mother answered--

"I have told you he is not here! I do not know where he is! Perhaps he
has found a ship, and gone to England!"

"Tous les diables! to England!"

"Yes, Sergeant Pipriac."

"Bah! that is not so easy, and he knows better than to trust himself
in a land of wild beasts. No, he is here. I know it--I smell it as a
dog smells a rat. Malediction! that the son of my good comrade Raoul
Gwenfern should turn out a coward."

The widow's pale cheek flushed.

"He is no coward, Sergeant Pipriac."

"He will not fight. He creeps away and hides. He is afraid."

"It is not that. My Rohan is afraid of nothing, but he will never
become a soldier."

The old fellow snapped his fingers.

"If I had him here, I would read him a lesson. Ah, if he would but
take example by his two brave cousins, Hol and Gildas. Those are men,
if you like! each could strangle an ox! And their uncle, the Corporal,
Mother Gwenfern--there's a man!"

Turning to his file of gendarmes, he cried--

"Shoulder arms! march! the fox is not here!"

Then turning again at the door, as if still twitted by his conscience,
he cried--

"Good day, mother! but, mind you, we shall come again; it is not our
fault, but the Emperor's orders. Take my advice, and persuade him; in
another day it will be too late. Now, then--march!"

They were gone, and the widow was left to her lonely reflections. She
sat silent by the fire, thinking. She was a tall woman, with ashen
grey complexion and white hair. She was the half-sister of Margarid
Maure, who had married the fisherman Derval, brother of the Corporal;
and being a very quiet, retiring woman, given to her own thoughts, she
had seen very little of her sister or her children. People thought her
unsociable and melancholy. Indeed her whole heart was filled with her
love for her only son.

When she told the Sergeant that she was ignorant of Rohan's
whereabouts, she only spoke the truth. She had not seen her son for
several days, and she was almost hoping that he had made good his
escape to some safer district. Poor woman, she little knew how thickly
the country was covered with snares and traps for deserters, and how
difficult it was to elude the vigilant eyes of the public officials.

From the beginning she had regretted Rohan's deliberate and terrible
revolt. Everybody said it was cowardly. Even his own blood relations
turned against him; the whole village talked of him in no flattering
way. Twenty times in a day the gossips brought her news which
frightened her, and made her poor heart beat painfully, and her lips
grow blue. No one thought Rohan could escape for long; and when he was
caught, he would be shot like a dog.

Far better, she argued, had he obeyed at once, and trusted to the good
God for help. Many had gone and come home safe enough; witness Uncle
Ewen, who was covered with old wounds. Her heart was hard against the
Emperor, but only as, in days of trouble, it had been hard against
God. And the Emperor was like God--so great, so very far away!

She sat listening to the wind, which was rising that afternoon, and to
the rain, which was beating against the door. Crouched near to her,
with its eyes closed in the sleepy light of the fire, was Jannedik,
the she-goat, her son's favourite, and now her only companion.

It was a small room, rudely furnished with coarse oaken table and
chairs. The floor was of earth, the black rafters stretched overhead.
On the wall hung fishing and fowling nets, a fowler's pole and hook,
etc.; and pasted near the fireplace was a coloured print similar to
the painting in Notre Dame de la Garde, representing shipwrecked
sailors on a raft, kneeling all bareheaded, while a naked child, with
a halo round his head, came walking to them on the sea.

The afternoon was very chilly and dreary, and where she sat she could
hear the sea moaning as it does when stormy weather is coming.
Presently Jannedik rose, pricked up her ears, and listened.

She had quick ears, had Jannedik, and would have been as good as a
watch-dog, if only she could have barked her warnings.

She was right; some one was coming. Presently the latch moved.

Mother Gwenfern did not turn round at first; she was too used to the
neighbours coming in and out, and she thought it was one of them. But
when Jannedik, as if quite satisfied, sank down again on the hearth,
Mother Gwenfern moved on the form, and saw her niece Marcelle, taking
off a large black cloak which was wet with rain.

They had only met once since that scene on the night of the drawing,
and then Mother Gwenfern had been very angry and bitter. Seeing now
who it was, she grew pale, and her heart began to palpitate, as, with
no greeting, she turned her eyes again upon the fire.

"It is I, Aunt Loz!" said Marcelle softly.

There was no answer. The widow still felt her heart full of anger
against the Dervals, and she was very indignant at seeing Marcelle.

"I could not bear to think of thee sitting here all alone, and though
my uncle did not wish it, I have come over. Ah, God, thou art lonely!
It is dreadful when all the world is against one's own son."

The widow stirred in her chair, and said, still looking at the fire--

"It is yet more dreadful when one's own blood relations hate us most.
It was an ill day when my sister Margarid married a Derval, for you
are all alike, though Ewen Derval is the worst. Some day, when you
marry, you will know what it is to suffer like me, and you will pity
me then."

Hanging her cloak against the wall, Marcelle came nearer and sat down
upon the form by the window's side. The widow shrank away a little,
but said nothing. Marcelle, too, fixed her eyes upon the fire, and
leant forward, warming her hands as she continued to speak.

"You are unjust to me, Aunt Loz. I pity you now--ah, God, how I pity
you! Uncle Ewen pities you, too, and he is so vexed and dull that he
hardly tastes a morsel. Our house is nearly as sad as this, for Hol
and Gildas are both to go, and mother does nothing but cry."

It was a curious sight to see those two women--one so old and grey,
the other so fresh and pretty--sitting on one form side by side, not
looking in each other's face, but both, whether speaking or listening,
only gazing at the fire. Jannedik seemed to have her own opinions on
the subject, for she rose quietly and put her large head between
Marcelle's knees.

There was a long silence, and the wind and the sea cried still louder
outside. Finally the widow said, in the same low voice--

"Why have you come, child? What has brought you here at last?"

"Ah, Aunt Loz, can you not guess? I came to ask after Rohan--whether
he is still safe."

The answer was a short, hard, bitter laugh.

"So! Well, he is safe, if you desire to know. You may go back to those
who sent you, and tell them that much from me. Yes!" she continued,
her voice rapidly rising in anger, "I know well what you come for,
Marcelle Derval. You wish to find out where my poor boy is hidden, and
then betray him to Ewen Derval and his enemies. You are a fool for
your pains, and may God punish you for your wickedness, though your
mother was of my blood!"

Marcelle was a high-spirited girl, and it is doubtful if she would
have borne as much from any other woman in the world. Strange to say,
she was now quite gentle, and only put her hand on her aunt's arm,
saying--

"Don't! don't speak like that, for the love of God!"

Something in the tone startled the widow, and turning, she saw that
Marcelle's eyes were blind with tears. She gazed in wonder, for
Marcelle was not given to the melting mood.

"Marcelle, what do you mean? Why do you cry?"

The tone was sharp, but the look of the speaker's face was kinder.
Marcelle rose, trembling.

"Never mind! You think I have no heart! Well, I will go, for you do
not trust me, and I have no right to vex you. But if you knew! if you
knew!"

She turned as if to go; but the widow, reaching out her lean hand,
restrained her.

"Marcelle, speak!"

Marcelle stood moveless, and, still trembling, looked into her aunt's
face.

"Then Rohan has never spoken, Aunt Loz! Well, I made him promise not
to tell!"

"I do not understand!"

But the widow, from the new light on her niece's cheeks, was beginning
to understand very well.

"I love Rohan, Aunt Loz! I did not know it till lately, but now I
love him dearly, and I cannot bear to hear you say such hard things of
me,--for he has asked me to be his wife!"

The widow uttered an exclamation. The declaration did not surprise her
so much in itself, for she had often had her suspicions, but it was
startling as coming at that moment and under those circumstances. She
looked keenly for a long time at Marcelle, who hung her head, and went
alternately red and pale. At last she said, in a more gentle tone than
before--"Sit down, Marcelle!"

Marcelle again sat down by her side, comforted and strengthened in so
far that her confession was over. Then came a longer silence than
ever; for the widow was in her own mind going over the past, and
wondering over many things, in a waking dream. Marcelle was beginning
to think her angry, when she said, in a low voice, as if talking to
herself--

"If you love him as you say, it is strange that you brought him no
better luck!"

This was a home-thrust, for Marcelle had often thought the same
herself.

"It is strange, as you say!" she cried. "Ah! it was terrible to me,
for I had prayed to draw a lucky chance. Aunt Loz, I did it for the
best. He bade me draw; and he was not there; and if none of his kin
had appeared for him, the black mark would have been put at once
against his name. Uncle Ewen saved him that, for he spoke up and said
he was ill. And now, Aunt Loz, if he would only go! Uncle Ewen has
influence, and Rohan would be pardoned; excuses could be made; ah, if
he would only give himself up at once! Hol and Gildas are both going,
and he would have company. We two would pray for him night and day
while he was away, would we not, Aunt Loz? Ah, if he would be wise!"

By this time the women were close together, holding each other's
hands, and both were weeping. It was blessed, the widow now felt, to
weep a little with one who loved her son, when all others were against
him. But she cried, between her tears--

"No, it is impossible!"

"If I could only see him and speak to him! But he is so hard to
understand. Ah, God! to hear every one, even the children, say our
Rohan is afraid--it almost breaks my heart."

"He is not afraid, Marcelle!"

"This is what makes it all so strange. I know he is so brave, braver
than all the rest; and yet, look you, he does not act like a man. When
the Emperor calls for his children, he stays. When all the others take
their chance fairly, he keeps away. When his number is drawn, he
hides--he who is so strong. What can I answer, when Gildas and Hol
say that he is afraid, and even Uncle Ewen cries shame upon his name?"

"He is so headstrong! and Master Arfoll has filled his brain with
strange notions."

"You are right," cried Marcelle, eagerly: "it is Master Arfoll that is
to blame. Ah, he is a wicked man, that, and no friend to the good
Emperor, or to God."

Thus the two women conversed together, till the ice between them
thawed, and they were quite reconciled. Mother Gwenfern had never
doubted that Rohan was mad to resist the imperial authority, and much
as her heart ached to think of parting with him, the dreadful
uncertainty of his present fate was still more painful. About Master
Arfoll, too, she was agreed, as we have seen. She could not understand
that extraordinary being, and in her superstition she had often looked
upon him with absolute dread. He was too clever to be a safe adviser
for her son, and he never went to mass or confession, and men said he
had been guilty of strange deeds in his youth. Ah, if her poor Rohan
had never met such a teacher! So thought she; and so thought the
excited girl at her side.

So by-and-by it came to pass that Mother Gwenfern was holding
Marcelle's little hand between her own trembling fingers, and softly
smoothing it, with tender words.

"Thou art a good girl," she said, "and I would wish no better for my
daughter, if that could be. It was not thy fault that Rohan spoke to
thee in that way, instead of first speaking to me; men do foolish
things for a girl, and Rohan is not wise--the good God help him! Oh,
my son, my son!"

And she began again to weep bitterly, rocking herself to and fro,
while Marcelle tried in vain to comfort her; nay, not wholly in vain,
for there was solace in the touch of the soft young hands, in the
sound of the gentle voice, in the very breathing and presence of one
who loved her boy. The two hearts throbbed together, as hand clasped
in hand the women wept together; and presently sinking down on their
knees, while Jannedik, the goat, blinked great brown eyes in
astonishment, both women prayed that the man they loved might cease
his mad purpose, might come in and yield to the inevitable decree,
might trust himself in the hands of the good God, who would preserve
him for them throughout the war.

By such prayer, by the prayer of those nearest and dearest to him, is
a man often softly drawn away from an immortal purpose; where power
and strength might avail nothing, tears and a little love avail much,
to shake the soul's sense of some pitiless duty. An infant's little
hands may thus draw the just man from justice, the righteous man from
righteousness; for justice and righteousness are alike awful, while to
stoop and kiss is sweet. When a man's house is armed in affection
against him, when, instead of help and a sword, he finds on his own
hearth only feebleness and a love that cannot understand, strong
indeed must be his purpose, supreme indeed must be his faith, if he
walks still onward and upward to the terrible heights of God.



Chapter 19. DOWN BY THE SHORE



When Marcelle emerged from the widow's cottage, her tears were all
dry, and she walked swiftly through the rain in the direction of the
village. The wind was still rising upon the sea, and the sea, although
it was still calm, had that indescribable hollow concussion which is
only to be heard previous to stormy weather. The fishermen were
drawing their flat-bottomed boats up higher, and carrying their nets
and ropes within doors for shelter, while a few strong old men, in
their nightcaps and blue guernseys, were stolidly smoking in the rain
and nodding their heads out at the sea. The tide was three-quarters
flowed, and all the mountains were long covered.

Instead of turning inland up the main street of the village, Marcelle
passed along the wet shingle, until she had to thread her way among
the caloges, or upturned boats converted into houses and stores, which
clustered on the strand just above high-water mark. Most of these
caloges had iron funnels to let out the smoke; and on their roofs, or
keels, thick slimy grass was growing, and on more than one of the
roofs goats were contentedly grazing. Many of the doors were closed,
for the wind blew right into them; but on one or two thresholds men
lounged, or women sat busy knitting, or picturesque children crawled.
This was the lower village, exclusively devoted to the fishing
population, and quite inferior in social status to the more solid
village above.

Marcelle soon found what she was seeking,--a stone cabin built just
above these amphibious dwellings, and newly thatched. Here, in the
shelter of the doorway, a girl sat in an old-fashioned armchair,
busily teasing and cording wool, and singing to herself.

"Welcome, Marcelle!" she said, quietly using the usual Breton
greeting.

"God be with you, Guineveve!" answered Marcelle, smiling; then,
standing in the doorway and looking down at the busy fingers, she
added, "How is Mother Goron?"

"You would say she was ten years younger," answered Guineveve. "She
sings about the place at her work, and she will never rest, and she
prays for the Emperor every night, because he has not taken Jn away."

A faint colour came into the girl's cheeks as she spoke, but her face,
seen in its tight snowy coif, was still very pale. As she sat there,
in her dark dress with the white stomacher and sleeves, in her blue
petticoat and stockings and leather shoes with buckles, you would have
said, had you been a Kromlaix man, "That is the girl I could dance
with from night till dawn of day."

She was not Kromlaix born, but was a native of Brest. When she was a
child only a year or two old her parents died, and Mother Goron, who
was a distant relation, brought the little one back with her from
Brest, where she had been on business concerning a pension she
inherited from her husband, Jacques Goron, who had been a marine and
had died in the lazaretto. From that day Mother Goron brought up
Guineveve as her own child, with her only son Jan.

"What news?" she said, looking up quickly, after a pause.

"None. Aunt Loz does not know where he is. He has not been near home
for many nights, and she is growing afraid."

"It is very strange."

"He is quite desperate and mad. I sometimes shudder, for he may have
drowned himself in his rage. If I could only speak with him!"

They were talking, of course, of Rohan; but the personal pronoun was
quite enough, as the girls were in each other's confidence, and
understood one another.

"Gildas is to go?" said Guineveve presently.

"Yes; and Hol."

"Even then, your mother has Alain and Jannick; and, then, there is
Uncle Ewen. But it is terrible for the woman who has only one. If the
Emperor had taken Jan, mother would have died."

"But Aunt Loz prays that he may go!"

"That is different. Ah, she has courage! If I had a son my heart would
break."

"She is grieving, too," answered Marcelle. "It is the way of women.
For my part, if I had a son and he was afraid, I should never love him
any more. Think how terrible it would be if the good Emperor were
served so by all his children, for whom he has done so much; he would
be massacred, and then what would become of France? If Rohan were in
his right senses he would not hide away."

"Perhaps he is afraid," sighed Guineveve "Well, it is no wonder!"

Marcelle set her white teeth together, and trembled.

"If I thought it was that," she cried, "I should hate him for ever and
ever; I should then die of shame What is a man if he has not a man's
heart, Guineveve? He is no more than a fish in the sea, that flashes
off if you move your hand. No, no, he is brave. But I will tell you
what I think--Master Arfoll has put a charm upon him; he is
bewitched!"

Marcelle did not speak figuratively; she literally and simply meant
that the schoolmaster had affected Rohan by some diabolical art.

"But Master Arfoll is a good man!" cried Guineveve.

"You may think that if you please, but I have my own thoughts. They
say he was once a Priest, and now he is friends with no Priest but
Father Rolland, who is friends with everybody. He knows cures for men
and cattle, and they work like magic. I was told once up in St.
Gurlott that he had the evil eye."

Guineveve shuddered, for she too had her superstitions,--how, indeed,
could she avoid them, reared as she had been in so lonely and
uncultivated an atmosphere? So when Marcelle crossed herself, she
crossed herself too; but she looked up with a sad smile, saying--

"I do not believe that of Master Arfoll; and you must not say so to
Mother Goron--he did her a great service long ago, and she thinks he
is a saint, as pure as one of God's angels. Ah yes, he has the face of
a good man!"

Marcelle's eyes flashed, and she was about to repeat her charges even
more angrily, when Jn Goron walked hurriedly up to the door. He
paused, surprised at seeing Marcelle there, and then turned smiling to
Guineveve, whose face kindled at his coming.

"Welcome, Jan!" said Marcelle.

Goron looked this way and that, as if fearing an eavesdropper; then
said in a low voice, rapidly--

"I have news, Marcelle! He is not far away!"

Marcelle was about to utter a cry, when he placed his hand upon her
arm.

"Hush! Come within, for the rain is heavy;" and when they were
standing inside, with a full view of poor old Mother Goron bustling
busily before the fire, he added, "He was seen at Ploubol yesterday,
and a man recognised him, and he was nearly taken. He struck down the
gendarmes, and that will make his case worse. There is no escape; he
must soon be caught. He was last seen going in the direction of
Traonili."

Marcelle wrung her hands in despair.

"Ah, God, he is lost--he is mad!"

"Have you seen the proclamations?" asked Goron, in the same low voice.
"Well, they are posted up along the road, and there is one on the
church gate, and another on your own door. They forbid one to give
shelter or succour to any deserter on pain of death; they say that
every conscript who has not answered to his name will be shot like a
dog; there is to be no mercy,--it is too late."

Goron was deeply moved, for he was the one man in Kromlaix of whom
Rohan had ever made a friend. In his character and his whole bearing
there was a nobility akin to that of Rohan himself. And who that saw
the quiet light in his eyes as he looked at Guineveve could doubt that
he too loved and was loved in return?

When Goron mentioned the proclamations against deserters, Marcelle's
heart went sick.

He had not told her, however, of the sight he had seen with his own
eyes--old Corporal Derval himself, pipe in mouth, accompanied by the
gendarme Pipriac and followed by Hol and Gildas, strutting forth and
sticking up with his own hands the paper that was now to be seen on
his own door!

Marcelle was not one of those maidens who wear their hearts on their
sleeves: she had martial blood in her veins, and was quite capable,
literally and figuratively, of "standing fire." But this gnawing
terror overpowered her, and she grew faint. All the memory of that
happy day in the Cathedral of St. Gildas swam before her; she felt the
embracing arms, the loving kiss; and then she seemed again to behold
her lover as he had appeared on the night of the Conscription, wild-
eyed, vehement, blaspheming all she held holy and sublime. It was
curious, as illustrating the tenacity of her character, that she still
stubbornly and firmly refused to believe that Rohan, in his
extraordinary conduct, was actuated by the ordinary motives of
cowardice and fear. She chose rather to think him the victim of some
malignant fate, some diabolic spell such as "wise men" like Master
Arfoll knew how to weave, than to dream that he acted under emotions
which, in her simple idea, could be only both treasonable and base.
True, she remembered with a shiver his old expressions concerning the
Emperor; but these, she always persuaded herself; were uttered when he
was not in his "right mind."

She did not speak now, but, leaning her forehead against the door,
gazed drearily out into the rain. All the beautiful dream of her young
love seemed blurred and blotted out by mist and tears.

"Marcelle," whispered Guineveve, taking her hand softly, "do not
grieve; all will be well yet!"

There was no answer, but a heavy sigh, and the pale firm face wore an
expression of despairing pain.

"After all," said Goron, sympathetically, "he may be pardoned, for the
Emperor wants men. If he would only come in--even now!"

Marcelle was still silent, and presently she kissed Guineveve on
either cheek, and held out her hands to Goron.

"I must go now," she said quietly. "Mother will wonder where I am."

Slowly, under the rain that was ever falling heavier and heavier, she
moved through the streets of the village. She saw nothing, heard
nothing--she was wrapt in a dream; though to look upon her as she
passed, with her set lips and her quiet eyes, with her cloak wrapped
round her, and her foot as firm yet light upon the ground as ever, one
would scarcely have thought that she had any care.

Yet the great Sea was rising and crying behind her as she went, and
before her soul a storm was spreading, more terrible than any sea.



Chapter 20. "THE POOL OF THE BLOOD OF CHRIST"



A few days after the medical inspection of the conscripts, the order
to march arrived. They were to go from home to Traonili, from Traonili
to Nantes, and thence, after having joined their regiments, right on
to the Rhine!

The experiences of the previous year had not brought the Emperor
wisdom, and his struggle with Destiny was about to commence on a more
enormous scale than ever. The loss of 500,000 men, with all their
arms, ammunition, and artillery, had not daunted or even discouraged
him; for he had merely uplifted his finger, and legions had come to
take their place. Meantime, Prussia and Russia had shaken hands, and
the Tugendbund had been formed, and all Germany had risen. On the 16th
of March previous to the Conscription, Prussia had declared war; and
now the patriotism of the Teuton youth was bursting forth like a
volcano. At the head of this host stood the bigot Blucher, pupil of
the great Friedrich. As if this were not enough, Sweden too had joined
the confederacy against Bonaparte. And already the French had
evacuated Berlin, and retreated on the Elbe.

Our story at present, however, concerns not the movements of great
armies, but the fortunes of humble individuals. The summons to march
had arrived, and the Derval household was as busy as it was troubled.
At last came the eve of the departure, and the conscripts were to set
forth, all together, at earliest dawn.

There was a busy gathering that night in the Corporal's kitchen.
Sergeant Pipriac was there, his little eyes red with brandy; Mikel
Grallon and several other friends of the twins had gathered to drink a
parting glass. The mother was busy upstairs, turning over and fondling
for the last time, and packing up in bundles, her sons' clothes, and
weeping bitterly, while Marcelle tried in vain to comfort her. In many
houses that night there was such weeping.

The twins sat moodily enough, depressed at heart now the time had
indeed come. Even Uncle Ewen was out of spirits; for, after all, he
knew the terrible odds of war, and he was very fond of his nephews.

"One thing you will escape, mes garz," he said, puffing his pipe
quietly, "and that is, all the hard words of the drill sergeant. You
are soldiers ready made! 'Eyes right,' 'eyes left,' 'first position,'
'second position,' 'present arms'--bah! you know all that by heart,
for you were bred in a soldier's house. They will be pleased with you
for this, and you will get on, you will thrive. There is another thing
you must know. When you are receiving cavalry, don't dig into your man
in the old way--like this!--but turn your elbow and give a twist of
the wrist--like that"--here the old burn-powder illustrated the action
with his stick. "That is the trick of it, and you will soon learn."

"I suppose so," said Gildas gloomily. "The Russians and the Prussians
can play at that trick too!"

"When you have once smelt powder, it will be all right," returned
their uncle; "and the best of it is, you will do that at once. There
will be no delay, no worry--you are going straight to the Rhine--
straight into the midst of the fun."

"I wish I was going too!" sighed Alain; "it is like my luck."

"Come, come," cried Hol, "thou wast pale as death that day of the
drawing, and would have given thy right arm not to go."

"I did not know then that you two were going."

"Thy turn will come," said the Corporal; "and thine too, Jannick. I
will give you another wrinkle, youngsters!" he continued, turning
again to the others. "Make friends with the corporal, and with the
sergeant too, if you can; a glass of brandy goes a long way, and few
of them will refuse. Don't waste your money on the sutler women, by
treating all your comrades, like mad conscripts; but treat the
corporal if he is willing, and, look you, you will have a friend in
need. Don't be frightened at first by his gruff ways--address him with
humility, and he will be satisfied."

"All right, Uncle Ewen," returned Gildas, holding up a glass of
brandy. "Here's his health, whoever he is!"

"I myself have seen to your shoes, mes garz," continued the Corporal.
"Two pairs each, but neither new--soft as silk to the feet, and the
best leather. I have known many a conscript go lame before he reached
Nantes by starting in new shoes. Then there's your knapsacks! you will
find them irksome at first, but the true trick is to strap them tight
into the small of the back, not to let them hang loose as foolish
conscripts do."

Uncle Ewen gave his instructions very quietly; for the life of him, he
could not help feeling dull. The company was all very sad, and the
younger men seemed to regard the twins as lambs in fair prospect of
being slaughtered. Mikel Grallon was the only one that laughed.
Boisterously, again and again, he clapped the twins on the back, and
offered his hand, and clinked glasses with them. But drink had no
effect that night in lighting up their hearts. They knew their mother
was in tears upstairs, and that Marcelle was grieving too. They saw
plainly enough that Uncle Ewen's talk was forced, and that even
Sergeant Pipriac was sorry for them in his rough way. They were going
to "glory" for the first time, and they would a great deal rather have
stayed at home.

Late that evening, while the company in the kitchen were drinking,
smoking, and talking, Marcelle quietly left the house and walked up
the road which led out of the village.

The moon was at the full, but vast clouds driven by a high wind
obscured its rays, and the night was very dark Showers of rain fell
from time to time, and between the showers the moon looked out with a
wan wistful face.

Running rather than walking, with nothing but her ordinary indoor
costume to shield her from the showers, Marcelle rapidly made her way
up the hill, passed the church with its churchyard and calvary (in
passing which she crossed herself eagerly), and then, some hundred
yards further, turned out of the road across an open heath. She was by
this time breathless with speed, and her eyes looked from side to side
timidly, as she pursued her way through the darkness. The path was
obviously familiar to her, and, though she tripped several times, she
never lost her way. Once, indeed, she stopped perplexed; but just then
the moon looked out in its fullest brilliance, and she ran on again in
the right direction.

By this time she had left the village a mile and a half behind. She
was in the midst of a lonely heath thickly strewn with grey granite
stones, with here and there little clusters of dwarf fir trees and
wild furze.

Another shower came, blotting out the light of the moon, and the wind
moaned very desolately. Still, with quickly palpitating heart,
Marcelle crept on. When the moonlight appeared again in full
brightness, she had found what she sought.

Towering above in the moon's rays was a colossal granite Cross,
looking up to which she could see the body of the Christ, drooping the
head and gazing into the gloom. Clustering all below it were wild
shrubs, monstrous weeds, darnel and nettle and foxglove as high as a
man's breast.

Marcelle trembled as she gazed up, crossing herself rapidly. Then
creeping forward to the base of the Cross, she found a basin of blood-
red granite, cracked across, but still capable of holding the rain and
dew. It was brimful from the recent showers, and its contents
resembled blood.

Now, this solitary basin, called in the dialect of the country the
"Pool of the Blood of Christ," was very holy in the eyes of the
villagers--more holy even than the wells for holy water in the church
itself; for surely as the dews of Heaven fell into that basin they
possessed the property of Christ's own blood, and could heal sickness
where the sick one had much faith. That was not all. It was a common
superstition that if a man or woman went thither when the moon was
full, and dipped into the basin any portion of any article of attire
or of anything to be worn about the body, that portion of inert matter
would become "blessed," and have the power of warding off danger and
even death from the wearer. Only one condition was attached to this
blessing--that the "dipping" must be done in complete solitude and be
kept a secret from all other living beings.

Creeping forward, and kneeling on her knees, despite the rank weeds
that clustered round her, Marcelle said a short prayer; then, drawing
from her breast two medals, she passed both into her right hand, and
dropped them softly into the granite basin. Trembling with awe, she
closed her eyes and repeated a prayer for the occasion, mentioning as
she did so the names of Hol and Gildas.

When she had finished she again slipped in her white hand and drew the
medals forth.

"Christ be with me!" she said in Breton, thrusting them eagerly into
her bosom.

The medals were of copper, and each as large as a crown-piece. They
had been given to her long ago by the Corporal, and she had
religiously preserved them; but now, when the twins were going away,
she meant to give them one each, without explaining, of course, that
they possessed a special "charm." They were handsome perforated
medals, and, attached to a string, could be hung unseen over the
heart. On one side of each was the laurelled image of the Emperor; on
the other, the glimpse of a bloody battle, with the inscription--
"AUSTERLITZ."

Her excitement had been great, and directly her task was over she
moved away. Suddenly, ere she had gone many yards, she heard a sound
of footsteps behind her.

She turned again sharply, but the darkness was great and she saw
nothing. Crossing herself again, she began to run.

That moment she again heard the footsteps behind her.

She stopped in terror and looked back. The moon gleamed out for an
instant, and she could distinctly perceive a figure, earthly or
unearthly, following close at her back.

A less courageous girl, under the tension of such emotions as Marcelle
had felt that night, would have fainted; indeed, there was not another
woman, and scarcely a man, in Kromlaix who would have ventured alone
at such an hour, as she had done, to the "Pool of the Blood of
Christ." Marcelle was terror-stricken, but she still retained her
senses. Seeing the figure approaching, she fled again.

But the figure was as fleet as she, and she heard its footsteps coming
behind her, nearer and nearer; she ran and ran till her breath failed;
the feet came nearer and nearer, and she could hear a heavy breathing
behind her back.

With a tremendous effort she turned, determined to face her ghostly
pursuer. Close to her, with his face gleaming white in the moon, was a
man, and before she could see him clearly he spoke--in a low voice he
uttered her name.

"Marcelle!"

She knew the voice instantly as that of her lover; yet, strange to
say, though she had longed and prayed for this meeting, she shrank
away, and made no answer. The moon came out brightly and illumined his
figure from head to foot. Head and feet were bare, his form looked
strange and distorted, the hair fell in wild masses about his face. He
loomed before her like a tall phantom, and his voice sounded hollow
and strange.

"Marcelle!--have you forgotten me? Yes, it is I;--and you are afraid!"

"I am not afraid," answered Marcelle, recovering herself; "but you
startled me--I thought it was a ghost."

"I was resting yonder, and I saw you come to the 'Pool of the Blood of
Christ!'"

Marcelle's reply was characteristic.

"You saw me! Then you have broken my charm."

"Not at all," answered Rohan, very coldly. "I do not know your errand,
and I could not see you when you knelt. It is a cold night for you to
be abroad. There, you shiver--hasten home."

He spoke as if there was nothing between them, as if he were any
stranger advising another; his voice rang cold and clear. She answered
in the same tone.

"Hol and Gildas are going to the wars to-morrow, and that is what
brought me here. They will wonder why I stay so long."

She made a movement as if to go. He did not stir a step to follow her.
She turned her face again.

"It is strange to see you here; I thought you were far away. They are
looking for you down there."

Rohan nodded. "I know it."

"There is a watch upon your mother's house day and night, and upon
ours too. There are gendarmes from St. Gurlott in the village, with
Pipriac at their head. There is a paper posted up on the houses, and
your name is upon it; and there is a reward."

"I know that also."

Still so cold and calm. He stood moveless, looking upon her as if upon
the tomb of a lost love. She could not bear it any longer. Casting
away her mad pretence of indifference, she sprang forward and threw
her arms around his neck.

"Rohan! Rohan! why do you speak to me like that?"

He did not resist her, but softly disengaged her arms, as she
continued--

"We did not know what had happened--I have been heart-broken--Gildas
and Hol are going. They are mad against thee, all of them. It is
terrible!"

"But thou!"

The endearing second personal pronoun was in requisition at last.

"And I--my Rohan, I have always been on thy side. They said thou wast
afraid, but I told them they spoke falsely. They are all angry with me
for defending thee. Kiss me, my Rohan! Wilt thou not kiss me?"--and
after his cold lips came down and were quite close to hers, she cried,
"Ah, my Rohan, I knew thou wouldst be wise. It is not too late, and
thou wilt be forgiven if thou but march with the rest. Come down, come
down! Ah, thank God that it is so! Uncle Ewen will intercede, and
Gildas and Hol will shake hands; it will be all well!"

She looked up in his face with passionate confidence and hope, and as
she finished, kissed him again with her warm ripe lips. With those
white arms around his neck, with that fond bosom heaving against his
own, he stood aghast.

"Marcelle, Marcelle!" he cried in a heart-broken voice.

"My Rohan!"

"Do you not understand yet? My God, will you not understand? It is not
that--it is not that I have changed my mind. I cannot come down; I
will never give myself up, alive!"

There were no warm arms around him now. Marcelle had drawn back
amazed.

"Why, then, have you come back to Kromlaix?"

"To see thee! To speak to thee once more, whether I live or die!"

Trembling and crying, Marcelle took both his hands in hers. His were
icy cold.

"Thou wilt come down! For my sake, for thy Marcelle! Ah, do not break
my heart--do not let me hear them call thee coward. And if not for my
sake, for thine own. Thou canst not escape them; they will be after
thee day and night; thou wilt die. Mother of God, Son of God!--yes,
die! My Rohan, the Emperor will be good to thee--come down!"

"And go to the war?"

"What then? Thou wilt come back like Uncle Ewen; all will look up to
thee, and know thee for a brave man."

"And thou?"

"Wilt be thy wife, my Rohan! I swear it, dear. I will love thee, I
will love thee."

"But if I die?"

"Then I will love thee more, and I will wear crepe upon my arm till I
am old, and I will never wed another man. Thou wilt have died, my
brave soldier, fighting for the Emperor. Thou wilt wait for me in
Heaven, and I shall come to thee and kiss thee there."

There was passion enough in her voice, in her words, and in her kiss,
to have swept away like a torrent any common man's resolve. Her tones,
her looks, her living frame, all spoke, all were eloquent in Love's
name, as she clung around him and drew him on. He shook before her
impetuous appeal; his heart rose, his head swam, and his eyes looked
wildly up to the cloudy moonlit heaven; but he was firm.

"Marcelle, it is impossible. I cannot go!"

"Rohan, Rohan!"

He tottered as if overpowered, and held his hand upon his heart. His
whole frame trembled; he seemed no longer a strong man, but a
shivering affrighted creature. Before he knew it he had sunk upon his
knees.

"I cannot go--it is an oath. Farewell!"

She looked at him fixedly, as if to read his very soul. A terrible
thought had flashed upon her.

"Rohan, speak! for God's sake, stand up and speak! Is it true what
they say--that you are afraid?"

He rose to his feet and looked at her strangely.

"Speak, Rohan!"

"Yes, it is true."

"That you are afraid! That you are a--"

"It is all true," he answered. Had it been day she might have seen a
strange smile on his tortured face. "I will not serve the Emperor, I
will not go to war, because--well, because I am afraid?"

He did not explain his fear, for, had he done so, she could not have
comprehended. He continued--

"It is best that you should understand at once, for ever, that I will
never fight as soldiers fight; that is against my heart; and that I am
all, perhaps, that you say. Were it otherwise, Marcelle, I think your
love might tempt me; but I have not the courage to do what you bid me.
There, you are shivering--it is so cold. Hasten home!"

Her heart seemed broken now. Not in anger, not in wrath, did she turn
upon him; she stabbed him with the crueller pain of tears. In those
regions, where physical daring is a man's mightiest dower, a coward is
baser than a worm, fouller than a leper of the old times. And she had
loved a coward!

Had she been wiser in the world, she might have guessed that he who
brands himself with an ill name is not always the fittest to bear it.
But she was not wise, and his own confession, corroborating the
assertion of her kinsmen, appalled her.

Almost unconsciously, still in tears, she was creeping away.

"Marcelle, will you not give me your hand again? Will you not say
good-bye?"

She paused, but said nothing. He seized her hands, and kissed her
softly on either cheek.

"Farewell, Marcelle! Thou canst not understand, and I do not blame
thee; but if evil comes to me, do not think of me in anger. Perhaps
God will be good, and some day you may think better of me. Farewell,
farewell!"

He had turned away sobbing, when she caught him by the arm, crying
passionately--

"They will find thee; they will kill thee--that will be worse! Where
art thou going? Where wilt thou fly?"

"God will help me to a refuge, and I do not think they will find me.
Keep me in thy heart!"

Then he was gone indeed.

An hour after that strange meeting Marcelle was back in the cottage
trying to comfort her mother. It was midnight when Hol and Gildas got
into bed and fell into heavy sleep. They were to rise before dawn. The
Corporal sat by the kitchen-fire, pipe in mouth. He was to remain up
till the hour for summoning his nephews, and then afterwards to see
them a short distance upon the road.

Meantime Rohan Gwenfern was wandering through the darkness like a
dreary spirit of the night. Shaken to the soul by that last interview
with her he held dearest in all the world, yet as resolved as ever in
his despairing resistance against an evil fate in which she seemed
arrayed against him, he flitted to and fro, he scarce knew whither.

The passionate love in his heart fought fiercely against the cold
ideal in his soul. He could feel Marcelle's embraces still; for kisses
less sweet, he knew, many a man would have given his salvation.

He had not slept for two nights and days, during which he had been
creeping back to Kromlaix. The rain was still falling, and with every
shower the night seemed to grow darker. Sick and wearied out, he crept
back to the CROSS, and there, resting his head against the stone,
partially sheltered from the rain by the stone figure above, and
entirely hidden by the weeds and furze which rose above his head, he
fell into a heavy sleep.

And as he slept he dreamed a dream.



Chapter 21. THE DREAM



He seemed, in his dream, to be still lying on the spot where he had
fallen asleep, with his eyes fixed on the crucified figure above him.
All was very dark around and over him; the wind moaned, and the rain
still fell heavily on the ground and plashed drearily into the granite
pool. He lay crouching among the wet weeds and grasses, watching and
listening in fascination for he knew not what.

His heart was beating madly, every pulse in his frame was thrilling;
for he had been startled by a strange movement above him, by a
supernatural sound.

He listened more intently, and this time his ears were startled by a
low moan as of a human mouth. It came again;--and behold, to his
horror and terror, the figure on the Cross was moving its head from
side to side. Not as if in pain, not as if wholly in consciousness,
but as a sleeper moves his head, slowly awakening from a heavy sleep.

The heart of Rohan failed within him, a sense as of death stole over
him. He would have fled, but his limbs refused to obey his will. He
sought to utter a cry, but the sound was frozen in his throat. For a
moment, as it seemed, he became unconscious. When he looked again, the
Cross above was empty, and the figure was standing at the foot.

The rain ceased, the wind grew low, and through parting clouds the
moon looked down. Black against the moonlight loomed the Cross; while
at its foot, glimmering like marble, stood the Christ.

His eyes were open now, gazing straight down at the crouching form of
Rohan; and his arms and limbs moved, and from his lips there came a
breath; and he said in a low voice, "Rise!"

The fascinated body of Rohan obeyed that diviner will, and rose at
once and stood erect; and at that moment Rohan felt all his fear fall
from him, and he gazed up into the Face, but spoke no word. And the
Face stilled the troubled waters of his heart with its beauty, as
moonlight stills the sea. He would fain have fallen again and
worshipped, not in terror now, but in joy.

Then the Christ said, "Follow me!"

As a spirit moves, scarce touching the earth, he descended from the
foot of the Cross, and moved silently along. As a man follows a ghost,
fearful to lose the vision, yet afraid to approach too near, Rohan
followed.

The night was black, but a dim light ran before them on the ground.
Silently they passed along, and swiftly; for it seemed to Rohan, in
his dream, that he moved with no volition of his own, but as if
upborne by invisible hands that helped him on; and the woods and
fields seemed moving by, like clouds drifting before the wind, and the
earth beneath their feet swept past them like a wind-blown sea.

Now conscious, now unconscious, as it seemed, Rohan followed; for at
times his senses seemed flown and his eyes closed; but ever on opening
his eyes he saw the white Christ gliding on before him, pausing ever
and anon to gaze round, with the pallid moonlight on His face, and
with eyes divine to beckon him on.

Time trembles into eternity during sleep--there is no count of mundane
minutes; and Rohan, in his dream, seemed to follow his Guide for hours
and hours and hours. Through the hearts of lonely woods, over the
summits of moonlit hills past spectral rivers gleaming in the moon, by
solitary waters hushed as death, through villages asleep in the green
hollows. Wheresoever they went all slumbered; the eyes of all the
Earth were sealed.

Then they passed through the darkened streets of towns, creeping along
in the house-shadows till they emerged again upon the open moonlit
plains.

At last, passing through the wide paths of a cultivated wood, and
crossing an open space where fountains were leaping, the Figure paused
before a great building with windows of glass gleaming in the moon.
All around it the greensward stretched, and flowers sprang, and
fountains leaped, but it stood very cold and still.

The Figure passed on and stood before the door, uplifting his hand.
The door opened and he entered in, and Rohan followed close behind.

The corridors were dark as death, but the strange shining light that
ran before the Spirit's feet made all things visible within. They
passed through many rooms--some vast and dim, tenanted only by the
solitary moon-ray; others dark and curtained, full of the low
breathing of men or women in sleep--along silent passages where the
wind wailed low at their coming; up ghostly stairs with faces of
antique painting glimmering from the walls, and marble busts and
statues gleaming through the dusk. Nothing stirred, nothing woke;
sleep like moonlight breathed everywhere, trembling amid darkness. And
though their feet fell on hollow corridors and empty floors, their
passing awoke no reverberation; but the doors flew open silently, and
the sleepers did not stir on their pillows; and the only sound was the
low cry of the winds in the silent courts.

Again the dream faded, and Rohan's consciousness seemed to die away.
When the eyes of his soul opened again, he was crouching in the shadow
of a curtained door, and towering erect close to him, drawing back the
curtains with a white hand, stood the Christ, pointing.

Before them, with his back to them, writing busily at a table, sat a
Man. The room in which he wrote was an antechamber, and through the
open door of the inner room could be seen a heavily curtained bed. On
the table stood a lamp, casting down the rays upon the papers before
him, and leaving all the rest of the chamber dim.

It seemed as if all Rohan's heart hungered to see the face of this
Man; but it remained hidden, bent over the table. Hours seemed to
pass; he did not stir.

He was partly undressed for sleep, but though all the world rested, he
still wrote and worked. Rohan's soul sickened. It seemed terrible to
behold that one Form awake and alone, while all the heart of creation
was hushed and still.

Again the dream faded. When Rohan looked once more the room was empty;
but the lamp still burnt on the table, though the shape of the Man was
gone.

He turned his eyes upward and met the divine orbs of his Guide, who
pointed to the table and formed with His lips, rather than uttered
with His breath, this one word, "Read!"

He crossed the chamber, he bent above the table. It was covered with
papers written in a clear hand, but his eyes saw one paper only, on
which the ink was scarcely dry, and it contained only two words, his
own name--"ROHAN GWENFERN."

As he read, in his dream, he felt the confused sick horror of a man
half stunned. He seemed to understand darkly that his name so written
meant something fatal and dreadful, yet he could not sufficiently
grasp the sense of how or why: all he seemed to know was the awfulness
of this one Man, awake when all creation slept, writing that name down
as if for doom; yet for what doom Rohan knew not, any more than he
knew the likeness of the Man. Nevertheless, horror possessed him, and
he fell on his knees, uplooking in the face of his Guide, and dumbly
entreating help from some calamity he could not understand. But during
a sudden flash of consciousness the Christ had passed into the inner
chamber, and had drawn back the heavy curtain of the bed therein; and
lo! Rohan saw clearly, as if in moonlight, the face of the Man, though
it was now calm in sleep. He crept forward hungering on the face; and
he knew it. White as marble, with closed cold lids and lips still firm
in rest; a stony face--such as he had often pictured it waking, such
as he had seen on coins and medals of metal, and in rude pictures hung
on cottage walls;--the face of the great Emperor.

And the Emperor slept so soundly, that not even his breathing could be
heard in the chamber; for as Rohan crept closer, with fascinated eyes,
the lineaments of the face grew more fixed in their marble pallor, so
that Rohan thought in his dream, "He does not sleep, but is dead." And
one hand on the coverlet looked liked marble too: a white hand like a
woman's, a small hand clenched like a sleeping child's.

In that moment of wonder he turned his eyes, and found himself alone.

The figure of the Christ had disappeared. The lamp still burned in the
outer chamber, but more dimly. He was alone by the bed of the great
Emperor, watching, and shivering from head to foot.

Strangely enough, the supernatural presence had been a source of
strength. No sooner had it disappeared than an awful sense of terror
and helplessness possessed him, and he would have flown; but he could
not move--he could not turn his eyes away. To be there alone with the
terrible Master of his life--to be crouching there and seeing the
Emperor lying as if dead--was too much for his soul to bear; he
struggled and struggled in despair and dread, and at last in the agony
of his dream, he uttered a wild cry. The Emperor did not stir, but in
a moment the cry was answered from distant rooms--there was a sound of
voices, a tramp of feet, a rushing to and fro; he tried again to fly,
but was still helpless, as the feet came nearer and nearer; and while
the doors of the ante-chamber were burst open, and a haggard light of
cruel faces came in, and soldiers rushed upon him with flashing swords
to take his life, he swooned away--and woke.

He was lying where he had cast himself down, among the great weeds at
the Cross's foot; the dawn was just breaking, and the air was very
cold, and the stone Christ hung above him, drooping its heavy head,
wet with the long night's rain.

He was about to rise to his feet and crawl away to some securer
shelter, when a sound of voices broke upon his ears, and a tramp of
coming feet. Then he remembered how near he was to the highway, and
casting himself flat down among the weeds, he lay hidden and still.

The feet came nearer; the voices were singing a familiar song:

"Le matin quand je m'veille.

Je vois mon Empereur,--

Il est doux  merveille

Rohan shivered as he lay hidden, for he distinctly recognised the
voices of Hol and Gildas Derval. There was a pause on the road, a
sudden silence; then another voice, in the unmistakable tones of the
old Corporal, cried, "Forward!"

The tramp of feet began again, the voices renewed their singing. All
passed close by the Cross, but down in the hollow of the road. Rohan
did not stir till every sound of foot or voice had died. The
conscripts of Kromlaix, escorted out of the village by many of their
friends and fellow villagers, were on their way by dawn to join the
armies of the Emperor on the banks of the far-off Rhine.



Chapter 22. MIKEL GRALLON



From that day forth, for many days and weeks, the fate of Rohan
Gwenfern remained unknown. Search was made for him high and low, his
name was proclaimed through every village for many miles around,
blood-money was offered for his apprehension alive or dead--but all
without avail. The last occasion on which he had been publicly seen
was on that memorable night of the Conscription, when he made his
appeal to Father Rolland--whose opinion, by the way, was emphatically
to the effect that Rohan had committed suicide. Only one person
perhaps knew better, and that was Marcelle Derval. Not one word did
she breathe, however, of the meeting under the Cross on the night
before the departure of the conscripts.

On this subject of Rohan the Corporal was adamant, and he lost no
opportunity of uttering his denunciations. Marcelle no longer
protested, for she felt that all was over, since Rohan was either mad
or worse than mad; and when Uncle Ewen averred that, while all the
other conscripts of Kromlaix were good men and true, Rohan Gwenfern
was a wretch and a coward, she could not utter one word in answer--for
had not Rohan confessed with his own lips that he was afraid, and had
she not seen in his face with her own eyes the sick horror a physical
coward must feel?

It was terrible to think of--it was worse even than death itself! Her
passion had fed itself upon his glorious manhood, on his mighty
physical strength and beauty, on the power and dignity of his nature,
and even on his prowess in games of skill and courage; she had exulted
in him and gloried in him as even feeble women exult and glory in what
is strong; and now! It was almost inconceivable to think that he was
of despicable fibre even as compared with Hol, who she knew was
timid, and Gildas, who she confessed to herself was stupid. All that
leonine look had meant nothing, after all! Even a cripple on a crutch,
if beckoned by the Emperor, would have behaved more nobly. Better, she
thought, a thousand times better, that Rohan had fallen from the
dizziest crag of Kromlaix, and been mourned as a true man, and
remembered by all the youth of these shores as "over brave."

Yet frequently, as these thoughts passed through her fiery brain,
Marcelle felt her own conscience pleading against her; for never until
that last meeting had she felt so strongly the distance of Rohan's
soul from her own, and never since had she failed to say to herself at
times, "Perhaps I do not understand." Something in the looks, the
words, made her feel, as she had often felt before, the influence of a
strong moral nature asserting itself steadfastly and fearlessly, yet
most lovingly, against her prejudice and her ignorance. And this
feeling awoke fear and re-created love, for it reclothed Rohan in the
strength that women seek.

She could better bear to think him wicked and mad--to look upon him as
a fierce enemy of her convictions, and of the great Imperial cause--
than to conceive him a coward pure and simple. If the sure conviction
of that had lasted for one whole day, we verily believe that
Marcelle's love would have turned to repulsion, that her hand would
almost have been ready to strike her lover down.

Well, coward or chouan, or both, he had disappeared, and if he lived,
which many doubted, no man knew where he was hiding. The nose of
Sergeant Pipriac, reddened with brandy but keen as an old hound's,
could find no scent of the fox in or out of the village. A hundred
spies were ready to claim the reward, but no opportunity came. At last
the cur's private suspicions spread into general certainty, and it
was everywhere averred that Rohan Gwenfern had made away with himself,
either by leaping from one of the high cliffs, or by drowning himself
in the sea. As weeks passed by and no traces of the fugitive were
found, even Marcelle began to fear the worst, and her silent
reproaches died away in a nameless dread.

But she had her mother to comfort--the work of the house to do--the
Fountain to visit--and none of her hours were idle. Had she been able
to sit like a lady of romance, with her hands folded before her and
her eyes fixed in a dream, her woe would have consumed her utterly;
but as it was she was saved by work. Never too sadly introspective,
she now looked out upon her pain like a courageous creature. Though
her cheek was pale and her eye often dim, her step upon the ground was
firm as ever. Her heart and lips were silent of their grief. Only when
she stole down to Mother Gwenfern to whisper of Rohan, or when she
placed her poor weeping head in the lap of Guineveve, did the trouble
of her soul find relief.

An irritating but salutary distraction came at this period in the
conduct of Mikel Grallon. Grallon, whom she had more than once
suspected of an attachment for herself, began now to show unmistakable
indications of a settled design. True, all he did was to drop in of a
night and smoke with the Corporal, to bring little presents of fresh
fish to the widow, and to listen humbly hour after hour to the
Corporal's stories; but Marcelle, well skilled in the sociology of
Kromlaix, knew well that such conduct meant mischief; or in other
words matrimony. It was not etiquette in Kromlaix for a bachelor to
address himself directly to the maiden of his selection; that was the
last stage of courtship, the preliminaries consisting of civilities to
the elders of the house, a very prosaic account of his own worldly
possessions, and a close inquiry into the amount of the bride's dower.
Now, Grallon was a flourishing man, belonging to a flourishing family.
He was the captain of a boat of his own, and he reaped the harvest of
the sea with no common skill. His morals were unexceptionable, though
morals of course were a minor matter, and he was in all other respects
an eligible match.

He was not a pleasant person, however, this Mikel Grallon. His thin
tight lips, his small keen eyes, his narrow forehead and eyebrows
closely set together, indicated a peculiar and acquisitive character;
his head, set on broad shoulders, was too small for symmetry; and
though his bright weather-beaten cheek betokened health and strength,
he lacked the open expression of less sophisticated fisher-men. His
features, indeed, resembled folded leaves rather than an open flower;
for the wind, which blows into open bloom the faces of so many men who
sail the sea, had only shut these lineaments tighter together, so that
no look whatever of the hidden soul shone directly out of them. He
went about with a smile--the smile of secrecy, and of satisfaction
that his secrets were so well kept.

The great characteristic of the man was his silent pertinacity. In
whatever he did, he spared no pains to insure success; and when he had
set his heart upon an object, the peregrine in its pursuit was not
more steady.

And so when he began to "woo," Marcelle at once took the alarm; and
although his "wooing" consisted only of a visit two or three nights a
week, during which he scarcely exchanged a word with herself she knew
well what his visits portended. Every evening, when he dropped in, she
tried to make some excuse for leaving the house, and when she was
constrained to stay she moved about in feverish malaise; for the man's
two steadfast eyes watched her with a dumb fascination, and with an
admiration there was no mistaking.

Jannick, who saw how matters stood, found a good butt for his jests in
Grallon, and was not altogether to be subdued even by gifts of new
ribbons for the biniou. He loved to tease Marcelle on the subject of
the fisherman's passion.

Strange to say, he no longer met with the fiery indignation which had
often before been the reward of his impertinence.

Marcelle neither replied nor heeded, only her cheek went a little
paler, her lip quivered a little more. A weight was upon her heart, a
horrible fear and despair. She was listening for a voice out of the
sea or from the grave, and even in her sleep she listened, but the
voice never came.



Chapter 23. CORPORAL DERVAL GALLOPS HIS HOBBY



Corporal Derval was smoking rapidly, his face flushed all over to the
crimson of a cock's comb, his black eyes burning, the pulses beating
in his temples like a roll of drums, and his thoughts far away. As the
grey smoke rolled before his eyes it became like the smoke of cannon,
and through its mist he saw--not the interior of his Breton home, with
the faces of the astonished group around him--but a visionary battle-
plain, where a familiar figure, in weather-beaten hat and grey
overcoat, sat, with a heavy head sunk deep between his shoulders,
watching the fight from his saddle with the stony calmness of an
equestrian statue.

The voice of the little cur, who was sitting at the fireside, called
him back to the common day.

"Corporal Derval!"

The Corporal started, drew his pipe out of his mouth, and straightened
himself to "attention." So doing, he became again conscious of his
surroundings. A bright fire burnt upon the hearth, and the door was
carefully closed,--for a wild cold wind was blowing. Mother Derval was
spinning in a corner, and near her, sewing, sat Marcelle. Toasting his
little fat toes by the fire sat the cur, smoking also, with his
throat-band loosened, and a glass of corn brandy at his elbow. Alain
and Jannick--the remnant of the Maccabee,--were seated in various
attitudes about the chamber; and leaning against the wall, not far
from Marcelle, in his fisherman's costume, and with complexion
coloured a light tobacco brown by constant exposure on the sea, was
Mikel Grallon.

Though the season was early summer, they were holding a sort of
veille, or fireside gathering, and the old Corporal, as usual, had
been enacting Sir Oracle. The little cur had drawn his pipe from his
mouth, and was shrugging his shoulders in protestation.

"But see, my Corporal, his treatment of our Holy Father himself, the
Pope of Rome!"

The Corporal knitted his brows and puffed vigorously again. All looked
at him as if curious to hear his reply, the mother with a little
doubtful sigh.

The Corporal was soon prepared.

"Pardon me, m'sieu le cur, you do not understand. All that is an
arrangement between the Emperor and the Holy Father! There are some
who say the Emperor threw His Holiness into a dungeon, and fed him on
bread and water. Fools--His Holiness dwelt in a palace, and fed off
silver and gold, and was honoured as a saint. Do not mistake, m'sieu
le cur; the Emperor is not profane. He fears God. Do I not know it, I
who speak? Have I not seen with my own eyes, heard with my own ears?
He is God-fearing, the Emperor; and he is sent by God to be the
scourge of the enemies of France."

Mikel Grallon nodded approval.

"Right, Uncle Ewen!" he exclaimed: "he has made them dance, those
Germans and those English!"

The Corporal, without turning his head, continued to address the cur,
who was sipping his brandy with the air of a man convinced against his
will and of his own opinion still. But the priest, good fellow! had
few strong convictions of any kind, and hated polemics, especially at
the fireside; so he contradicted no longer.

"You do not know it, you others," pursued the veteran; "but it is a
grand thing to look on a man like that--to look upon him--to talk with
him--to feel his breath about you!"

"As you have done, Corporal!" said the priest approvingly.

Marcelle looked at her uncle with a bright smile of admiration. Every
other eye was upon him.

"As I have done!" said the veteran proudly, and with no shame in his
pride. "Yes, I who stand here! I have been with him face to face,
looking in his eyes, as I do now in yours, Father Rolland! First at
Cismone, then twice again. I can see him now; I can hear his voice as
plain as I hear yours. Sometimes I hear it sleeping, and I leap up and
feel for my gun, and look up, fancying I see the stars above me out
over the open camp. I think if he came and spoke again like that above
me, I should waken in my grave."

His voice sank very low now, and his keen eye, sheathed like an
eagle's half asleep, looked softly on the fire. The turf was bright
crimson, and as it shifted and changed he saw in it forms moving and
faces flushing, like some spectral army passing in a dream.

There was a pause. Presently, to relieve the excitement of his
feelings, the Corporal took from the fire a bright "coal" of turf,
and, puffing vigorously, applied it to the bowl of his pipe, which had
gone out.

Clearing his throat and thinning with his plump little hand the cloud
of smoke which he himself was blowing, the cur spoke again--

"Corporal Derval!"

The veteran, still smoking, turned his eye quietly on the speaker, and
listened attentively.

"How many years ago was that little affair of Cismone?"

The Corporal's black eyes blazed, and a delighted smile overspread his
grim features. Pausing deliberately, he set his pipe down upon the
little chimney-piece, close to a tiny china altar and several china
casts of the Saints; next, leaning forward, he carefully poked the
fire with his wooden leg; and finally, turning round again to the
priest, knitting his brows as if engaged in abstruse calculation, and
rubbing his hands hard together, he replied in a voice that might have
been heard by a whole regiment--

"It was the night of the seventeenth of September, in the year
seventeen hundred and ninety-six."

If the words had been a spell, the company could not have looked more
thrilled and awed. To be quite candid, we must admit that the
announcement was a familiar one, and had been made, with its
accompanying veracious narrative, in the same spot and in the same way
many and many a night before. But some stories are ever new, and this
was one of them. Uncle Ewen's delicious assumption that he was
retailing a novelty, the never-failing murmurs of pleased incredulity
and astonishment for which he waited at every important turn in the
incidents, the enthusiasm of the speaker and the rapt attention of all
present, made the occasion always illustrious. Those who knew Uncle
Ewen and had not heard his anecdote of Cismone knew him but little--
had indeed never been invited to the confidences of his warlike bosom.
Every one present that night had heard it a dozen times, yet each one
present--with the exception, perhaps, of Mikel Grallon, who looked a
little bored, and kept his eyes amorously fixed on Marcelle--seemed
eager to hear it again.

Alain Derval listened with gloomy interest, but the face of Jannick
was bright and cheerful; for he, of course, had no dread of the
Conscription, which was still overshadowing the heart of his grown-up
brother. The mother ceased her spinning. The little cur nodded his
head, like a water-wagtail standing on the ground. Marcelle dropped
her sewing into her lap, and gazed, with a look of eager emotion and
expectation, at her uncle.

The grenadier, full of that rarest of all emotions--the pride of a
prophet who is reverenced in his own country--continued clearly, and
as he spoke the figures around him again and again faded, and his eye
searched the distance in a sort of waking dream.

"We left Trent on the sixteenth, Father Rolland;--it was in the grey
of the dawn. It was a long march, ten leagues of infernal country; a
forced move, you see. In the evening we reached a village,--the name I
have forgotten, but a quaint little village on a hill. That night we
were so weary that we could not have kept awake, only the word had run
along the lines that the Emperor--oh, he was only a general then!--
that General Bonaparte was with us. Well, we knew that it was true,
for we could feel him, we could swear that he was near. In the
hospitals, father, the doctor goes from bed to bed, touches the
pulses--so!--and says, 'Here is fever--here is health--here is death.'
As he comes, the wounded look up and brighten; as he goes, they sink
back and groan. All the wards feel him far off--every heart beats
quicker at his coming, and slower at his going. Well, that is the way
with the army; its pulses were beating all along the lines you would
say, 'The General is coming--he is near--he is here--he is gone--he is
ten leagues away!'"

He paused for breath, and Mother Derval heaved a heavy sigh. Poor
heart! she was not thinking of the Emperor, but of her two great sons,
already with the army. The Corporal heard a sigh, and hurried on--

"The moon was still up when we marched again in the morning. We were
in three columns like three big winds of the equinox, and we rushed
down on the Austrians, who were strongly posted at Primolano. My God,
but we caught them napping--we cut our way into them. Mikel Grallon,
you have seen a boat run down?--Smash! that was the style. Our cavalry
cut off the retreat, and thousands laid down their arms. That would
have been enough for an ordinary general, but the Little Corporal was
not content. Forward! he gave the word. Wurniser was at Bassano, and
Mezaros was marching on Verona. We pushed on at bayonet point till we
reached Cismone. It was night, and we were tired out; so when we got
the word to halt, it was welcome news."

Here Uncle Ewen suited the action to the word, and halted again. The
priest nodded approvingly through his cloud of smoke.

"Now, I had a comrade in those days--a tall fellow, with a cast in his
eye, but as good as gold--and his name was Jacques Monier, and he was
born inland on the Rhone. We were like brothers; we shared bite and
sup, and many a night lay in each other's arms for warmth. Well, on
that night of the seventeenth, Jacques was lying with his feet to the
fire we had kindled on the bare ground, and I had gone to find water.
When I returned Jacques was standing on his feet, holding in his hand
half a loaf of black bread, and beside him, in the light of the fire,
stood--whom, think you?--the General himself. He was splashed from
head to foot with mud and rain--he looked like any common soldier--but
I knew him at once. He was warming his hands over the fire, and
Jacques was saying, as he held out the loaf, 'Take it all, my
General!' As I saw that, I looked into the General's face, and it was
white as death with hunger. Think of that; it is true, for I who tell
you know what hunger is."

A murmur of amazement ran round the room; not that the fact was new,
but that such an expression of feeling was appropriate.

"Did the Emperor take the half loaf?" asked Father Rolland.

"'Take it all,' said Jacques; 'half a loaf is not much.' Well, you
should have seen the General smile. He did not answer, but he took the
bread into his hands, and broke off a morsel and began to eat, handing
Jacques back the rest. Then came my turn! I held in my hand the little
tin pot half full of water, and I emptied into it a little brandy that
I had saved in my flask, and I handed the pot to the General. Here it
is--the same--I keep it still as a souvenir."

So saying, he detached from a hook over the fire the canteen, which
Father Rolland examined over and over, and under and under, in honest
admiration.

"Drink, my General,' said I, saluting. Ah, I had courage in those
days! He drank, and when he tasted the brandy he smiled again! Then he
asked us our names, and we told him. Then he looked hard at us over
and over again, wrapped his cloak around him, and went away. So
Jacques and I sat down by the fire, and finished the bread and the
brandy and water, and talked of the Emperor till we fell to sleep."

"That was an adventure worth having!" observed the cur. "And the
General remembered you for that service, no doubt?"

The Corporal nodded.

"The General remembers everything," he replied. "Nine years afterwards
he had not forgotten!"

"Nine years!" ejaculated the cur. "It was a long time to wait,
Corporal. Did he give you no reward?"

Uncle Ewen turned rather red, but answered promptly--

"What reward would you give for a crust of bread and a drop of brandy,
which any one would give to the beggar at his door? Besides, the
General had more to think of; and it all passed like a dream. Not that
we missed our reward at last. When the time came he remembered well."

"That is certain," said Mikel Grallon, who had often heard the story.

"Tell Father Rolland," cried Marcelle; "he does not know."

The Corporal hesitated, smiling.

"Yes, yes, let us hear all about it!" cried Father Rolland.

"It was in the year 1805, at the camp of Boulogne. Great changes had
taken place, the Little Corporal had been declared hereditary Emperor
of France, but Jacques Monier and I were still in the ranks. We
thought the General had forgotten all about us, and what wonder if he
had, seeing how busy he had been knocking off the crowns of your
Kings? The grand army was there, and we of the grenadiers were to the
front. That day of the coronation was fixed for a general distribution
of crosses and medals. Such a day! The mist was coming in from the sea
like smoke from a cannon's mouth. On the rising ground above the town
was a throne--the great iron chair of the mighty King Dagobert; and
all below the throne were the camps of the great armies, and right
before the throne was the sea. When the Emperor sat down on the
throne, our cry was enough to make the sky fall--vive 1' Empereur!--
you would have said it was the waves of the sea roaring. But look you,
at that very moment the smoke of the sea parted, and the sun glanced
out:--you would have said because he waved his hand! Ah, God! such a
waving of banners, glittering of bayonets, flashing of swords. Such a
sight is seen but once in a lifetime; I should have to talk all night
to tell you a tenth of the wonders of that day. But I am going to tell
you what happened to Jacques Monier and myself. When the Emperor was
passing by--we were in the front ranks, you observe--he stopped short,
like this / Then he took a huge pinch of snuff from his waistcoat
pocket, with his head on one side, like this, studying our faces; and
then his face lighted up, and he came quite near. This is what he
said--ah, that I could give you his voice!--'Come, I have not
forgotten Cismone, nor the taste of that black bread and brandy and
water.' Then he turned laughingly and spoke rapidly to Marshal Ney,
who stood close by him; and Ney laughed, and showed his white teeth,
looking in our direction. Well, then, the great Emperor turned to us,
and gave us each the Cross from his own hand, and saluted us as
Corporals. I will tell you this--my eyes were dim--I could have cried
like a girl; but before we could know whether we stood on our heads or
our feet, he was gone!"

Corporal Derval brushed his sleeve across his eyes, which were dim
again with the very memory of that interview and its accompanying
honours. He stooped over the fire and fidgeted with his little finger
in the bowl of his pipe, while a subdued murmur ran round the
apartment.

"The Emperor has a good head to remember," observed the little cur.
"I have been told that a good shepherd can tell the faces of every one
of his flock, but this is more wonderful still. How long, do you say,
had elapsed after Cismone, before you met again?"

"Nine years," answered the Corporal.

"Nine years!" repeated the cur. "And in those nine years, my
Corporal, what battles, what thoughts, what confusion of faces!--how
much to do, how much to think of! Ah, he is a great man! And was that
the last time," he added, after a short pause, "that your eyes beheld
him?"

"I saw him once more," said the Corporal, "only once."

"And then?"

"It was only a month or two later--the first day of December. It was
the eve of the glorious battle of Austerlitz."

A thrill ran through the assembly at the mention of the magic name.
The Corporal lifted his head erect, and looked absolutely Napoleonic
as he towered above his hearers. The cur started. Mother Derval
heaved a heavy sigh, and glanced at the Corporal's wooden leg. Alain
and Jannick grew serious. Mikel Grallon gazed curiously at Marcelle,
whose pale face wore a strange smile.

The Corporal proceeded--

"We were crouched, seventy or eighty thousand of us, watching and
waiting, when some one remembered that just a year ago that night the
Little Corporal had been crowned Emperor. The word ran round. We
gathered sticks and bundles of straw for joy-fires, and set them
blazing to the tune of vive l'Empereur. It was pitch-dark, but our
fires were crimson. In the middle of it all I saw him riding past The
cry ran along the camps like flame, but he passed by like a ghost, his
head sunk down between his shoulders, his eyes looking neither to the
left nor right. He rode a white horse, and Jacques said he looked like
the white Death riding to devour the Russians! Poor Jacques! He got
his last furlough next day, and I, my marshal's baton!"

So saying, the veteran struck out his wooden leg, and regarded it with
a look half plaintive, half comic. The irreverent Jannick giggled--not
at the joke, which was a too familiar one.

"And you never saw him again," said the cur; "that was the last
time."

The Corporal nodded his head slowly and repeatedly, in the manner of a
"Chinese mandarin" at a tea-dealer's door. He was about to speak
again, when the door was suddenly dashed open, and Sergeant Pipriac,
followed by four or five gendarmes, rushed into the room.



Chapter 24. "A TERRIBLE DEATH"



Sergeant Pipriac was ghastly pale, and in the midst of his face shone
with baleful light his bright Bardolphian nose, while his one eye
glared horribly, like the eye of a Cyclops. His voice shook, partly
with deep potations, partly with nervous agitation, and his legs flew
this way and that with frantic excitement. His men were pale too, but
much less moved.

"Soul of a crow!" cried the Corporal, "what is the matter?"

The cur rose from his seat by the fire.

"One would say," he exclaimed, "that the good Sergeant had seen a
ghost!"

Sergeant Pipriac glared at the Corporal, then at the cur, then all
round the room, until he at last found voice.

"And one would say rightly!" he gasped. "Malediction! one would not be
far wrong. Look how I shake still,--I, Pipriac, who would not fear the
devil himself. A glass of water, mother,--for as I live, I choke."

The Corporal stumped over to the table and poured out a little glass
of brandy.

"Take that, comrade," he said, with a nod; "it is better than water.
And now," he continued, when Pipriac had swallowed the liquor, "what
is all this about? and who is this that you have seen?"

"I will tell you," said Pipriac, wiping his brow with a great cotton
pocket-handkerchief brilliantly ornamented with a portrait of Marshal
Ney on his war steed. "What have I seen? A thousand devils! Well, I
have seen your own infernal chouan of a nephew!"

"Rohan?" ejaculated the Corporal in a voice of thunder, while the
women started up in terror and horror, and the little cur lifted his
hands in astonishment.

"Yes, Rohan Gwenfern--the man or the man's ghost, it is equal. Is
there ever a soul here can swear to the man's clothes, for, look you,
we have nigh stripped him clean? An eel may slip from his skin, they
say well, so can he of whom I speak. Pierre! Andre! who has the
plunder?"

The last words were addressed to his gendarmes, one of whom now stood
forward carrying a peasant's jacket, and another a broad-brimmed
peasant's hat.

"If a ghost can wear clothes, these belong to him. Well, it is all the
same now; he will never need them more."

The articles of attire were passed from hand to hand, but there was
nothing to distinguish them specially as the property of the fugitive.
The coat was torn down the back, as if in a severe scuffle.

Sinking into a seat by the fire, Pipriac sat until he had recovered
breath, a consummation not to be achieved until he drank another glass
of his favourite stimulant. Then he said grimly, looking at the
Corporal--

"His blood be on his own head. It is no fault of mine." The fierce
frown which the Corporal's face had worn at the mention of Rohan's
name had relaxed. He was about to speak, when Marcelle, white as
death, came between him and Pipriac.

"What do you mean?" she cried. "You have not--"

Without completing the sentence, she cast at the bayonets of the
gendarmes a look of horror that could not be mistaken. Pipriac shook
his head.

"It is not that," he answered. "Old Pipriac is bad, but not so bad as
that, my dear. Malediction! is he not his father's son, and were not
Raoul Gwenfern and Pen Pipriac comrades together? By the body of the
Emperor, I have not hurt a hair of the villain's head."

"Thank God!" cried the little cur. "Then he has escaped."

Pipriac screwed up his eye into something very like a significant
wink, meant to be sympathetic, but only succeeding in being horrible.

"I will tell you all about it," he said; "you and the Corporal and all
here. You know, we had given him up as dead; we had searched heaven
and earth and hell for him without avail; there seemed no place left
for him but the bottom of the sea. Well, you may guess it was on quite
different business I was prowling about to-night with my men; but that
is neither here nor there: we were coming along by the great stone up
yonder--returning from a visit we had made to a little farm where
there is good brandy"--here Pipriac winked diabolically again--"when
we saw close to us in the moonlight, with his back to us, a man. I
knew him in a moment, though I could not see his face; but I will tell
you frankly this--when he turned round and looked at us I thought it
was his ghost, for I had really believed him dead. Poor devil, he
looked thin and lean as a spectre, and white as death, in the moon.
Corporal, it was your nephew, Rohan Gwenfern."

"He is no nephew of mine," growled the veteran, but his voice
trembled.

"I don't know how it happened, but we were upon him in a moment--I,
Andr, Pierre, and the others. Andr was the only one that got a hold;
he shook off the rest like so many mice. Before we knew it he was
twenty yards away, dragging Andr with him towards the edge of the
cliff. Diable! it was like a lion of Algiers carrying off a man. Andr
had dropped his gun, and his hat had fallen off and he was screaming
to us to help him: the deserter could not shake him off. We fixed our
bayonets, and after him we went."

In the excitement of his narrative, Sergeant Pipriac had risen to his
feet, and he was now surrounded by all the eager circle of hearers.
Marcelle clung to her uncle's arm and listened with cheeks like
marble, her large eyes fixed on the speaker's face.

"'No violence,' I shrieked out; 'a thousand devils, take him alive!'
When we seized him again, we were not ten yards from the edge of the
great crag--you know it--it is like a wall. The tide was in, high
spring tide, and the water was black far down below. We fell upon him,
all six of us, and soon had him down; it took all our strength, I can
tell you. Well, we had him safe and he could not stir."

"Bravo!" said Mikel Grallon.

"It is all very well to cry 'Bravo!'" said the irascible Sergeant,
"but let me tell you the devil himself could not hold him! He lay for
a minute quite still, and then he began to wriggle. You are a
fisherman, and have tried to hold a conger eel; well, it was like
that. Before we knew what he was about, he had wriggled almost to the
very edge of the cliff!"

A low cry from Marcelle; a nervous movement among the men. Then
Pipriac continued--

"We were six to one, I say, but for all that we could not stop him. I
held on like Death, with my two hands twisted in his jacket; the
others gripped his arms and legs. But when I saw what he was about--
when I heard the black sea roaring right under us--my heart went cold.
I saw there was but one way, and I loosened one hand and seized the
bayonet from Andr; it was unscrewed, and held in his hand ready to
stab. Then I shrieked out, 'A thousand devils, keep still, or I shall
bleed you!' He looked up at me with his white face, and set his teeth
together. In a moment he had rolled round on his belly, slipped
himself out of his jacket, torn himself loose, and was on the very
edge of the crag. Heaven, you should have been there! The loose earth
on the edge broke beneath his feet; we all stood back, not daring to
venture another step, and before we could draw a breath he was gone
down."

A loud wail came from the mouth of Mother Derval, mingled with prayers
and sobs, and the widow sank on her knees terror-stricken. But
Marcelle still stood firm, frozen, motionless. The old Corporal looked
pale and conscience-stricken; while the little cur lifted up his
hands crying--

"Horrible! Down the precipice?"

"Right over," exclaimed Pipriac. "It was a horrible moment; all was
pitch-dark below, and we could see nothing. But we listened, and we
heard a sound below us--faint, like the smashing of an egg."

"Did he speak? Did he scream?" cried several voices.

"Not he--he had no breath left in him for that; he went down to his
death as straight as a stone, and if he escaped the rocks he was
drowned in the sea. Corporal Derval, don't say it was any fault of old
Pipriac's! I wanted to save him, damn him! but he wouldn't be saved.
In the scuffle I touched him; but that was an accident, and I wanted
to keep him from his death. Hither with the jacket, Pierre--show it to
Corporal Derval and the company!"

The gendarme called Pierre held up the jacket, while the Sergeant
proceeded--"There is a cut here, through the right sleeve--it is
gashed right through; and the left sleeve is wet, see you: that is
where I hurt him in the struggle."

"God help us!" cried the cur, horror-stricken. "My poor Rohan!"

"Bah! Why did he not give in, then?" growled Pipriac. "But let no man
say it was old Pipriac that killed him. He was bent on murdering
himself, and perhaps some of us--that, I tell you, was his game. For
all that, I am sorry I wounded him. This upon the jacket must be
blood. Andr, let me see thy bayonet."

The gendarme called Andr stepped forward, and held up his glittering
weapon, now fixed upon his gun.

"Holy Virgin, look there!" cried Pipriac. "Yes, it is blood!"

All crowded round looking upon the weapon, all save the Widow Derval,
who still kept upon her knees and wailed to God in the low monotonous
fashion of mourning women in Brittany.

"Yes, it is blood!" said one voice and another.

Among the faces that concentrated their gaze on the sight was that of
Marcelle. The girl still stood firm, her lips set together, her eyes
wide open in horrid fascination. She could see the shining blade
glittering in the light--then the dark red stains glimmering upon it--
but even then she did not swoon.

"It is the last you will see of Rohan Gwenfern in this world," said
Pipriac, after a pause. "Yes, it is blood, and no mistake!"

So saying, he wetted his forefinger with his lips and drew it
deliberately down the bayonet's blade; then he held his finger tip to
the light, and showed it moist and red.

A murmur of horror ran round the room, while Marcelle, without
uttering a sound, dropped down as if dead upon the floor.

Early the next morning, when it was morte mer, or dead low water, a
crowd of villagers gathered right under the enormous crag on the
summit of which stood the colossal Menhir. Looking up, they saw a
precipitous wall of conglomerate and granite, only accessible to the
feet of a goat, which was feeding far up on scanty herbage, and moving
cautiously along the minute crevices of stone. It was Jannedik, with
whose form the reader is already familiar. Looking down from time to
time from her dizzy eminence, she inspected the chattering throng
below, and then proceeded leisurely with her refreshment.

Right at the foot of the crag lay fragments of loose earth and rock,
recently detached from above, but of the body of Rohan Gwenfern there
was no trace. At high water, however, the tide washed right up against
the foot of the crag, and the waters there were swift and deep; so the
presumption seemed to be that Rohan, after falling prone into the sea,
had been washed away with the ebb.

Pipriac and his satellites, accompanied by Corporal Derval, inspected
every nook and cranny of the shore, poked with stick and bayonet into
every place likely and unlikely, swore infinitely, and did their duty
altogether to their own satisfaction. The women gathered in knots and
wailed. The villagers, with Mikel Grallon and Alain and Jannick
Derval, gaped, speculated, and talked in monosyllables. Several boats
were busy searching out on the sea, which was dead calm.

Sustained by the unusual courage of her temperament, Marcelle came
down, with all her hidden agony in her heart and her face tortured
with tearless grief. Since she had swooned the night before, and never
before had she so lost consciousness, for she was of no "fainting"
breed--she had wept very little, and uttered scarcely a word. Too
great a horror was still upon her, and she could not yet realize the
extent of her woe. She had scarcely even breathed a prayer.

The decision of the men assembled was unanimous. Rohan must have been
killed by the fall before he reached the sea; on reaching it, his body
had in all probability sunk, and then been sucked by slow degrees out
into the deep water. There was very little chance of finding it for
some days; and, indeed, it might never rise to the surface or be
recovered at all.

"And between ourselves," said Pipriac, winking grimly, "he is as well
where he is, down there, as buried up yonder with a bullet in his
heart. He would have been shot, you see, and he knew that. Don't say
old Pipriac killed him, however--it was no fault of mine; but duty is
duty after all!"

Mikel Grallon, to whom these remarks were addressed, quite concurred.
Honest Mikel was indefatigable in all respects--both in aiding the
general search, and in convincing Marcelle that her cousin could by no
possibility have escaped. He was if anything a little too zealous,
and, taking into consideration the nature of the catastrophe which had
just occurred, several degrees too buoyant in his spirits.

Leaving the crowd at the foot of the crag, Marcelle walked slowly
along the shore in the direction of Mother Gwenfern's cottage. The sun
was shining on the sea, and in her own sweet face, but she was
conscious of nothing save a heavy load upon her heart. Lifting the
cottage latch, she entered in, and found the widow seated in her usual
upright attitude before the fire, her grey face rigid and tearless,
her lips set tight together. Standing close to the fire was Jn Goron,
who was speaking in a low voice as she appeared, but grew silent as
she entered in.

It was very strange, but the widow showed no sign of absolutely
overwhelming grief; her face rather betokened an intense resolve and
despair. The news of the extraordinary catastrophe had not struck her
to the ground; perhaps its very horror upheld her for the time being.

Silent as a ghost, Marcelle crossed the room, and sat down before the
fire.

"There is no hope," she said in a low voice; "it is all as they said,
Aunt Loz."

No wail came from the lips of the widow, only a deep shivering sigh.
Goron, whose whole manner betokened intense nervous agitation, looked
keenly at Marcelle, and said--

"I was there this morning before them all; I could not find a trace.
It is a terrible death."



Chapter 25. THE JUNE FESTIVAL--AN APPARITION



A month had passed since that memorable night of the struggle on the
cliffs, and it was the morning of the June Festival. The sea-pink was
blooming, the lavender was in flower, the corn had thrust its green
fingers from the sweet-soiled earth, and the fields behind the crag
were fragrant with the breath of thyme. Heaven was a golden dome, the
sea was a glassy mirror, the earth was a living form with a beating
heart. In that season to live at all was pleasant, but to live and be
young was paradise.

There was a green dell in the meadows behind the cliffs, and in this
green dell were the ruins of a dolmen, and to this dolmen they flocked
from Kromlaix, with music and singing, happy as shepherds in the
golden climes of Arcady. Young men, maidens, and children came
gathering merrily together; for here in Kromlaix the usual Breton
custom, which excludes from the festival young people under the age of
sixteen, was never enforced, and indeed scarcely known. The only
members of the population rigorously excluded were the married of both
sexes. The feast was the feast of youth and virginity, and no sooner
did a man or maid pass the portal of Hymen than his or her festal days
were over for ever.

Every youth that could play an instrument was in requisition. Alain
Derval was there with a new black flute bought lately in St. Gurlott,
and Jannick was to the fore with his biniou; but besides these there
were half a dozen other binious, and innumerable whistles both of tin
and wood; and, to crown all, the larks of the air, maddened with
rivalry, sang their wildest and loudest overhead. Around the ruined
dolmen, clad in all colours of the rainbow, were groups of sunburnt
girls and lads; some romping and rolling, some gathering cowslips and
twining daisy-chains, some running and shouting, while voices babbled
and the medley of music rose. In the broad hat of every man or lad was
a blade of corn, and on the breast of every girl was a flower of flax,
with or without an accompaniment of wild heath and flowers.

Presently, approaching these groups from the direction of Kromlaix
came a little procession, such as might have been seen of old during
the Thalysia, and sung in Divine numbers by Theocritus. A flock of
little children ran first, their voices singing, their hands full of
flowers; and behind them came a group of young men, bearing on their
arms a kind of rustic chair, in which, with her lap full of buttercups
and flowers of flax, sat Guineveve. By her side, laughing and talking
and flourishing his stick, trotted Father Rolland, as eager as any
there.

Strange to say, his presence scarcely disturbed the idyllic and
antique beauty of the picture; for his black coat was scarcely
noticeable in the gleam of colours surrounding him, and he carried his
hat in his hand, and his round face was brown as a satyr's, and he was
joining with all his lungs and throat in the choric song. The little
cur was no killjoy, and he had enough Greek spirit in his veins to
forget for the nonce that skulls were ever shaven or sackcloth and
ashes ever worn.

It was, however, an almost unprecedented thing to behold Father
Rolland at such a gathering. The feast was of Pagan origin,
discountenanced in many parishes, especially by priests of the new
Napoleonic dispensation, and Father Rolland, although he was not bigot
enough to interfere with the innocent happiness of the day, had never
before been present on such an occasion. His coming was not altogether
unexpected, however, and he was greeted on every side with a pastoral
welcome.

Corning close up to the Druidic stone of the dolmen, the men set down
their burthen, while Father Rolland stood by, wiping his brow with a
silk pocket-handkerchief. Then Jn Goron, who had been one of the
bearers, lifted Guineveve in his arms and placed her on a knoll among
a group of girls, who greeted her by name and made room for her beside
them. The eyes of Guineveve were sparkling brightly, and she spoke
rapidly to her comrades in Brezonec;--it was something amusing, for
they all laughed and clapped their hands.

At that moment, however, Father Rolland raised his hand. The music and
laughter ceased, every face was turned one way, and all became quite
still: only the larks kept singing overhead in a very ecstasy of
triumph at having (as they imagined) beaten and silenced all other
competitors.

Father Rolland's face was very grave. Every face around him suddenly
grew grave too.

"Boys and girls," he said in Brezonec, "do you know what has brought
me here? You cannot guess--so I will tell you. It is simple enough and
very sad. It is right for you to make merry, mes garz, because you are
young, and because there will be a good harvest; but it is also right
to remember the dead." Here the little cur crossed himself rapidly,
and all the other members of the gathering crossed themselves too.
"Sad events have taken place since last you gathered here; many have
been taken away by the Conscription, some have died and been buried,
and some are sick; but it is not of any of those that I want to speak,
but of the poor garz who was your patron last year, and who is now--
ah, God where is he now? Let us hope at the feet of holy St. Gildas
himself and of the blessed Virgin!"

Again, automatically, they made the sign of the cross, even little
children joining. Some looked sad, others careless and indifferent,
but all knew the little cur spoke of Rohan Gwenfern. It was the
custom every year for the young people to choose among themselves a
sort of king and queen, who led the sports and reigned for the day,
and last year Rohan had been king and Marcelle had been queen--or, to
translate the dialect of the country, "patron" and "patroness."

"I am not going to praise or blame him who is gone; he was foolish,
perhaps, and wrong; though for all that he came of a fine family, and
was a pleasure to look at for strength. Well, he is dead, and there is
an end--peace to his soul! Now that you are so merry, don't forget him
altogether, nor poor Marcelle Derval, who was his patroness last year,
and is too heart-broken, I am sure, to join you to-day."

Here the little cur was greeted with a loud murmur from all his
hearers, and all heads were turned, looking away from him. Then, to
his amaze, he saw Marcelle herself rise up and approach him. She wore
no mourning but a saffron hood; her dress was dark and unadorned, and
her face was pallid and subdued.

"I am here, Father Rolland," she said, as she met his eye.

"Blessed saints!" ejaculated the cur. "Well, my child, thou art right
to cast off care; it is courageous, and I am pleased."

Nevertheless the priest looked very serious. In his own heart he
thought Marcelle rather unfeeling, and would have been better
satisfied to hear that she had stayed away.

"I did not think of coming at first," she said, approaching close,
"but Guineveve begged me, and at last I consented. It is for
Guineveve's sake I came, and for Jn Goron's. My cousin Rohan is not
here to-day, and will never be here again, but I know what would have
been his wish. He would have wished Jn Goron to be patron, and
Guineveve to be patroness; and that is my wish, too."

There was a moment's silence, then came a loud crying and clapping of
hands. "Yes, yes!" cried the groups of men and girls, only a few
dissentient voices crying, "No, no!" But the affair had been settled
long before, and that was why Goron had escorted Guineveve thither.

"The blessings of the saints be upon you, Marcelle Derval," said the
cur, "for you have a kind heart; though, for that matter, Guineveve
is a girl in a thousand. Well boys and girls, is that your choice?"

The answer was unmistakable, the consent almost unanimous. And
already, seated on a knoll in the midst of a garland of girls,
Guineveve was enjoying her sovereignty with supreme and perfect
happiness, light in her face, joy in her heart, flowers on her breast
and in her lap; while Goron, clad brightly as a bridegroom, stood over
her, looking down into her eyes with perfect admiration and love.

Marcelle saw it all--the bright, the happy smiling faces--and her
thoughts went back to last year, when she and Rohan, then almost
unconscious of passion, were merrymaking in the same place. Her cheek
grew whiter, and for a moment all she saw went dim. Then she thought
to herself, "No one must know! I will creep away as soon as I can, for
it all seems dreadful now Rohan is dead."

After a few more words, Father Rolland lifted up his hands to
pronounce a blessing; and all knelt down on the grass around him in
silence as he prayed. It was done in a minute, and before they could
all rise up again the priest was trotting away back to the village.
The pipes and binious struck up again, sports and rompings began, all
voices chattered at once like the voices of innumerable birds, and
great grew the fun of the feast.

It was the custom for the new patron and patroness to lead off the
gavotte, or country dance; so Goron led out Guineveve, and the dance
began. One after another couple joined, all uniting hand in hand, till
they formed one long chain of shining, glancing bodies, leaping,
crying, intertwining, interturning, performing the most extraordinary
steps with heel and toe, till the eyes grew dizzy to look at them.

"Marcelle, will you not dance?" said a voice in her ear.

She was standing looking on like one in a dream when she heard the
voice, and she did not turn round, for the tones were familiar.

"I shall not dance to-day, Mikel Grallon."

"That is a pity," said Mikel quietly, for he was too shrewd to show
his annoyance. "One turn--come!"

"No, I am going home."

"Going home, and the sport has only just commenced! But you will try
your charm on the love-stone before you go?"

It was the custom on that day for every single woman to leave a flower
of flax, and every single man a blade of corn, on the stone of the
dolmen. So long as flower and blade keep their freshness the hearts of
their depositors are faithful; if they wither before the week is out,
all will go wrong. So Marcelle answered--

"I have brought no posy, and I shall try no charm. It is all foolish,
and I shall not stay."

And truly, in a little time she had slipped away from the company,
whose merry laughter sounded in the distance behind her, and was
hastening heart-broken homeward. She walked fast, for she was trying
in vain to shake off Mikel Grallon, who followed close to her, talking
volubly.

"You shall not soil your fingers or carry a load--no, not even a drop
of water from the Fountain; and I shall take you sometimes to Brest to
visit my uncle who keeps the cabaret, and you shall have shoes and new
gowns from Nantes. And if the good God sends us children, one of the
boys shall be made a priest."

This was plain speaking for a wooer, but Marcelle was not shocked. The
height of a Breton mother's ambition is to have a son in the
priesthood, and Marcelle was by no means insensible to the promise,
especially as she knew that the speaker had means enough to carry it
out.

"I shall never marry," she replied vaguely.

"Nonsense, Marcelle! The good Corporal and thy mother wish it, and I
will take you without a dower. It is yourself that I wish, for I have
enough of my own. I have set my heart upon it... You should see the
great press of linen my mother has prepared for the home-coming: soft
as silk and white as snow--it would do your heart good, it smells so
kindly."

Marcelle glanced at him sidelong, almost angrily.

"I have told you twenty times that I will not have you. If you speak
to me of it again, I shall hate you, Mikel Grallon."

Mikel scowled--he could not help it; his brows were knitted
involuntarily, and an ugly light shot out of his eyes. He took a false
step, and lost his temper.

"I know why you treat me so. You are thinking of that chouan of a
cousin!"

Marcelle turned upon him suddenly.

"If he was a chouan, you are worse. He is dead--his soul is with God:
and it is like you to speak of him so."

Mikel saw his blunder, and hastened to retrieve it, if possible.

"Do not be angry, for I did not mean it. Rohan Gwenfern was a good
fellow; but, look you, he is dead--besides you were cousins, and the
Bishop might not have been willing. 'Drowned man can't marry dry
maid,' says the proverb. Look you again, Rohan was poor; my little
finger is worth more silver than his whole body. I am a warm man, I,
though I say it that should not."

More he uttered in similar strain, but all to the same effect. At last
he left her and returned to the gathering, angry with himself, with
her, with all creation. For her last words to him were, as she passed
down into the village. "Go back and choose a better; I shall never
marry but one man, and that man is lying dead at the bottom of the
sea."

That night a singular circumstance occurred, which was remembered for
many a long year afterwards by the superstitious in Kromlaix. A party
of fishermen, returning home late after lobster trawling, and rowing
on the glassy sea close under the shadow of the gigantic cliffs,
suddenly beheld an apparition.

There was no moon, and, although it was summer-tide, a black veil
covered the sky. Under the cliff-shadow all was black and still, save
for the solemn crying of the unseen birds and the moaning of the sea
on rock and sand. There was not a breath of wind, and the men were
rowing wearily home, with sails furled and masts lowered, when their
eyes were dazzled by a sudden ray of brilliance streaming out of the
Gate of the Cathedral of St Gildas.

Now, as we have seen before, the Cathedral was well known to be
haunted, and there was scarcely one man in Kromlaix who would have
entered it, sailing or afoot, after sunset. On the present occasion it
was high water, and the Cathedral was floored with the liquid
malachite of the sea.

Abreast of the Gate before they perceived the light, they raised their
terrified eyes and looked in, each man crossing himself and murmuring
a prayer, for the very spot was perilous. In a moment they were
petrified by fear,--for the vast Cathedral was illuminated, and high
up on the mossy altar stood a gigantic figure holding a torch of
crimson fire! The light illumed the face of the cliff behind him, save
where his colossal shade trembled, reaching up to heaven. His shape
was dark and distorted, his face almost indistinguishable, but every
man who gazed, when he came to compare his impression with that of his
companions, agreed that the apparition was that of the blessed St.
Gildas.

The view was only momentary, but before it ceased another terror was
added. Crouched at the feet of the Saint was a dark figure, only the
head of which was perceptible, and this head, ornamented with hideous
horns and with eyes of horrible lustre, was gazing up awe-stricken in
the face of Gildas. The men covered their eyes in horror, and uttered
a low cry of terror. Instantly the light was extinguished, the figures
vanished, and the whole Cathedral was in pitch darkness. Sick,
horrified, praying, and half swooning, the fishermen rowed madly away.

They had seen enough; for in that moment of horror they had not only
perceived the terrible Saint so near to God, but had recognised in the
figure at his feet, which was doubtless doing some dreadful penance
for iniquities to mankind, the horrid lineaments of the EVIL ONE
himself!



Chapter 26. MIKEL GRALLON MAKES A DISCOVERY



The day after the miraculous vision on the Cathedral of St. Gildas all
Kromlaix was ringing with the tale. No one questioned for a moment the
veracity of the eye-witnesses; indeed, everybody was only too ready to
accept without question anything supernatural, and the present account
possessed every attraction the most superstitious individual could
desire. There might have been a certain commonplace about the
appearance of the Saint himself--he had often been seen revisiting the
glimpses of the moon; but he had never before, within the memory of
the oldest inhabitant, been beheld actually in the company of "Master
Roberd," the horned one of Satanic fame. Success emboldens the most
timid tale-teller, and the eye-witnesses, finding their hearers ready
to accept any and every embellishment, gave full liberty to their
superstitious imaginations.

"He had two great eyes, each as red as a boat lantern," said one of
these worthies, an aged fisherman; "and they looked up in the blessed
Saint's face all bloodshot and glittering--one flash of them would
have withered up a mortal man; but the blessed Saint held up his torch
and made him go through his confession like any good Christian word
after word."

The speaker was lying on the shingle surrounded by a group of men and
boys, among whom was Mikel Grallon.

"Made him go through his confession?" echoed one of the group.

"How do you know that, old Evran? You could not hear?"

The first speaker nodded his head sagaciously.

"Ask Penmarch! question Gwesklen! They were there. For my own part, I
believe 'Master Roberd' was repeating the blessed Litany, and God
knows he would rather burn for a hundred hundred years than be made to
do so. One thing is certain--here stood the blessed Saint, and there
knelt the Black One; and every one knows that is the sort of penance
the Saint puts upon him whenever he catches him on holy ground."

A murmur of wonder went round. Then Mikel Grallon said, knitting his
brows heavily--

"It is strange enough. A torch in his hand, you said?"

"A torch. A great wild light like a comet, Mikel Grallon. It made us
nearly blind to look."

"And the Saint--you saw him quite plain?"

"Am I blind, Mikel Grallon? There he stood: you would have said it was
an angel from heaven. Gwesklen says he had great wings; for my own
part, I did not see the wings, but I will tell you what I did see--the
devil's feet, and they were great cloven hoofs, horrible to behold."

There was a long pause. Presently Mikel Grallon muttered, as if
communing to himself--

"Suppose, after all, it had been a man!"

The old fisherman stared at Grallon with prolonged and stupefied
amazement.

"A man!" he echoed. "Holy saints keep us, a man!"

The others repeated the words after him, staring at Grallon as if he
had been guilty of some horrible blasphemy.

"A man in the Cathedral of St. Gildas at dead of night!" he exclaimed,
with a contemptuous laugh. "A man as tall as a tree, shining like
moonlight, and with wings, with wings! A man teaching 'Master Roberd'
his confession! Mikel Grallon, art thou mad?"

Grallon was in a minority. Less grossly superstitious than many of his
fellow-villagers, and disposed to inquire in his own rude manner into
matters they took on hearsay, he was regarded by a goodly number of
his neighbours as officious and impertinent. For all that, he bore the
character of a pious man, and did not care to lose it.

"Oh, I say nothing!" he observed. "Such things have been, and the
Cathedral is a dreadful place. But is it not strange that the Saint
should carry a light?"

"Strange?" grunted the fisherman. "And what is strange in that, Mikel
Grallon? Was it not black-dark with never a peep of moon or star, and
how should the blessed Saint see his way without a torch of fire to
light him? Strange--ugh! It would have been strange if the blessed one
had been standing there with 'Master Roberd' in the dark, like a
miserable mortal man."

This answer was so conclusive that not another word was possible; and,
indeed, Mikel Grallon seemed to think he had committed a blunder in
making so very absurd a suggestion. This was decidedly the opinion of
his hearers, for as Grallon walked away into the village, leaving the
group behind him, the old salt observed, shrugging his shoulders--

"Mikel Grallon used to be a sensible man; but he is in love, you see,
and perhaps that is why he talks like a fool."

Here, doubtless, the weather-wise worthy was at fault, for Mikel
Grallon was no fool; he was only a very suspicious man, who never took
anything for granted, always excepting, of course, the dogmas of that
religion wherein he had been born and bred. Physically, he was timid;
intellectually, he was bold. Had he been one of the original witnesses
of the vision in the Cathedral, he would possibly have shared the
terror of his comrades to the full, and brought away as exaggerated a
narrative; but receiving the account coolly in the broad light of day,
reading it in the light of recent events, weighing it in the scales of
his judgment against his knowledge of the folly and stupidity of those
who brought it, he had--almost involuntarily, for with such men
suspicion is rather an instinct than a process of thought--come to a
conclusion startlingly at variance with the conclusions of the general
populace. What that conclusion was remains to be seen; meantime, he
kept it carefully to himself. His time was fully occupied in
prosecuting his suit with Marcelle Derval.

Now, he had not exaggerated in the least when he had said that that
suit had been favourably heard by the heads of the Derval household.
By means of innumerable little attentions, not the least of which lay
in his power of listening without apparent weariness to tales that
were repeated over and over again, and which had invariably the same
Imperial centre of interest, he had quite succeeded in winning the
heart of the Corporal; while in the eyes of Mother Derval he was a
low-spoken, pious person, of excellent family, well able to maintain a
wife, and well worthy of a virtuous girl's esteem. As to Alain and
Jannick, he found in them tolerable allies so long as he plied them--
particularly the wicked humourist Jannick--with little presents such
as youths love. He might, therefore, be said with justice to be
already an approved suitor in the eyes of the whole family.

Had Marcelle been a girl of a different stamp, more submissive and
less headstrong, the betrothal would have been as good as concluded.
Unfortunately for the suit, however, the chief party concerned was
resolute in resistance, and they knew her character too well to use
harsh measures.

The etiquette for a Kromlaix maiden under such circumstances was to
take unhesitatingly the good or bad fortune which her guardians
selected for her, to leave all the preliminaries in their hands, and
only at the last moment to come forward and behold the object of the
family choice. Marcelle, however, had a way of following her own
inclinations, and was not likely to alter her habits when choosing a
husband.

Just then the very thought of love was terrible to her. No sooner did
she feel assured that Rohan was dead, than all her old passion sprang
up twentyfold, and she began to bathe the bitter basil-pot of memory
with secret and nightly tears. She forgot all his revolt, all his
outrage against the Emperor; nay, the Emperor himself was forgotten in
the sudden inspiration of her new and passionate grief. "I have killed
him!" she cried to herself again and again. "Had I not drawn the fatal
number he might be living yet; but he is dead, and I have killed him;
and would that I might die too!"

In this mood she assumed mourning--a saffron coif; dress of a dark and
sombre dye: there were young widows in the place who did not wear so
much. Nor did she now conceal from any one the secret of her loss.
"Tell them all, mother; I do not care. I loved my cousin Rohan; I
shall love him till I die."

In due time, of course, this travelled to the ears of Mikel Grallon.

Strange to say, honest Mikel, so far from persisting under the
circumstances, delicately withdrew into the background, and ceased to
thrust his attentions on Marcelle. This conduct was so singular in a
being so pertinacious that it even awakened amazement in the Corporal.

"Soul of a crow!" he said, "have you no courage? She sees you too
little--let her know that you mean to win. Girls' hearts are taken by
storm; but you have not the spirit of a fly."

Mikel Grallon sighed.

"It is no use, Uncle Ewen. She is thinking too much of one that is
dead."

Corporal Derval scowled, but replied not; he knew well to whom Grallon
was referring, and having latterly thought more tenderly and pityingly
of his unfortunate nephew, not without certain sharp twinges of the
conscience, he did not care to discuss the subject. Under any other
circumstances he would have been savage with Marcelle for having
formed her secret attachment to her cousin but the bloodhounds of the
Conscription had been unleashed, and the man, his own flesh and blood,
had been hunted down to death,--and now, after all, silence was best.
It cannot be denied that at this period the Corporal showed an
uneasiness under fire unworthy of such a veteran. He who would have
cheerfully led a forlorn hope, or marched up to the very jaws of a
cannon, now fidgeted uneasily in his chimney corner whenever the great
silent eyes of his niece were quietly fixed upon him. He felt guilty,
awkward, almost cowardly, and was glad even of Mikel Grallon to keep
him company.

But, as we have already hinted, Grallon's attentions began to fall off
rapidly soon after that memorable vision of the fishermen at the Gate
of St. Gildas. You would have said, observing him closely, that the
man was the victim of some tormenting grief. He became secret and
mysterious in his ways, fond of solitude, more than ever reticent in
his speech; his days were often passed in solitary rambles among the
cliffs, his nights in lonely sails upon the sea; and from the cliffs
he brought no burthen of weed or samphire, from the sea no fish. He,
naturally a busy man, became preternaturally idle. There could
scarcely be found a finer example, to all appearance, of melancholia
induced by unsuccessful love.

It was one wet day, during one of his long rambles, that, suddenly
approaching the Ladder of St. Triffine, he found himself face to face
with a woman who leant upon a staff and carried a basket. She was very
pale, and breathing hard from the ascent, but when she encountered him
her lips went quite blue and a dull colour came into her cheeks.

"What, Mother Gwenfern!" he exclaimed; "you are the last woman one
would have thought of meeting in such weather. Shall I carry your
basket for you? You must be tired."

As he held out his hand to take her burthen from her, she drew back
shivering. A thick misty rain was falling, and her cloak was dripping
wet.

"God's mercy, mother! you are pale as death--you have caught fever,
perhaps, and will be ill."

As he spoke, he watched her with a look of extraordinary penetration,
which strongly contradicted the simplicity of his manner. She had been
struggling all this time for breath, and at last she found her speech.

"I have been gathering dulse. You are right, Mikel; it is a long
journey, and I should not have come so far."

"It is not good for old limbs to be so fatigued," replied Grallon
simply; "at your age, mother, you should rest. Look you, that is what
all the neighbours say is strange."

"What is strange?" asked the woman sharply.

"A little while ago you were for ever sitting by the fire or busy in
the cottage; not even on a holiday did you cross the door; and we all
thought it was your sickness and were sorry. Yet since you have lost
your son--amen to his soul!--you are never content at home; you are
for ever wandering up and down as if you could not rest in peace."

"That is true," exclaimed Mother Gwenfern, looking at him fixedly with
her cold scared eyes; "I cannot rest since"--she paused a moment
shivering--"since they killed my boy."

"Ah, yes," said Grallon, forcing into his face a look of sympathy.
"But, mother, in such weather!"

"When one has a broken heart, wind and rain cannot make it better or
worse. Good day, Mikel Grallon."

As the tall figure of the old woman disappeared in the direction of
the village, Grallon watched it with a strange and cunning look. When
it was quite invisible, he quietly descended the Ladder to the sea-
shore, walked quickly along the beach, and came as close as possible
to the Cathedral: but the tide was too high for a passage round to the
Gate. So he stood on the water's edge, like one in profound
meditation; then, as if an idea had suddenly occurred to him, he began
curiously to examine the shingly shore.

He soon came upon traces of human feet, just where the retiring tide
left the shingle still dark and wet; the heavy marks of wooden shoes
were numerous and unmistakable--Mother Gwenfern had been wandering to
and fro on the water's edge. All at once Grallon stooped eagerly down
over a patch of sand, soft as wax to take any impression left upon it;
and there, clear and unmistakable, was the print of a naked human
foot.

With a patient curiosity worthy of some investigator of natural
science, some short-sighted ponderer over "common objects of the sea-
shore," Mikel Grallon examined this footprint in every possible way
and light--spanned and measured it lengthways and across, stooped down
close over it with an extraordinary fascination. Not the immortal
Crusoe, discovering his strange footprint on the savage shore, was
more curious. Having completed his examination, Mikel Grallon smiled.

It was not a nice smile, that of Mikel Grallon; rather the smile of
Reynard the Fox or Peeping Tom of Coventry--the smile of some sly and
cruel creature when some other weaker creature lies at its mercy,
though mercy it has none. With this smile upon his face, Mikel
reascended the steps and returned quietly and peacefully to his
virtuous home.

From that day forth his conduct became more peculiar than ever; his
monomania so possessing him that he neglected proper sustenance and
lost his natural rest. Curiously enough, he had now so great a
fascination for Mother Gwenfern's cottage that he kept it all day in
his sight, and when night came was not far from the door. It thus
happened that the widow, whenever she crossed her threshold, was
almost certain to encounter honest Mikel, who followed her
persistently with expressions of sympathy and offers of service; so
that, to escape his company, she would return again into her cottage,
looking wearied out and pale as death.

And whenever he slept, some other pair of eyes was on the watch; for
he had a confidant, some nature silent as his own.

Whatever thought was in his mind it never got abroad. Like one that
prepares a hidden powder mine, carefully laying the train for some
terrible explosion, he occupied himself night and day, hugging his
secret--if secret he had--to his bosom, with the characteristic
vulpine smile. Whenever he found himself in the company of Marcelle,
this vulpine look was exchanged for one of pensive condolence, as if
he knew her sorrow and sympathised--under gentle protest, however--
with its cause.

A little later on, Mikel Grallon had another adventure which, however
trifling in itself, interested him exceedingly, and led at last to
eventful consequences.

He was moving one evening along the cliffs, not far from the scene of
the fatal struggle between Rohan Gwenfern and the gendarmes, and he
was very stealthily observing the green tract between him and the
village, when he suddenly became aware of a figure moving close by him
and towards the verge of the crags. Now, it had grown quite late, and
the moon had not yet risen, but there was light enough in the summer
twilight to discern a shape with its face turned upon his and moving
backward like a ghost. For a moment his heart failed him, for he was
superstitious; but recovering himself, he sprang forward to accost the
shape. Too late; it had disappeared, as if over the very face of the
cliff--as if straight down to the terrible spot where the traces of
death had been found some weeks before.

Strange to say, this time also, but not until he had recovered from
the first nervous shock of the meeting, Mikel Grallon smiled.

After that, his watchings and wanderings grew more numerous than ever,
and his reputation as a confirmed night-bird spread far and wide. "I
will tell you this," said one gossip to another; "Mikel Grallon has
something on his mind, and he is thinking far too much of the old
Corporal's niece." Even the announcement of the arrival of the
mackerel did not alter him; for, instead of taking his seat as captain
of his own boat, he put another man in his place, and received only
his one share as owner of the boat. He had the air of a man for ever
on the watch--a contraband air, as of one ever expecting to surprise
or be surprised.

At last, one day, final and complete success having crowned his
endeavours, he walked quietly into the Corporal's kitchen, where the
family was gathered at the midday meal, and said in a low voice, after
passing the usual salutations--

"I bring news. Rohan Gwenfern is not dead: he is hiding in the
Cathedral of St. Gildas."



Chapter 27. THE HUE AND CRY



Alain and Jannick were out at the fishing, and the only members of the
family present were the Corporal, Mother Derval, and Marcelle. The
Corporal fell back in his chair aghast, gazing wildly at Mikel; Mother
Derval, accustomed to surprises, only dropped her arms by her side and
uttered a deep moan; but Marcelle, springing up, with characteristic
presence of mind ran to the door, which had been left wide open, and
locked it quickly--then, returning white as death, with her large eyes
fixed on Mikel, she murmured--

"Speak low, Mikel Grallon! for the love of God, speak low."

"It is true," said Grallon in a thick whisper; "he lives, and I have
discovered it by the merest chance. True, I have suspected it for a
long time, but now I know it for a certainty."

"Holy Mother, protect us!" cried the widow. "Rohan--alive!"

By this time the Corporal had recovered from his stupor and advancing
on Grallon before Marcelle could utter another word, he exclaimed--

"Are you drunk, Mikel Grallon, or are you come here sober to outrage
us with a lie? Soul of a crow! take care or you will see me angry, and
then we shall quarrel in good earnest, mon garz."

"Speak lower!" said Marcelle, with her hand upon her uncle's arm. "If
the neighbours should hear!"

"What I say is the truth," responded Mikel, looking very white round
the edges of his lips; "and I sware by the blessed bones of St Gildas
himself that Rohan is alive. I know his hiding-place, and I have seen
him with my own eyes."

"His spirit perhaps!" groaned the widow. "Ah, God! he died a violent
death, and his poor spirit cannot rest."

Mikel Grallon cast a contemptuous look in the widow's direction, and
faintly shrugged his shoulders.

"I am not one of those who go about seeing ghosts, mother; and I know
the difference between spirits of air and men of flesh and blood. Go
to! This is gospel that I am telling you, and Rohan is hiding in the
great Cathedral, as I said."

"In the Cathedral!" echoed the Corporal.

"There, or close at hand; of that I am certain. I have tracked him
thrice, and thrice he has disappeared into the Cathedral; but I was
alone, see you, and I did not care to follow too close, for he is
desperate. I should have put my hand upon him once, but he walks the
cliffs like a goat, and he went where I could not follow."

The news, though thus quietly announced, fell like a thunderbolt on
the hearth of the Corporal, and perfect consternation followed. As for
Uncle Ewen, he was completely overpowered, for the announcement of his
nephew's death had been pleasant compared with the announcement that
he was not dead at all; since to be alive was still to be in open arms
against the Emperor, to be still a miserable "deserter," worthy the
contempt and hate of all good patriots; to be, last and worst, a
doomed man, who might be seized and shot like a dog at any moment.
Uncle Ewen was horror-stricken. Of late he had been conscience-twinged
on account of Rohan, and had secretly reproached himself for undue
harshness and severity; and in his own stern way he had thought very
softly of the gentle dead, so that more than once his rough sleeve had
been brushed across his wet eyes; but now to hear all at once that his
sorrow had been wasted, and that the spectre of family shame was still
haunting the village, was simply overwhelming.

Marcelle, for her part, rose to the occasion instead of sinking under
it. She was one of those unique women who feel rather than think, and
whose feeling at once assumes the form of rapid action. With her eyes
so steadily and questioningly fixed on his face that Grallon became
quite tremulous and uncomfortable, she seemed occupied for a brief
space in reading the honest man's very soul; but speedily satisfying
herself that she had completely mastered that not very abstruse
problem, she said with decision--

"Tell the truth, Mikel Grallon! Have you spoken of this to any other
living soul?"

Mikel stammered and looked confused; he replied, however, in the
negative.

"If you have not spoken, then remember--his life is in your hands,
and, if he is discovered through you, his blood will be upon your
head, and the just God will punish you."

Mikel stammered again, saying--

"Others may have also seen him; nay, I have heard Pipriac himself say
that he suspects! Look you, you must not blame me if he is found, for
other men have eyes as well as I. Ever since that night of the vision
in the Cathedral, they have been on the watch; for it is clear now
that it was not the blessed Saint at all, but a mortal man, Rohan
Gwenfern himself."

This was said with such manifest confusion and hesitation, and
accompanied with so guilty a lowering of the vulpine eyes, that
Marcelle leaped at once to a conclusion fatal to honest Mikel's
honour. She fixed her gaze again upon him, so searchingly and so
terribly, that he began bitterly to reproach himself for having
brought his information in person at all. The truth is, he had
expected a wrathful explosion on the part of the Corporal, and had
calculated, under cover of that explosion, on playing the part of an
innocent and sympathetic friend of the family; but finding that all
looked at him with suspicion and horror, as on one who had conjured up
some terrible phantom, and who was responsible for all the
consequences of the fact he had announced, he lost courage and
betrayed too clearly that his conduct had not been altogether
disinterested.

At last Uncle Ewen began to find his tongue.

"But it is incredible!" he exclaimed. "Out there among the cliffs,
with no one to bear him food, a man would starve!"

"One would think so," said Grallon; "but I have seen his mother
wandering thither with her basket, and the basket, be sure, was never
empty. Then Rohan was not like others; he is well used to living out
among the sea-birds and the rock-pigeons. At all events, there he is,
and the next thing to ask is, What is to be done?"

The Corporal did not reply; but Marcelle, now pale as death, drew from
her breast a small cross of black bog oak, and holding it out to
Mikel, said, still with her large eyes fixed on his--

"Will you swear upon the Blessed Cross, Mikel Grallon, that you have
kept the secret?"

Mikel looked amazed, even hurt, at the suggestion.

"Have I not just discovered it, and to whom should I speak? If you
wish it, I will swear!"

Providence, however, had not arranged that Mikel Grallon was to commit
formal perjury; for at that moment some one was heard fingering the
latch, and when the door did not open there came a succession of heavy
knocks.

"Open!" cried a voice.

Even the Corpora! went pale, while the mother sank on her knees close
to the spinning-wheel in the corner, and Marcelle held her hand upon
her heart.

"Holy Virgin! who can it be?" whispered Marcelle.

"Perhaps it is only one of the neighbours," responded Mikel, who
nevertheless looked as startled as the rest.

"Open!" said the voice; and heavy blows on the door followed.

"Who is there?" cried Marcelle, running over to the door with her hand
upon the key.

"In the name of the Emperor!" was the reply.

She threw open the door, and in ran Pipriac, armed, and followed by a
file of gendarmes with fixed bayonets. His Bardolphian nose was purple
with excitement, his little eye was twinkling fiercely, his short legs
were quivering and stamping on the ground.

"Tous les diables!" he cried, "why is your door locked at mid-day, I
ask you, you who are honest people? Do you not see I am in haste?
Where is Corporal Derval?"

"Here," answered the old man, straightening himself to "attention,"
but trembling with excitement.

"It is strange news I bring you--news that will make you jump in your
skins; I cannot linger, but I was passing the door, and I thought you
would like to hear. Ah, Mother Derval, good morrow!--Ah, Mikel
Grallon! I have a message for you; you must come with us and have some
talk."

"What is the matter, comrade?" asked the Corporal in a husky voice.

"This--the dead has risen; ha, ha! what think you of that?--the dead
has risen! It is more wonderful than you can conceive, comrade, and
you will not know whether to be sorry or glad; but your nephew, the
deserter, is not killed,--corbleu, he is like a cat or an eel, and I
defy you to kill him! Well, he is alive, and that is why we are here
again!"

During this little scene Marcelle had scarcely once taken her eyes off
Mikel Grallon, who showed more and more traces of confusion; but now
she advanced to the Sergeant and said in a voice low, yet quick with
agony--

"How do you know he is alive? Have you seen him with your eyes!"

"Not I," answered Pipriac; "but others have seen, and it is on their
information I come. Malediction! how the girl stares! She's as pale as
a ghost."

"Marcelle!" cried the widow, still upon her knees.

But Marcelle paid no heed; white as a marble woman, she gazed in the
irascible face of the little Sergeant.

"You have had information!" she echoed in the same low voice.

"Tous les diables! yes. Is that so strange? Some honest rascal"--here
the Sergeant glanced rapidly at Mikel Grallon--"has seen the poor
devil in his hiding-place, and has sent us word. If you ask me who has
informed, I answer--That is our business; though he were the fiend
himself he will get the reward. Don't blame old Pipriac for doing his
duty, that is all. It is no fault of mine, comrades. But I must not
linger--Right about face, march!--and, Mikel Grallon, a word with
you."

The gendarmes filed out of the cottage, and Pipriac, with a fierce nod
to the assembled company, followed. Mikel Grallon was quietly crossing
over to the door, when Marcelle intercepted him.

"Stay, Mikel Grallon!"

The fisherman stood still, not meeting the angry eyes of the girl, but
glancing nervously at the Corporal, who had sunk into a chair and was
holding his hand to his head as if in stupor.

"I understand all now, Mikel Grallon," said Marcelle in a clear voice,
"and you cannot deceive me any more. Go! You are an ingrate--you are a
wretch--you are not fit to live."

Mikel, thus addressed, even by the woman he professed to love, gave
the snarl of all low curs in extremity, and showed his teeth with a
malicious expression, but he quailed before the eyes that were burning
upon him.

"You have watched night and day, you have hunted him down, and you
will have the blood-money when he is found.--Yes, you have betrayed
him, and you have come here to deceive my uncle with a lie, that your
wickedness might not be known. God will punish you!--may it be soon!"

"It is false!" cried Mikel, scowling wildly.

"It is you that are false; false to my uncle, to my poor cousin, to
me. I always hated you, Mikel Grallon, but now I would like to be your
death. If I were a man I would kill you! Go!"

With a fierce look and an angry shrug of the shoulders the man passed
out, quite cowed by the looks and gestures of the angry girl. It was
characteristic of Marcelle that she could bear great agony in silence
and in reticence, but that she could not bear the storm of her own
passionate nature when once it rose. As Mikel disappeared, she uttered
a wild cry, threw her arms up in the air, and then, for the second
time in her life, swooned suddenly away.



Chapter 28. ON THE CLIFFS



Out there among the cliffs, midway between the top of the precipice
above and the wave-washed rocks below, a man is crouching, so still,
so moveless, he seems a portion of the crag.

It is one of those dark summer afternoons, when the heavens are misted
with their own breath, and a cold blue-grey broods upon the sea, and
there is no stir at all, either of sunshine, or wind, or wave. The
roar of the sea can be heard miles away inland; all is so very still;
and there is something startling in the shrill minute-cry of the great
blue-backed gull, as it sails slowly along the water's edge, predatory
as a raven, yet white and beautiful as a dove.

Where the man sits, there is a niche in the cliff; a dizzy path leads
to the rocks below, but overhead the precipice overhangs and is
utterly inaccessible. Not one hundred yards away stands, roofless
under heaven, the great natural Cathedral, and the man from where he
sits can see the gleaming of its emerald floor, formed now by the
risen tide. Over the Cathedral flocks of kittiwake gulls are hovering
like white butterflies, uttering low cries which are quite drowned in
the heavy cannonade of the sea.

The sun is invisible, but the sullen purple which suffuses the western
horizon shows that he is sinking to his setting; and far out upon the
water the fishing-boats are crawling like black specks to the night's
harvest. It is the dark end of a dark day, a day of warm yet sunless
calm.

The man has been crouching in his niche for hours, listening and
waiting. At last he stirs, throwing up his head like some startled
animal, and his eyes, wild and eager, look up to the dizzy cliffs
above his head. Something flutters far above him, like a sea-gull
flying, or like a handkerchief waving; and directly he perceives it he
rises erect, puts his finger and thumb between his teeth, and gives a
shrill whistle. Could any mortal eye behold him now, it would look
with pity; for he is bareheaded, his beard has grown wild and long,
his features are darkened and distorted with exposure to the elements,
and the clothes he wears--a coloured shirt and bragou-bras--are almost
in rags. His shirt is torn open at the shoulder, and his feet are
bare. Altogether, he resembles some wild, hunted being, some wretched
type of the primval woods, rather than a rational and a peaceful man.

Looking up again eagerly, he sees something descending rapidly from
the top of the cliff. It is a small basket, attached to a long and
slender cord. As it descends, he stretches out his hands eagerly, and
when it reaches him he pulls gently at the cord, as a signal to the
person who stands above. Then taking from the basket some black bread,
some coarse cheese, and a small flask containing brandy, he places
them on the rock beside him, and pulls again softly at the cord, when
the basket, thus emptied of its contents, rapidly re-ascends.

His niche in the crag is a dizzy one, fitter for the feet of eagle or
raven than those of a man; but crouching close against the face of the
crag, with his feet set firm, he proceeds rapidly, yet methodically,
to satisfy his appetite. He is doubtless too hungry to delay; his
eyes, at least, have the eager gleam of famished animals. When his
meal is over, he carefully gathers together what remains, and wraps it
in a kerchief, which he unloosens from his neck. The brandy is his
bonne-bouche, and he sips that slowly, drop by drop, as if every drop
is precious; and so indeed it is, for already it lights his famished
cheek with a new and more lustrous life. He sips only a portion, then
thrusts the flask into his breast.

Even now he seems in no hurry to go, but takes his siesta, watching
the purple darkness deepen across the sea. There is a strange, far-
away look in his eyes, which are gentle still, despite the worn and
savage lineaments of his face. The smoke of the waters which break far
beneath him rises up to his seat, and the great roar is in his ears,
but he is too familiar with these things to heed them now; he is
occupied with his own thoughts, and half unconscious of external
sights and sounds.

But suddenly, as a hare starts in his form, the man stirs again--
stands erect--looks up--listens; and now he hears above him a sound
more startling than the sea--the sound of human voices. A sick horror
overspreads his features, and he begins, with swift and stealthy feet,
to descend the dangerous path which leads to the shore; but, as he
does so, he is arrested by a cry far overhead.

Looking up, he sees the gleam of human faces overhanging the gulf and
glaring down upon him. He staggers for a moment and grows dizzy, but
recovering himself in time, glides rapidly on; as he goes, the wild
cry rises again faintly overhead, and he knows that his pursuers have
at last discovered him and are again upon his track.



Chapter 29. THE FACES IN THE CAVE



Leaving Kromlaix with his gendarmes, Sergeant Pipriac at once made his
way up to the great Menhir, and thence along the green plateau above
the cliffs. In eager conversation with him walked Mikel Grallon, and
behind them came excited groups of the population--men, women, and
children--all in high excitement now the "hue and cry" had again
begun. They had not proceeded far when they encountered Mother
Gwenfern, creeping slowly along with her basket on her arm, and
looking gaunt and pale as any ghost. Never one who stood upon much
ceremony, Pipriac pounced upon the old woman with savage eagerness,
and roundly announced his errand.

"Aha! and have we discovered you at last, Mother Loz? Tous les
diables! Has old Pipriac found you out, though you thought him so
blind, so stupid? What have you got in your basket--tell me that?
Where do you come from? where are you going? Malediction! stand and
listen. Come, answer, where is he? The Emperor is anxious about his
health; quick--spit it out!"

The old woman, now white as death, and with her lips quite blue,
looked fixedly in the Sergeant's face, but made no reply.

"So you are dumb, mother!--well, we shall find you a tongue. It is
your own fault if old Pipriac is severe, mind that; for you have not
treated him fairly--you have led him up and down like a fool. Things
like that cannot go on for ever; the Emperor has a long nose to scent
out deserters. Malediction!" he added, with mock irascibility, "did
you think to deceive the Emperor?"

Despite his air of cruelty and brutality, Pipriac was not altogether
bad-hearted, and just then he could not quietly bear the steady
reproach of the widow's face, which remained frozen in one terrible
look, half agony, half defiance; so there was more pity than
unkindness in his heart when he took the basket from her, grumbled a
minute over its emptiness, and then, with a comical frown, handed it
back. All the time Mother Gwenfern kept silence, with an unearthly
expression of pain in her pale grey eyes; and when Pipriac swaggered
away at the head of his myrmidons, and women from the village came up
garrulously and joined her, she moved on in their midst with scarcely
a word. All her soul was busy praying that the good God, who had
assisted Rohan so well up to that hour, might still remain his friend,
and preserve him again in the hour of his extremity.

Leaving the majority of the stragglers behind them, and accompanied
only by Mikel Grallon and a few men and youths of the village, Pipriac
and the gendarmes pursued their way rapidly along the edges of the
cliffs, now pausing to converse in hurried whispers and to gaze down
the great granite precipices which lay beneath their feet, again
hurrying on like hounds excited by a fresh scent. The party consisted
of some twenty in all, and among them there could be counted no friend
to the hunted man; indeed, who would have dared, in those days of
short shrift and speedy doom, to avow friendship for any opponent of
that fatal system which Napoleon was building up on the ashes of the
Revolution? In strict truth, there was little or no sympathy for
Rohan, now that it was discovered that he still lived; for the old
prejudice against him had arisen tenfold, and not one was there,
except perhaps Mikel Grallon, believed he was anything more than a
feeble and effeminate coward; unless, indeed, as Pipriac individually
was inclined to affirm, he was simply a dangerous maniac, not properly
responsible for his own actions.

Never had the gigantic cliffs and crags, always lonely and terrible,
looked so forbidding as on that day; for the sullen, rayless sunset,
and the dead, lifeless calm, deepened the effect of desolation. Rent
as by earthquake and fantastically shapened by the sea, the vast
columns and monoliths of crimson granite glimmered beneath like the
fragments of some extinct world; so that walking on the grass above,
and peeping dizzily over, one seemed surveying a place of colossal
tombs; and on these tombs the moss and lichen drew their tracery of
grey and gold, and out of their niches grew long scrunnel grass and
rock ferns, and on them, silent, sat the raven and the speckled hawk
of the crags, while the face of the cliff far under was still snowed
with the darkening legions of the herring-gull.

Whenever old Pipriac looked over, his head, unaccustomed to such
depths, went round like a wheel, and he drew back with an expletive.
Mikel Grallon, more experienced, took the survey coolly enough, but
even he was careful not to approach too near to the edge. Here and
there the sides were so worn away that close approach was highly
dangerous; on the very brink the stones had detached and crumbled
down, the rocks were loosening, and the grass was slippery as ice.

Presently Mikel lifted up his hand and called a halt. They were
standing on a portion of the cliffs which ran out, by a green ascent,
to a sort of promontory.

"Listen," said Mikel. "The Cathedral is right under us, and I will
peep over and try if anything is to be seen."

So saying, he cautiously approached the cliff, but when he was within
some yards of it, he threw himself upon his stomach and crawled
forward upon the ground until his face hung over the edge. He remained
so long in this attitude that Pipriac grew impatient, and was growling
out a remonstrance, when Mikel turned slowly round, beckoned, and
pointed downward. He had gone as white as a sheet.

Instantly, Pipriac and two or three of the gendarmes set down their
guns, took off their cocked hats, approached, threw themselves on
their stomachs, and crawled forward as Mikel Grallon had done.

"Is it he?" growled Pipriac, as he reached the edge.

"Look!" said Mikel Grallon.

In a moment all their heads were hanging over the precipice, and all
their faces, eager and open-mouthed, glaring wildly down. At first,
all was dizzy and indistinct--a frightful gulf, at the foot of which
crawled the sea, too far away for its thunder to be heard; a gulf
across which a solitary seagull flashed now and again, like a flake of
wavering snow. Right under them, the precipice yawned inward, so that
they hung sheer over the void of air. Beneath them, but some distance
to the left, they saw the roofless walls of the cathedral of St.
Gildas stretching right out into the sea: but these walls, which to
one below world seem so gigantic, seemed dwarfed by distance to
comparative insignificance, lying as they did far below the heights of
the inaccessible crags.

"Where? where?" murmured Pipriac, with a face as red as crimson.

"Right under, with his face looking down upon the sea."

At that moment Rohan Gwenfern, startled by the voice, stirred and
gazed up, and all simultaneously uttered a cry. Seen from above, he
seemed of pigmy size, and to be walking on places where there was not
foothold for a fly; and the cry that followed, when he staggered and
looked up again, was one of horror and amaze.

When Pipriac and the rest crawled back and rose to their feet, every
face exhibited consternation; and the voice of Pipriac shook.

"He is the Devil!" said the Sergeant. "No man could walk where he has
walked, and not be smashed like an egg."

"It was horrible to look at!" said the gendarme Pierre.

"No man can follow him," said Andr.

"Nonsense," cried Mikel Grallon. "He knows the cliffs better than
others, that is all, and he is like a goat on his feet. You can guess
now how he saved his neck that night when you fancied he was killed.
Well, he will soon be taken, and there will be an end of his pranks."

"We are wasting time," exclaimed Pipriac, who had been glaring with no
very amiable light in his one eye at Mikel Grallon. "We must descend
and follow, down the Stairs of St. Triffine; but you four--Nicole,
Jn, Bertram, Hol--will stay above and keep watch on all we do. But
mind, no bloodshed! If he should ascend, take him alive."

"But if he should resist?" said one of the men.

"Malediction! you are four to one. You others, march! Come, Mikel
Grallon!"

Leaving the four men behind, the others hastened on. They had not
proceeded far when Pipriac uttered an exclamation and started back;
for suddenly, emerging from the gulfs below, a living thing sprang up
before them and stood on the very edge of the cliff, gazing at them
with large startled eyes. It was Jannedik.

"Mother of God!" cried Pipriac, "my breath is taken away;--yet it is
only a goat."

"It belongs to the mother of the deserter," said Grallon; "it is a
vicious beast, and as cunning as the Black Fiend. I have often longed
to cut its throat with my knife, when I have seen Rohan Gwenfern
fondling it as if it were a good Christian."

Having recovered from her first surprise, Jannedik had slowly
approached, and passed by the group with supreme unconcern. For a
moment she seemed disposed to butt with her horned head at the
gendarmes, who poked at her grimly with their shining bayonets, but
after a moment's reflection over the odds, which were decidedly
against her, she gave a scornful toss of her head and walked away.

They had now reached the Ladder of St. Triffine; and, slowly following
the steps cut in the solid rock, they descended until they emerged
upon the shore. Looking up when they reached the bottom, they saw
Jannedik standing far up against the sky, on the very edge of the
chasm, and tranquilly gazing down.

By this time it was growing quite dark in the shadow of the cliffs,
and wherever they searched, under the eager guidance of Mikel Grallon,
they found no traces of the fugitive. Grallon himself, at considerable
risk, ascended part of the cliff down the face of which Rohan had so
recently descended; but after he had reached a height of some fifty or
sixty feet, he very prudently rejoined his companions on the solid
shingle below.

"If one had the feet of a fly," grumbled Pipriac, "one might follow
him, but he walks where no man ever walked before."

"He cannot be far away," said Mikel. "Out that way beyond the
Cathedral there is no path even for a goat to crawl. It is in the
Cathedral we must search, and fortunately the tide has begun to ebb
out of the Gate."

Another hour had elapsed, however, before the passage was practicable,
and when, wading round the outlying wall which projected into the sea,
they passed in under the Gate, the vast place was wrapped in
blackness, and the early stars were twinkling above its roofless
walls. Even Pipriac, neither by nature nor by education a
superstitious man, felt awed and chilled. A dreadful stillness
reigned, only broken by the dripping of the water down the sides of
the furrowed rocks, by the low eerie cries of seabirds stirring among
the crags, by the rapid whirr of wings passing to and fro in the
darkness. Nothing was perceptible; Night there had completely assumed
her throne, and the only lights were the rayless lights of heaven far
above. Ranged in rows along the walls sat numbers of cormorants,
unseen, but ever and anon fluttering their heavy pinions as the
strange footsteps startled them from sleep.

The men spoke in whispers, and crept on timidly.

"If we had brought a torch!" said Pierre.

"One would say the Devil was here in the darkness" growled Pipriac.

Mikel Grallon made the sign of the cross.

"The blessed St. Gildas forbid," he murmured. "Hark, what is that?"

There was a rush, a whirr, and a flock of doves, emerging from some
dark cave, crossed the blue space overhead.

"It is an accursed spot," said Pipriac; "one cannot see well an inch
before one's nose. Malediction! one might as well look for a needle in
the great sea. If God had made me a goat or an owl I might thrive at
this work, but to grope about in a dungeon is to waste time."

So the retreat was sounded in a whisper, and the party soon retraced
their steps from the Cathedral, and were standing in the lighter
atmosphere of the neighbouring shore. Total darkness now wrapped the
cliffs on every side.

A long parley ensued, throughout which Mikel Grallon protested
vehemently that Rohan could not be far away, and that if watch were
kept all night he could not possibly escape.

"Otherwise," averred the spy, "he will creep away directly the coast
is clear and fly to some other part of the cliffs. My life upon it, he
is even now watching to see us go. If he is to escape, good and well--
I say nothing--I have done my duty like a good citizen; but if he is
to be caught you must keep your eyes wide open till day."

In honest truth, Pipriac would gladly have withdrawn for the night and
returned to the pursuit in the morning; for, after all, though he was
zealous in his duty, he would just as soon have given the deserter
another chance. Something in Grallon's manner, however, warned him
that the man was a spy in more senses than one, and that any want of
energy just then, if followed by the escape of Rohan, might be
misrepresented at head-quarters. So it was decided that the Cathedral
of St. Gildas, with all the circumjacent cliffs, should be kept under
surveillance till daybreak. Despatching two more members of his force
to join the others on the cliff, and scattering his own force well
over the seashore and under the face of the crags, he lit his pipe and
proceeded to keep watch.

The night passed quietly enough, despite some false alarms. At last,
when every man was savage and wearied out, the dawn came, with a
rising wind from the sea and heavy showers of rain. All the villagers,
save only Mikel Grallon, had returned to their homes, shrugging their
shoulders over what they deemed a veritable wild-goose chase.

Once more, for the tide had again ebbed, Grallon led the way round
under the Gate, and the lone Cathedral echoed with the sound of
voices. Great black cormorants were still sitting moveless in the
walls; some floundered away to the water with angry wings, but many
remained moveless within a few yards of the soldiers' bayonets. All
now was bright and visible:--the crimson granite walls stretching out
from the mighty cliff, the Gate hung with dripping moss as green as
grass, the fantastic niches with their traceries of lichen green and
red, the blocks upon the floor like black tombs, slimy with the oozy
kisses of the salt tide, and the mighty architraves and minarets far
above the roof of the Cathedral, and forming part of the overhanging
crag.

The men moved about like pigmies on the shingly floor, searching the
nooks and crannies in the walls, prying this way and that way like men
very ill-used, but finding no trace of any living thing. At every step
he took Pipriac grew more irritated, for he was sorely missing his
morning dram of brandy, and the gendarmes shared his irritation.

"Tous les diables!" he cried, "one might come here hunting for crabs
or shell-fish, but I see no hiding-place for anything bigger than a
bird. Look you here! The high tide fills this accursed place whenever
it enters: there is the mark all round, as high as my hand can
reach;--and as for hiding up there in the walls, why only a limpet
could do that, for they are as slippery as grass. Malediction! let us
depart. There is no deserter here. March!"

"Stay," said Mikel Grallon.

Pipriac turned upon him with a savage scowl.

"Perdition! what next?"

"You have not searched everywhere."

Pipriac uttered an oath; his one eye glittered in a perfect fury.

"You are an ass for your pains! Where else shall we search? Down thy
throat, fisherman?"

"No," answered Grallon with a sickly smile; "up yonder!" and he
pointed with his hand.

"Where?"

"Up in the Trou!"

The great Altar of the Cathedral, which we have already described to
the reader as consisting of a lovely curtain of moss covering the
cliff for about fifty square feet, was glimmering with its innumerable
jewels of prismatic and ever-changing dew; and just above it was the
dark blot on which Marcelle had gazed in terror when she stood before
the Altar with Rohan. High as the gallery of some cathedral, the Trou,
or Cave, out of the heart of which the mystic water flowed, loomed
remote, and to all seemed inaccessible. As Pipriac gazed up, a flock
of pigeons passed overhead and plunged into the Cave, but instantly
emerging again, they scattered swiftly and disappeared over the
Cathedral walls.

"Did you mark that?" said Grallon, sinking his voice.

Pipriac, who was gazing up with a disgusted expression, scowled
unamiably.

"What, fisherman?"

"The blue doves. They entered the Trou, but no sooner did they
disappear than they returned again."

"And then?"

"The Cave is not empty, that is all."

Pipriac uttered an exclamation, and all the men looked in stupefaction
at one another, while Grallon smiled complacently and cruelly to
himself.

"But it is impossible," exclaimed the Sergeant at last. "Look! The
walls are as straight as my hand; and the moss is so slippery and soft
that no man could climb; and as to entering from above--why, see how
the crags overhang. If he is there, he is the Devil; if he is the
Devil, we shall never lay hands upon him. Malediction!"

It certainly did seem incredible at first sight that any human being
could have reached the Cave--if Cave it was--from above or from under,
unassisted by a ladder or a rope. Mikel Grallon, however, being well
acquainted with the place, soon demonstrated that ascent, though
difficult and perilous in the extreme, was not altogether impossible.
In the extreme corner of the Cathedral, close to what we have termed
the Altar, the cliff was hard and dry, and here and there were
interstices into which a climber might press his hands and feet, and
so crawl tediously upward.

"I tell you this," said Mikel whispering, "it can be done, for I have
seen the man himself do it. You have but to insert toes and fingers
thus"--here he illustrated his words by climbing a few yards--"and up
you go."

"Good," said Pipriac grimly; "I see you are a clever fellow, and
understand the trick of it. Lead the way, and by the soul of the
Emperor we will follow!"

Mikel Grallon grew quite white with annoyance and mortification.

"I tell you he is there."

"And I tell you we will follow if you will show us how to climb.
Malediction! do you think old Pipriac is afraid? Come, forward! What,
you refuse? Well, I do not blame you; for I have said it, only the
Devil could climb there."

Turning to his men, however, he continued in a louder voice--

"Nevertheless, we will astonish the birds. Pierre, take aim at the
Trou yonder. Fire!"

The gendarme levelled his piece at the dark hole far above him and
fired. There was a crash, a roar, a murmur of innumerable echoes, and
suddenly, overhead, hovered countless gulls, shrieking and flying,
attracted by the report.

For a moment, it seemed as if the very crags would fall and crush the
pigmy shapes below.

"Again!" said Pipriac, signalling to another of his men.

The concussion was repeated; fresh myriads of gulls shut out the sky
like a blinding snow, and shrieked their protestations; but there came
no other sign.

"One would say the very skies were falling," growled Pipriac. "Bah! he
is not there."

At that moment, the gendarmes, who were still gazing eagerly upward,
uttered an exclamation of wonder. A head was thrust out of the Trou,
and two large eyes were eagerly gazing down.

The exclamation of wonder was speedily followed by one of anger and
disappointment; for the head was not that of a human being but that of
a goat; no other, indeed, than our old friend Jannedik, who, with her
two fore-feet on the edge of the Cave, and her great grave face
gleaming far up in the morning light, seemed quietly demanding the
reason of that unmannerly tumult. Mikel Grallon ground his teeth and
called a thousand curses on the unfortunate animal, while the gendarme
Pierre, cocking his piece with a look at his Sergeant, seemed disposed
to give Jannedik short shrift.

But Pipriac, with a fierce wave of the hand, bade the gendarme desist,
and warned his men generally to let Jannedik alone; then turning to
Mikel Grallon, he continued sneeringly--

"So this is your deserter, fisherman?--a poor wretch of a goat, with a
beard and horns! Did I not say you were an ass for your pains?
Malediction! the very beast is laughing at you; I can see the shining
of her white teeth."

"Since the brute is yonder," answered Grallon angrily, "the master is
not far away. If we had but a ladder! You would see, you would see!"

"Bah!"

And Pipriac turned his back upon Grallon in disgust, and signalled to
his men to depart.

"Then if he escapes, do not say that I am to blame," cried the
fisherman, still in a low voice. "I would wager my boat, my nets, all
I have, that he bides in yonder, and is afraid to show his face. Is
not the goat his, and what is the goat doing up in the Trou? Ah, I
tell you that you are wrong, Sergeant Pipriac! I have watched for
nights and nights, and know well where he hides. I did not come to you
before I had made certain. As sure as I am a living man, as sure as I
have a soul to be saved, he is up yonder, up in the Trou!"

Despite the intensity and evident honesty of this assertion, Pipriac
did not vouchsafe any further reply;--and he and his men had turned
their sullen faces towards the Gate, when a voice far above them said,
in low clear tones, which made them start and turn suddenly in a wild
amaze--

"Yes, Mikel Grallon, I am here."



Chapter 30. A PARLEY



All looked up; and there, standing high above them at the mouth of the
Cave, with dishevelled hair and a beard of many weeks' growth, was the
man they sought--so worn and torn, so wild and ragged, that only his
great stature made him recognisable. The goat had disappeared, either
into the Cave or up the face of the cliff, and Rohan was alone, his
whole figure exposed to the view of his pursuers. Standing there in
the morning light, with his naked neck and arms, his ruined garment,
his uncovered head, his features distorted and full of the quick-
panting intensity of a hunted animal, he showed the traces alike of
great mental agony and physical suffering; but over and beyond its
predominant look of pain, his face displayed another passion, akin to
hate in its quick and dangerous intensity, and his eyes, which were
fixed on Mikel Grallon, burnt with a fierce fire. At first, indeed, it
seemed as if he would precipitate himself like an enraged beast prone
down upon the spy,--but such an act would have been certain and
immediate death, so great was the height at which he stood. He
remained at the mouth of the Cave, panting and watching. As to
Grallon, he almost crouched in his sudden consternation and fear;
while Pipriac and the gendarmes stared up at the vision, too stupefied
at first to utter a word.

"Holy Virgin?" cried Pipriac at last, "it is he!"--then he added with
a fierce nod and at the pitch of his voice, "So! you are there, mon
garz!"

Rohan made no reply, but kept his eyes fixed on Mikel Grallon. Pipriac
pursued his speech uneasily, like one that felt the awkwardness of the
situation.

"We have been waiting a long time, but now we are glad to find you at
home. What are you doing up there, so high in the air? Diable, one
might as well fly like a bird! Well, there is no time to lose, and now
that we have found you, you had better come down at once. Come,
surrender! In the name of the Emperor!"

At these words the gendarmes gripped their guns and fell back in
military line, looking up at the Trou and ready to fire at the word of
command. The situation was an exciting one, but Rohan merely put up
his hand to throw back his hair from his eyes, smiled, and waited.

"Come, do you hear?" proceeded Pipriac. "I shall not waste words, mark
you, if you delay too long. The game is up;--we have trumped your last
card, and you will gain little by stopping up there like a bird on its
nest. Descend, Rohan Gwenfern, descend and surrender, that we may lose
no time."

The voice of the old martinet rang loudly through the hollow walls of
the Cathedral, and died away among the lonely cliffs above. All below
was in shadow, but overhead on the cliff the chill light was gleaming
as on a polished mirror, and one lonely sunbeam, severed as it were
from its companions, was glimmering right down upon the inaccessible
Trou and on the figure of Rohan. So the man stood dimly illumed, in
all his raggedness and physical desolation; and the light touched his
matted golden hair, and stole down and glared upon his feet, which
were quite naked.

"What do you want?" he asked in a hollow voice.

The irascible Sergeant shook his fist.

"Want?...Hear him!...Well, you! Diable, have we not been searching up
and down the earth until our souls are sick of searching? It is a good
joke, to ask what we want; you are laughing at us, fox that you are.
Surrender, I repeat! In the name of the Emperor!"

Then, as if carried away by a common inspiration, all the gendarmes
brandished their weapons, echoing "Surrender!" The Cathedral rang with
the cry. After a pause, the answer came from above, in a low yet clear
and decided voice--

"You are wasting your time. I will never be taken alive."

Pipriac glared up in astonishment; and now, for the first time, Mikel
Grallon looked up too, still with sensations the reverse of
comfortable, for the figure of the hunted man seemed terrible as that
of some wild beast at bay. The black mouth of the Cave was now
illuminated, and far overhead clouds of gulls were hovering like
flakes of snow in the morning light; but the floor and roofless walls
of the Cathedral, never lit unless the sun was straight above them in
the zenith, were untouched by the golden gleam.

"No nonsense!" shrieked Pipriac. "Come down! Come, or"--here the
speaker glared imbecilely up the inaccessible walls--"or we shall come
and take you."

"Come!" said Rohan.

Pipriac was a man who, although his blustering and savage manners
concealed a certain fundamental good nature, could never bear to be
openly thwarted or placed in a ridiculous position; and now a
complication of sentiments made him unusually irritable. In the first
place, he would much rather have never discovered the deserter at all;
for, after all, he pitied the man and remembered that he was the son
of an old friend. Again, he had, he considered, behaved throughout the
whole pursuit with extraordinary sympathy and forbearance, and had
thereby almost laid himself open to the suspicion of lacking "zeal".
Lastly--and this feeling was perhaps the most powerful and predominant
at the moment--he had been up all night, without a drop of liquor to
wet his lips, and insomuch as that Bardolphian nose of his was a flame
that, when not fed with natural stimulants, preyed fiercely on the
temper of its owner, he was in no mood to be crossed--especially by
one who had so stupidly allowed himself to be discovered. So he took
fire instantly at Rohan's taunt, and snatching from one of the
gendarmes his loaded gun, he cocked it rapidly.

"I will give you one minute," he cried, "then, if you do not
surrender, I shall fire. Do you hear that, deserter? Come, escape is
useless--do not be a fool, for I mean what I say; I will pick you off
from your perch as if you were a crow." After a pause, he added, "Are
you ready? time is up!"

Rohan had not stirred from his position; but now, with a strange smile
on his face, he stood looking down at his tormentors. Standing thus,
with his tall frame fully exposed, he presented an easy mark for a
bullet.

"Once more, are you ready? In the name of the Emperor!"

Rohan replied quietly, without stirring--

"I will never surrender."

In a moment there was a flash, a roar, and Sergeant Pipriac had fired.
But when the smoke cleared away they saw Rohan still standing
uninjured at the mouth of the Cave, tranquilly looking down as if
nothing whatever had occurred. The bullet had struck and been
flattened against the rock in his close vicinity, but whether Pipriac
had really taken aim at his person, or had simply fired off the weapon
with the view of intimidating him, is a question that cannot easily be
answered. If intimidation was his object, he reckoned without his man,
for Rohan Gwenfern was the last person in the world to be scared into
submission by any such means.

No sooner was it discovered that Pipriac's bullet had missed its mark
than all the other gendarmes had their weapons cocked and ready to
fire also, but the Sergeant immediately interposed, with a savage
growl.

"Halt arms! Tous les diables, he who fires before I tell him shall
smart for his pains;" then, once more addressing Rohan, he cried,
"Well, you are still alive! Perhaps, then, after all you will be
rational, and come quietly down and trust to the mercy of the Emperor.
Look you, I promise nothing, but I will do my best. In any case, you
will be done for if you stay up there, for you cannot escape us, that
is certain. Now then! I am giving you another chance. Which is it to
be?"

"I will never become a soldier."

"It is too late for that," said Mikel Grallon, speaking for the first
time and addressing Pipriac. "Besides, look you, he is a coward."

Rohan, who heard every syllable, so clearly and audibly did sound
travel among those silent cliffs, gazed down at the spy with a fierce
look, and seemed once more prepared to hurl himself bodily from the
height where he stood. Recovering himself, he again addressed his
speech to Pipriac.

"I tell you, you are wasting time. Perhaps I am a coward, as Mikel
Grallon says; but one thing is certain, that I will never go to war,
and that I will never give myself up alive."

"Alive or dead, we shall have you--there is no escape."

"Perhaps."

"Up yonder my men are on the watch; this way, that way, all ways they
are posted. Take old Pipriac's word for it, and give in like a
sensible man;--you are surrounded."

"That is true."

"Ha ha, then you admit that I am teaching you good sense. Very well!
If evil happens, don't say old Pipriac did not warn you! Come along!"

The answer from above was a quick spasmodic laugh, full of the hollow
ring of a bitter and despairing heart. Leaning over from the mouth of
the Cave, Rohan pointed quietly out at the Gate of St. Gildas,
saying--

"If I am surrounded, so are you. Look!" Pipriac turned involuntarily,
as did all the other members of the group. The first man to understand
the true position of affairs was Mikel Grallon, who, the moment his
eyes glanced through the Gate, uttered the exclamation--

"Holy Virgin, he is right--it is the tide!"

Sure enough, the sea had turned and was foaming whitely just beyond
the Gate. A few minutes more, and it would enter the Cathedral, when
retreat would be impossible. Grallon rushed towards the Gate, crying,
"Follow! there is not a moment to lose;" but Pipriac, who, though
irascible under slight provocation, never lost his head in an
emergency, stood his ground and looked up at the Cave. Rohan, however,
was no longer visible.

"Diable!" cried the Sergeant, shaking his fist up at the spot where
the deserter had just been standing. "Never mind! Give him a volley!"

In a moment the gendarmes had discharged their pieces right into the
mouth of the Cave; there was a horrible concussion, and thunder
reverberating far up among the cliffs. Then all fled for their lives.

They were just in time; but passing round the point of land which led
to the safe shingle beyond the Cathedral, they had to wade to the
waist, for it was a high spring tide. The retreat was decidedly
ignominious, and little calculated to improve the temper of Pipriac
and his troop. Coming round to the dry land immediately under the
Ladder of St. Triffine, they found a great gathering from the village,
men and women, young and old, waiting, chattering, wondering. Among
them were Alain and Jannick Derval, with their sister Marcelle.

The horrible fascination to see and know the worst had been too great
for Marcelle to resist, and she had been drawn thither with the rest,
almost against her will. Descending the Ladder, she had found the tide
rising round the point which led to the Cathedral, and had crouched
down, wildly listening, when the reports from the neighbouring Gate
broke upon her ear. What could these shots mean? Had they discovered
him--was he fighting for his life, and were they shooting him down?
Her face grew like a murdered woman's as she waited, with the hum of
voices around her sounding as in a dream. Then as the gendarmes
appeared wading round to shore with shouldered muskets, she had sprung
to her feet, eagerly perusing their faces as they came. Others flocked
around them too, with eager questions. But Pipriac, cursing not loud
but deep, pushed his way through the crowd followed by his men,
neither of whom uttered a word.

Mikel Grallon was following when he felt his arm fiercely seized; he
was about to shake off the offending grip, when turning slightly, he
recognised Marcelle.

"Speak, Mikel Grallon!" said the girl, her large eyes burning with an
unnatural light. "What have they done? Have they found him? Is he
killed?"

Honest Mikel shook his head, with what was meant to be a reassuring
smile.

"He is safe--yonder in the Cathedral of St. Gildas."

"In the Cathedral?"

"Up in the Trou!"

There was a general murmur, for, although the words were specially
addressed to Marcelle, an eager throng had caught the news. Marcelle
released her spasmodic hold, and Grallon passed on up to the shore,
rejoining Pipriac and his satellites, who stood consulting together in
a group.

And now, like a fountain that is suddenly unfrozen from its prison in
the ground, the long-suppressed love of Marcelle Derval rose murmuring
within her heart. All things were forgotten save that Rohan lived, and
that he was engaged against overwhelming odds in a frightful fight for
life; not even the Emperor was remembered, nor the fact that it was
against the Emperor that Rohan stood in revolt; it was enough for the
time being to feel that Rohan had arisen, and with him her old
passionate dream. Only a few hours before she had moved about like a
shadow, certain of nothing save of a great void within her soul, of a
great unutterable loss and pain; then had come Mikel Grallon's
discovery--then the sound of the hue and cry; so that, indeed, she had
scarcely had time to collect her thoughts rightly and to look her fate
in the face. Despair had been easy; hope, the faint wild hope that had
now come, was not so easy. She had kept still and dead amid the frost
of her great grief, but when the light came, and the winds and rains
were loosened, she bent like a tree before the storm.

Not without pride did she now remember her lover's strength, and
observe how it had hitherto conquered and been successful. He was
there, unarmed, within a little distance, and yet he had escaped his
enemies again, as he had often escaped them before; indeed, there
seemed a charm upon his life, and perhaps the good God loved him after
all!

Gradually, from group to group the intelligence spread that Rohan
Gwenfern had ensconced himself up in the Trou  Gildas, the black and
terrible abyss into which few feet save his own had ever passed; and
that there, night after night, he hid alone, communing perhaps with
ghastly spirits of the darkness. For the place, all folk knew, was
haunted, and few men there would have cared to pass along that strange
Cathedral-floor at dead of night. Did not the phantoms of the evil
monks still wander, moaning for mercy to the pitiless Saint who cast
them into eternal chains? Had not the awful Saint himself been seen,
again and again, holding spectral vigil, while the seals came creeping
about his knees, and the great cormorants sat gazing silently at him
from the dripping walls? The place was terrible, curst for the living
till endless time. He who lingered there safely must either have made
an unholy pact with the Prince of Evil, or be under the special
protection of the Saint of God.

As to this last point, opinion was divided. A few grim pessimists held
firmly that Rohan had sold himself body and soul to "Master Roberd,"
who, in his turn, had carried him safely through so many dangers, and
was now watching over him carefully in his "devil's nest," up in the
Trou. The majority, however, were inclined to think that a good
Spirit, not a bad, had taken the matter in hand, and that this good
Spirit might be the blessed St. Gildas himself. There was a strong
undercurrent of anti-Imperial feeling, which speedily resolved itself
into an unmistakable sympathy with the deserter, and a belief that he
was under Divine protection.

After a rapid consultation with his subordinates Pipriac determined to
despatch a messenger to St. Gurlott for more assistance, and meantime
to keep a careful watch from every side on the now inundated
Cathedral. Of one thing he was assured, that escape out of the Cave
was impossible, so long as the cliffs above and the shore below were
carefully guarded. There was no secret way which the fugitive might
take; he must either, at the almost certain risk of life, creep right
upward along the nearly inaccessible face of the crag, or he must swim
out to sea, or he must pass round to the shore by the way the others
had gone and come. Further away in the direction of the village, a
great precipitous headland projected, surrounded on every side and at
all tides by the sea, and quite impassable.

"He is in the trap," growled Pipriac, "and only God or the Devil can
get him out!"



Chapter 31. IN THE CAVE



While his pursuers were speculating and deliberating, Rohan Gwenfern
waited solitary up in his hiding-place, making no attempt at flight;
which, indeed, he well knew to be at present impossible. Now and then
he listened, but the only sound he heard was the sea creeping in and
covering the vast Cathedral-floor. He was safe, at least for the time
being, since the waters washed below and no human feet could reach him
from above.

He lay within a vast natural cave, hewn in the very heart of the
granite crags, and dimly lit by the rays that crept in by its narrow
mouth, or Trou. Great elliptic arches, strangely hung with purple moss
and soot-black fungi, loomed overhead, while on every side down the
lichen-covered walls sparkled a dewy fretwork resembling that external
curtain of glittering mosaic which we have called the "Altar." The
place was vast and shadowy as the vault of some cathedral built by
hands, so that one could not well discern its exact extent; and here
and there its walls were gashed with streams of water, falling down
and stretching out into blackest pools. The air was damp and cold, and
would have been fatal to one of tender frame; but Rohan breathed it
with the comfort of a hardy animal. In a corner of the Cave he had
strewn a thick bed of dried seaweed, on which he was lying. By his
side, and near to his hand, were his fowler's staff, a pair of sabots,
and part of a black loaf; while in a fissure of the wall above his bed
was fixed a small rude lamp of tin.

Here, in complete solitude, and often in total darkness, he had passed
many a night, and whether it was calm or storm he had slept sound. He
was well used to such haunts, and his powerful physique was in no way
affected by the exposure--indeed, had it not been for the constant
anxiety of mind created by his horrible situation, he might have
remained entirely unchanged. But even animals, however vigorous by
nature, will waste away to skin and bone under the strain of perpetual
fear and persecution; and so Rohan had grown into the shadow of his
former self--a gaunt, forlorn, hunted man, with large eyes looking out
of a face pale with unutterable pain. His garments, not new when he
first took flight, had turned into sorry rags, through which gleamed
the naked flesh; his hair fell below his shoulders in a wild and
matted mass; his beard and moustache had grown profusely; and upon his
arms and limbs were cuts and bruises left by dangerous falls. One foot
was swollen and partly useless--a fact over which his pursuers would
have gloated--for it left him practically in their power, and less
able than usual to pursue his frequent flights among the cliffs, even
had an opportunity offered.

Mikel Grallon had suspected shrewdly when he guessed that Rohan owed
his daily subsistence to the secret help of his infirm mother. Twice
or thrice weekly Mother Gwenfern had come secretly to the
neighbourhood, bearing with her such provisions as she was able to
prepare with her own hands; these she had secretly given to her son,
or placed them with preconcerted signals on the places she knew him to
frequent, or even (as we have seen on one occasion) let them right
down to his hiding-place from the top of the cliffs. Without this
assistance the man would necessarily have starved, for it was
physically impossible to exist solely on the shell-fish and dulse
which he was in the habit of gathering from the sea.

He was not now alone in the Cave. The goat Jannedik was perambulating
uneasily to and fro, carefully keeping at a distance from the mouth,
through which so alarming a volley had lately been raining. From time
to time she came up close, and rubbed her head into his hand, as if
soliciting an explanation of the extraordinary scene which had just
taken place.

The visits of Jannedik to her master's hiding-place had been erratic.
She had first discovered him by accident, while roaming at random, as
was her custom, among the cliffs; then, once acquainted with his
haunts, she had come again; and now seldom a day passed without a
visit from her, however brief. Her coming and going soon became an
exciting event, for when she appeared Rohan did not feel altogether
without companionship, and she had strange wild ways to soothe a human
heart. Nor was this all. Many a secret communication had been
concealed about the goat's thick coat, and borne from the fugitive to
his mother in her cottage.

More than an hour had passed since Pipriac and the rest had fled from
the Cathedral, when Rohan rose from his seat and passed out again into
the open air at the cavern's mouth. All was perfectly still; the green
water filled the floor of the Cathedral, covering all its weedy tombs,
and a seal was swimming round and round, seeking in vain to find a
landing-place along the walls. Standing up there, he felt like one
suspended between water and sky.

So far there had been a certain fierce satisfaction in resisting what
so many living men deemed the Irresistible. Weak and single-handed as
he was, he had stood up in revolt against the Emperor--had openly and
unhesitatingly defied him and abjured him--had conjured up on his
behalf all the power and elements of Nature--had cried to the Earth,
"Hide me!" and to the Sea, "Protect me!" and had not cried in vain.
True, he had suffered in the struggle, as all that revolt must suffer;
but so far no specially evil consequence, apart from his own
unpleasant experiences, had ensued from the attitude he had taken. He
had certainly obeyed the behest of his conscience, and that to him,
then, and thenceforth for ever, was the veritable voice of God.

In those hours of dark extremity Marcelle Derval was to him both an
anguish and a consolation: an anguish, because he feared that she
loved him no longer, that her sympathy was with his enemies, that she
believed him to be a renegade from a good cause, a traitor, and a
coward--a consolation, because he remembered all that she had been to
him, and because, night after night, passionate and loving as of old,
she came to him in dreams. Many a lonely hour, when no soul was near,
he had lingered in the centre of the Cathedral, going over in his mind
all the details of that divine day when first he clasped her in his
arms and felt her virgin kiss upon his mouth.

"Solitude to him

Was sweet society,"

when he had for companionship her quiet image. He saw her then as a
little child, walking with him hand in hand along the sands of the
village; or, as a happy girl, climbing with him the lonely crags, and
watching him as he gathered cliff-flowers and sea-birds' eggs; or, as
a holy maiden, kneeling by his side before the altar of the little
chapel of Notre Dame de la Garde. Such happy memories are consecrated
gleams, which make this low earth Heaven.

Yet he had lost her, that was clear; he had chosen his lot with the
outcasts of the earth, with those Esaus who refuse to acquiesce in the
accepted jurisdiction of the world, and who map out a perilous
existence for themselves at the cost of family, caste, peace of body
and mind, sympathy, and social honour. He might as well--(nay, far
better from this mundane point of view)--have denied his God as have
denied his Emperor; for the Emperor seemed omnipotent, while God
remained so acquiescent in evil, and so far away. Faith in the divine
order of things had long forsaken him. His only reliance now was on
Nature, and on his own heart; for if the worst came to the worst he
could die.

With every hour and every day that he brooded thus his hate of War
grew deeper, the justification of his resistance seemed more absolute.
Even if safe submission had then been possible, on the condition that
he recanted and joined the great army that did Napoleon's will, he
would have resisted with even more tenacity than at the first, for he
was a man in whom ideas grow and multiply themselves, and become
sinews of strength to the secret will. With his moral certainty
deepened his physical horror. In the darkness of that lonely Cave he
had conjured up such Phantoms of the battle-field as might fitly
people the blood-red fields of Hell; all that he had read, all that he
had fancied and feared, took tangible shapes, and moved to and fro
along those sunless walls; ghastly spectres and adumbrations of an all
too horrible reality, they came there from time to time, paralyzing
his heart with despair and fear.

So that, after all, if we must have it so, he was in a certain sense
of the word a Coward, capable of the nervous prostration cowards feel.
He had senses over keen and subtle, and could detect even there in his
Cave the fatal scent which is found in slaughter-houses where cattle
are slain, and on battle-fields where men are butchered; he could hear
the cry of the stricken, hold the cold hand of the dead; he was
conscious of the widow weeping and the orphan wailing; and he beheld
the burning trail which the War-Serpent left wherever it crawled, the
blood and tears which fell to earth, the fire and smoke which rose to
heaven. With more than a poet's vision--with the conjuration of a
vivid imagination stirred by deep personal dread--he could see and
hear these things. Each man bears his own Inferno within his breast;
and these were Rohan Gwenfern's.

In due time the tide, which had risen high up the walls of the
Cathedral, and was shining smooth as glass and green as malachite,
began to ebb out through the Gate. Rohan stood watching it from the
Trou, while gradually it sank lower and lower, till a man might have
waded waist-deep on the shingly floor. Gradually the great weed-
covered boulders and granite slabs became visible, and a certain space
immediately under the Cave was left quite dry. Standing thus, Rohan
calculated his chances. Ascent was certainly possible, though
difficult in the extreme, and beyond measure dangerous: impossible
certainly to a man encumbered by arms or any heavy weapon. Nor could
more than one man approach at a time, that was certain. In a word,
Rohan's position was virtually impregnable, so long as he kept upon
the watch.

Just then Jannedik came out from the Cave, and began quietly to walk
upwards. Her path was easy for some distance, being the same path by
which Rohan had lately descended, but when she had passed a certain
point she became as a fly walking up a perpendicular wall. At last,
without once slipping a foot, she disappeared; like a bird fading away
into the skies.

Which skies had darkened again, and were blurred with a dark mist. The
rain, blown in from the sea, was beating pitilessly against the face
of the cliffs, deepening to moist purple their granite stains, and
lighting up liquid gleams in their grassy fissures. It fell now
heavily on Rohan, but he scarcely heeded it: he was water-proof;
besides it was warm rain, such as steals sweet scent from the boughs
in autumn woods and lanes.

Slowly, calmly, quite sheltered from the wet wind which blew without,
the sea ebbed from the Cathedral, until at last it all disappeared
through the Gate, and only the glistening walls and shingle showed
that it had been lately there. The sea washed, and the rain fell, and
the wind moaned, while Rohan stood waiting and watching. Presently he
heard another sound, faintly wafted to him through the Gate. Human
voices! His pursuers were returning.

As the sounds came nearer and nearer, he quietly withdrew into the
Cave.

Pipriac and the gendarmes did not return alone; besides Mikel Grallon,
there came a swarm of villagers, men and women, excited and expectant.
From time to time the Sergeant turned upon them and drove them back
with oaths, but, after retreating a few yards, they invariably drew
nigh once more. Pipriac could do nothing, for he was in a minority,
and they numbered three or four score; and so now, when he re-entered
the Cathedral with his men, the crowd, chattering and pointing,
blocked up the Gate and partially filled the Cathedral.

From the darkness of his Cave, Rohan, himself unseen, could behold
this picture; leaning forward to the Trou, but keeping well in
darkness, he looked down upon the pigmy shapes below him,--first,
Pipriac and the others, crawling up towards the "Altar" like so many
dwarfs, their bayonets glittering, their voices muttering,--then the
villagers in their quaint dresses of many colours, gazing up in wonder
and tremulous anticipation. Suddenly his heart leapt within him and he
grew ghastly pale; for behold, standing apart, some yards in front of
the group from the village, he recognised Marcelle, quietly looking
upward. He could see her pale face set in its saffron coif, he could
feel the light of her large upturned eyes. What had brought her there?
Ah, God, was she leagued against him with his persecutors? Had she
come to behold his misfortune and degradation, perhaps his death? Sick
with such thoughts, he strained his painful sight upon her, forgetting
all else in the intensity of his excitement. So a wild animal gazes
from its lair when the cruel hunters are close at hand.

And now, O Pipriac, to business; for ye are many against one, and the
Emperor is impatient to settle the affair of this revolter, that of
him may be made a terror and a shining example to all the flock! Fetch
him down, O Pipriac, from his hiding-place: draw the fox from his hole
into full day; spare not, but take him alive, with a view to full and
proper retribution! It is useless, indeed, to stand here with thy
myrmidons, with so many gaping throats, staring up, as if the deserter
would drop into thy mouth!

Yet this is exactly what Pipriac is doing, and, indeed, the more he
stares and gapes the more puzzled does he become. If one were a bird
or a fly, yea, or a snail, one might climb up yonder to the Cave, but
being a man, and moreover a man not too steady on the legs, Pipriac
justly deems the feat impossible; nevertheless, he suggests to this
comrade and to that, and notably to Mikel Grallon, the performance of
that forlorn hope; with not much result, save grumbling refusals and
mutinous looks. Meantime, he grows savage, for he believes the
villagers are laughing at his discomfiture, and, finding deeds
impossible, again has recourse to words.

"What ho, deserter! Listen! Are you here? Diable, do you hear me?
Attend!"

There is no answer save the echoes reverberating from cliff to cliff.

"Malediction!" cries the Sergeant. "If he should be gone."

"That is impossible," said Mikel Grallon. "Unless he is a ghost, he is
still there."

"And who the devil says he is not a ghost?" snarls Pipriac.
"Fisherman, you are an ass--stand back! If we had but a ladder, we
would do; malediction! if we had only a ladder." And he shrieked aloud
again at the top of his voice, "Deserter! Number one! Rohan Gwenfern!"

But there was no answer whatever, no stir, no sound. The villagers
looked at one another and smiled, while Marcelle crossed herself and
prayed.



Chapter 32. A SIEGE IN MINIATURE



It is necessary to be precise as to the date of these occurrences.
When the fishermen beheld that memorable midnight vision in the
Cathedral, and mistook for St. Gildas and the Fiend the living shapes
of Rohan and Jannedik the goat, it was just after the June festival.
Many weeks had elapsed while Mikel Grallon was secretly upon the scent
of the fugitive; but nearly three entire months had passed away before
he actually discovered the whole truth that Rohan lived and was hiding
in the great Cathedral. So that it was now the end of September, 1813.

A memorable time, out in the great storm-beaten world, as well as here
in lonely Kromlaix; other tides were turning besides that which comes
and goes with weary iteration on the sea-shore; stranger storms were
gathering than any little Kromlaix knew: nay, had gathered, and were
bursting now around the figure of the one Colossus who bestrode the
world. On the Rhine had Napoleon paused, facing the multitudinous
waves of avenging hosts; had lifted up his finger, like King Canute of
old, crying, "Thus far and no farther!"--yet to his wonder the waves
still roared, and the tide still rose, and the living waters were now
washing blood-red about his feet. Would he be submerged? Would his
evil genius fail him at last? These were the supreme questions of
Autumn, 1813. All the World was against him; nay, the World and the
Sea and the Sky; yet he had tamed all these before, and might again;
and his word was still a power to conjure with, his presence still an
inspiration, his shadow still a portent and a doom. He might emerge;
and then? Why, there was little left for the stabbed and bleeding
Earth but to die; for, alas! she could bear no more.

Our business is not yet with the movement of great armies, with the
motion of those elemental forces against which the Avatar was then
struggling; our picture is to contain the microcosm, not the
macrocosm; yet the one is potential in the other, as one monera of
Haeckel represents the aggregate of a million moneras visibly covering
the sea-bottom, but germinated from one invisible speck. No human pen,
piling horror upon horror, can represent the aggregate of war; it can
only catalogue individual agonies, each of which brings the truth
nearer home than any number of generalities. And we, who are about to
chronicle to the best of our power a siege in miniature, begin by
affirming that it represents the spirit of all sieges, however
colossal in scale, however aggrandised by endless combinations of the
infinitesimal.

Here in Kromlaix the matter is simple enough--it is one man against
many; up till now it has been bloodless, and so far as the one man
himself is concerned it may remain so till the end.

And now, O Muse, for a pen of fire to chronicle the doings of Pipriac
the indomitable, as at last, with fiery Bardolphian nose lifted in the
air, he collects his martial forces together. Small pity now is left
in his heart for the creature whom he pursues; all his fierce passions
are aroused, and his only aspiration is for cruel victory; his voice
is choked, his eyes are dim with rage and bloodthirst. He, Pipriac,
commissary and representative of the Emperor, to be defied and held at
bay by a single peasant, crouching unarmed like a fox in a hole!--by a
miserable deserter, who has openly refused to fight for his country,
who is a chouan and a coward, with a price upon his head! It is
utterly incredible, and not to be endured. Up, some of you, and drag
him down! Andr, Pierre, Hol, climb! Tous les diables, is there not a
man among you--not a creature with the heart of a fly? Ha, if Pipriac
were not old, if his legs were not shaky, would he not read you a
lesson, rogues that you are!

Stimulated by the curses of his superior, Pierre takes off his shoes,
puts his bayonet between his teeth, and begins to climb; the rocks are
perpendicular and slippery, but there are crevices for the hands and
feet. Pierre makes way, watched eagerly by all the others; suddenly,
however, his foot slips and down he comes with a groan. Fortunately,
he had not gone far, and beyond a few bruises he is little hurt.

Now it is Andr's turn; Andr, a dark, beetle-browed, determined-
looking dog, with powerful legs and sinewy hands. He makes even better
way than Pierre; foot by foot, bayonet between teeth, he goes up:
there is not a word, there is scarcely a breath; he is half-way,
clinging to the treacherous rocks with fingers and toes like a Cat's
claws, and wearing a cat-like determination in his face, when suddenly
one utters a cry, and points up. Andr looks up too, and there,
stretched out above him, are two hands, and in those two hands, poised
an enormous fragment of rock. A white murderous face glares over at
him--the face of Rohan Gwenfern.

It would be easy now to pick off the deserter, but if this were done,
what of Andr?--down would descend the stone, and woe to him who clung
below. Andr does the best he can under the circumstances: he descends
hand over hand, more rapidly than he ascended. By the time that he
drops again upon the shingle the face and arms above are gone.

"Malediction!" cries Pipriac; "then he means to fight!"

Yes, Pipriac, make sure of that; for is it not written that the very
worm will turn, and that even innocent things become terrible when
they struggle for sweet life? Nor shall this man be blamed if he
becomes what you make him,--a murderous and murdering animal, with all
the gentle love and pity burnt up within his veins,--and with one
thought uppermost only, that of overthrowing and destroying those who
would overthrow and destroy him,--which thought may in due time be
kindled to fiercer bloodthirst and more hideous hunger for vengeance.
In every strong man's heart there is a devil; beware how you rouse it
here!

Another volley into the mouth of the Cave, given furiously at a signal
from the Sergeant, is only waste of ammunition. The bullets patter on
the top of the Trou, and fall down flattened on the spot where Rohan
lately stood. The cliffs roar, the villagers utter a terrified murmur;
then there is silence.

Other attempts to climb follow, all without success. Once the poised
rock descends, and Andr, who was climbing again, only just drops to
the earth and draws aside in time. Curses and threats rise to the
Cave; Pipriac utters horrible imprecations. Shots are fired again and
again; but all miss their mark, for Rohan now is upon his guard. The
siege has begun in earnest.

Sunset comes, and nothing has been done; the situation seems actually
unassailable. The rain has been falling more or less all day, and
every man is wet through and out of temper. The crowd of villagers,
with Marcelle among them, still looks on, in stupefied content that
the gendarmes are baffled at every turn.

Now the tide creeps up to the Gate once more, and all precipitately
retreat, the military with an au revoir of threats and objurgations.
The great Cathedral is empty, all is silent. But who is this that,
lingering behind the rest, creeps up close under the "Altar," turns
her white face upward, and moans out the deserter's name.

"Rohan! Rohan!"

There is no reply; she stands uplifting her arms, tears streaming down
her cheeks.

"Rohan! speak to me! Ah, God, can you not hear?"

Still there is silence, and, turning sadly, she walks down the dark
Cathedral and follows the rest out of the Gate. She is in time, but at
the promontory the water is knee-deep as she wades round.

Yes, he had heard; lying in there upon his bed of weeds, he had heard
the voice, and peering down, himself in darkness, he had seen the
piteous face he loved, looking upward. He had no heart to answer; her
face shook his soul more painfully than even those fierce faces of his
enemies; but the excitement of the day had made him mad, suspicious,
and distrustful even of her. He saw her pass away after the rest he
gazed after her with a dull, dumb despair, like one in a dream; then
when she had gone, he threw himself down upon his bed and wept.

Ah, those tears of a strong man!--wrung like drops from stone, like
moisture from iron; shed not for sorrow, not in self-pity, but in pure
surcease of heart. With the apparition of that face came upon him the
consciousness of all that he had lost, of all the love and peace that
he had nearly won the certainty of what he was now, who had once been
so strong and glad; the knowledge of his almost certain doom, for was
not the fatal mark already upon his forehead? "Marcelle! Marcelle!"
The name went up into the hollows of the Cave, and voices answered him
like cries from his own heart, and all his force was broken. So night
came, and found him wearied out.

All that night he was left in peace, but he knew well that close watch
was kept without the Cathedral; in no case would he have stirred, for
no other place was so safe, and his foot was still in pain. He rested
in the total darkness, without a light of any kind; he heard the
pigeons come in to their roosts in the rocks, and he saw the bats slip
in and out against the dim blue gleam at the Cave's mouth; and
harmless living creatures crawled over him as he lay. About midnight,
when the tide was ebbing, he waited expectant; but no one returned. A
cold moon rose, flooding the Cathedral with her beams, and shining far
out with one silvery track upon the sea.

It was then that he first bestirred himself and laboured in
preparation for his enemies. Scattered on the floor of the Cave were
many loose pieces of rock, both huge and small, which in course of
time had detached themselves from the cliffs; these he carefully
carried to the mouth of the Cave, piling them one upon another in
readiness to be cast over on any assailant who might climb from below;
lifting some, rolling others; now and then involuntarily letting one
slip from his aching hold, and crash down on the beach below. For
hours he laboured, for it was no easy task; some of the stones being
heavy enough, falling from that height, to crush an ox. When he had
done, his hands were bleeding, cut by the sharp edges of the stones.
Finally, when the tide crept into the place once more, he threw
himself on his bed and slept.

When he awoke it was broad day--the mouth of the Cave was bright, and
a confused murmur broke upon his ear. He started up and listened. A
loud authoritative voice was calling him by name. Crawling forward to
the mouth of the Cave, now partially blocked up by the rocks and
stones, he peered cautiously over, and saw, standing on the shingle
below him, a crowd of men, almost all of whom wore uniform and carried
bayonets while in their midst calling out his name, was a tall grey-
headed man in semi-military dress, whom he recognised as the Mayor of
St. Gurlott.

Again, the Mayor, holding a paper in his hand, called his name aloud.
After a moment's hesitation, he answered, "I am here!" There was a
babble of voices, a flashing of weapons; then the Mayor said again--

"Silence!--Gwenfern, are you attending?"

"Yes."

"Do you know me?"

"Yes."

The answers were given distinctly, but Rohan was careful to keep his
person totally concealed.

"You were drawn for the Conscription in the early summer, and your
name was first upon the list. Wretched man, you are at last
discovered, as every one will be who deserts his country in the hour
of need; there is no longer any chance of escape; why do you still
persist in a miserable resistance? In the name of the Emperor, I bid
you yield yourself up."

No answer.

"Do you hear me? Are you still refractory? Have you not one word to
say for yourself? None?"

After a moment's pause, the voice from the Cave replied--

"Yes, one."

"Speak, then!"

"If I surrender as you desire, what then?"

The Mayor shrugged his shoulders.

"You will be shot, of course, as a warning to others."

"And if I refuse?"

"Why, then, you will die too, but like a dog. There is but one law for
deserters--one law and short shrift. Now, do you understand?"

"I understand."

"And to save trouble, will you surrender?"

"Not while I live."

The Mayor, folding up his paper, handed it to Sergeant Pipriac with an
air that said, "I have done my duty, and wash my hands of the whole
affair." A long colloquy ensued, at the end of which the Mayor said,
frowning--

"The rest is in your hands, and should be easy; he is only one man,
while you are many. I leave it to you, Sergeant Pipriac--he must be
taken, dead or alive."

"That is more easily said than done," said Pipriac; "it is more than a
man's life is worth to climb up there; and besides, without ladders
only one man could ascend at a time."

The Mayor mused; he was a grim, pale-looking man, with cruel grey eyes
and pitiless mouth.

"The example is a dangerous one, Sergeant Pipriac; at all risks he
must be reached. Are there no ladders in the village?"

"Ah, m'sieu," returned Pipriac, "just cast your eye up at the Trou; it
would be a long ladder indeed to reach so far, and even then--"

At this moment Mikel Grallon, hat in hand, approached the Mayor as if
to speak.

"M'sieu le Maire."

"What man is this?" asked the Mayor, scowling.

"This is the man who first gave information," said Pipriac. "Stand
back, fisherman! What do you want?"

Mikel Grallon, instead of falling back, came closer, and said in a low
voice--

"Pardon, M'sieu le Maire. but there is one way if all the rest fail--"

"Well?"

"The deserter is without means of subsistence. If the worst come to
the worst, he must starve to death."



Chapter 33. HUNGER AND COLD



Mikel Grallon, with characteristic and cruel foresight, had hit upon
the truth: that however successful Rohan Gwenfern might be in keeping
his assailants at bay from his seemingly impregnable position, he must
inevitably, unless provisioned for a period which was altogether
unlikely, either yield himself up, or famish and die. To secure this
latter end it was necessary carefully to cut off all avenues of
supply, which, indeed, Pipriac had already done, every portion of the
cliffs, both above and below, being well watched and guarded; and now
the only question was whether to try at once to take the position by
storm, or to wait patiently until such time as the deserter either
capitulated or perished of starvation. Pipriac, being a man of action,
was for an immediate attack; with which view he sent messengers to
scour the village for ladders of some sort; but when these messengers
returned empty-handed, after searching high and low, he saw the
hopelessness of rapid attack, and determined to conduct the siege
passively until such time as capitulation came. It should never be
said that old Pipriac was baffled and defied by a peasant, smiling as
it were within a stone's-throw of his hand. Tous les diables, duty was
duty, and it should be done though it took him a score if years!

In the meantime, however, he sent to St. Gurlott for ladders, which
might be useful sooner or later, if not for reaching the deserter
alive, at least for recovering his dead body. Then, pending their
arrival, he sat down, like a mighty general with his army surrounding
a beleaguered town, before the Trou  Gildas.

Figuratively, not literally; for the constant ebbing and flowing of
the tide left the Cathedral quite out of the question for
headquarters; and, moreover, it was necessary for Pipriac to pass to
and fro, inspiring and directing his men, both those stationed on the
high cliffs and those below.

A day and a night passed; and the prisoner made no sign.

It would be tedious to describe the various harmless sallies of the
besiegers. At every morte mer they watched the Cave and reconnoitred,
but saw nothing of the besieged; sometimes they called aloud upon him,
at others they crept in and crept out in silence. All the night double
watch was kept, not one avenue of escape being overlooked; and, to
make assurance doubly sure, Pipriac refused to let any villager, man
or woman, approach the scene of the siege. Twice Marcelle Derval was
driven back, almost at bayonet-point, for the men were growing savage
through sheer impatience. What her errand was none knew; but one
suspected that it was to carry the deserter bread.

On the morning of the second day the sea rose high, and the wind blew
boisterously from the south-east; by noon the wind had risen to a
storm; before night it was blowing a gale, with heavy blinding rain.
For two days and nights more the storm continued, growing fiercer and
fiercer, on the land and on the sea; the great cliffs shook, the
cormorants sat half-starving in their ledges looking at the raging
sea. The gendarmes kept their posts, relieving each other at regular
intervals. The sentinels bore lanterns, which were flashed full all
night upon the cliffs in the neighbourhood of the Cave.

In the tumult of these tempestuous nights Rohan might possibly have
escaped, but he did not try: out in the open country he would have
soon been taken, and he knew no "coign of vantage" equal to the
position he occupied. Twice, at considerable peril, he made his way in
the darkness up the cliff to the spot where he had been discovered by
Mikel Grallon and the rest; and on the second occasion a hand from
above, as before, let him down food--black bread and coarse cheese. So
he did not starve--yet.

And now the storm abated, and calm days came, and nights with a bright
moon. The besiegers made no attempt to reach him; they had clearly
determined on starving him out.

On the fifth night from the commencement of the siege the besiegers
made a discovery. The sentinels on the crags above, as they stood
'twixt sleeping and waking at their posts, saw a dark figure creeping,
almost crawling, on the edges of the crags; sometimes it paused and
lay quite still, at others it almost ran; and at first they crossed
themselves superstitiously, for they deemed it something unearthly.
There was a moon, but from time to time her light was buried in dense
clouds. Now, whenever the moonlight shone out, the figure lay still;
whenever all became dark it again moved forward.

One gendarme, separating himself from his fellows, followed on his
hands and knees--moved when the figure moved--paused when the figure
paused--and at last, with a powerful effort of the will--for he had
his superstitions--sprang forward, seized the figure and found it
flesh and blood.

Then the others, running up with lanterns, flashed them in the pale
face of a woman, who uttered a loud wail: Mother Gwenfern.

Her errand was instantly discovered; she carried food, which she was
obviously about to convey to her son by means of a hempen cord, which
they also found upon her person. It was a pitiful business, and some
there would fain have washed their hands of it; but the more brutal
ones, faithful to their duty, drove the old woman back to her cottage
at the bayonet-point. From that time forth a still closer watch was
kept, so that no soul could possibly have left the village and
approached the great cliff-wall unseen.

"He will die!"

"Mother, he shall not die!"

"There is no hope--there is no way; ah, my curse on Pipriac, and on
them all!"

"Pray to the good God! He will direct us!"

"Why should I pray? God is against us, God and the Emperor; my boy
will die, my boy will die!"

It was evening; and the two women--Mother Gwenfern and Marcelle--sat
alone in the widow's cottage, clinging together and crying in despair;
for the widow's last attempt to send succour to her son had failed,
and now her very door was watched by cruel eyes. Ah, it was terrible!
to think that the son of her womb was out yonder starving in the
night, that he had not tasted bread for many hours, that she was
powerless to stir to help him any more! What she had previously been
able to convey to him had been barely sufficient to support life, yet
it had sufficed; but now!--a whole day and night had passed since she
had vainly tried to reach him and had been discovered in the attempt.
Merciful God! to think of the darkness, and the cold, and the dreary
solitude of the Cave; and then, to crown all, the hunger!

The agony of those months of horror had left their mark on the weary
woman; gaunter and more grim than ever, a skeleton only sustained by
the intensity of the maternal fire that burnt within her, she waited
and watched: that ominous blue colour of the lips often proclaiming
the secret disease that prayed within. Her comfort in those desolate
hours had been Marcelle, who, with a daughter's love and more than a
daughter's duty, had watched over her and helped her in her holy
struggle.

Come back to the Cathedral of St. Gildas. It is night, the tide is
full, and the moon is shining on the watery floor. Far above on the
cliffs the sentinels are watching; on the shores around they are
scattered, standing or lying; Pipriac is not with them, but he, too,
wherever he is, is on the qui vive. All is still and calm: stillest of
all that white face gazing seaward out of the Cave.

The pinch has come at last, the cruel pinch and pang which no strength
of will can subdue, which nothing but bread can appease. Last night
Rohan Gwenfern ate his last crust; then, climbing up to the old spot,
watched for the old signal, as he had watched the night before, in
vain. When food had come he had husbanded it with care--only partaking
of just enough to support simple life, dividing the rest into portions
for the future hours; but he had come to the end at last. Down on the
shores there might be shell-fish capable of nourishing life, but
thither he dared not fare: he must remain, like a rat, within his
hole; and help from the sea-birds there was none, for the puffins had
all fled many weeks before, and the gulls were strong-winged and
beyond his reach. Water he lacked not; the cold rocks distilled that
liberally enough; but food he had none--nay, not even the dulse of the
sea to gnaw. He was caged, trapped; and now he starved.

What wonder, then, if his face looked wild and despairing as he gazed
out on the lonely sea? Far out in the moonlight, creeping like black
water-snakes along the water, he saw the fishing boats going seaward;
ah, how merrily had he sailed with them in those peaceful days that
were gone! He had lost all that; he had lost the world... Yet he could
bear all, he would not care, if he had only a crust of bread to eat!

Sometimes his head swooned round, for already hunger had begun to
attack the citadels of life; sometimes he fell away into a doze and
awoke shivering; yet, waking or asleep, he sat watching at the Cave's
mouth in desolation and despair.

"Rohan! Rohan!"

He starts from his half-sleep, looking wildly round him. Almighty God!
is it a dream? Something black stirs there in the moonlight; something
black, and amidst it something white. It is too dim for him to see
well--to distinguish shapes--but he can hear the well-known voice,
though it comes only in a whisper. Can it be real?

"Rohan! Rohan!"

Yes, it is real! Peering down he sees, floating under the Altar, a
small boat containing two figures. Yes, surely a boat, by the movement
of the muffled oars. It moves softly up and down in the great swell
that rises and falls in the Cathedral.

"Rohan, are you there? Listen, it is I--Marcelle! Ah, now I see you--
whisper low, for they are on the watch."

"Who is with you?"

"Jn Goron; we crept along close to shore through the Porte d'Ingnal,
and no one saw; but there is no time to lose. We have brought you
food!"

The man's eyes glitter as he bends over the descent, looking down at
the boat. As he hangs in this attitude, a sound strikes upon his ears,
and he listens wildly; again! yes, it is the sound of oars beyond the
Gate.

"Quick! Begone!" he cries; "they are coming!...See! throw the food
down on the shingle and fly!"

The tide is still nearly full, but just under the Trou there is a
narrow space of shingle from which the water has just ebbed, and on
which the boat's prow strikes at intervals. On this shingle Marcelle,
leaning quickly forward, deposits what she bears; then, with an
impulsive movement, she stretches her arms eagerly up to him who hangs
above her, as if to embrace him, while Jn Goron, with a few swift
strokes of the oars, forces the light boat across the Cathedral floor,
through the Gate, and out to the sea beyond. Scarcely has he passed
the shadow of the Gate, however, when a gruff voice demands, "Who goes
there?" and a black pinnace, rowed by sailors of the coast-guard,
bears down from the darkness. In an instant a heavy hand is laid on
the gunwale of Goron's boat; bayonets and cutlasses glisten in the dim
moonlight, and a familiar voice cries--

"Tout les diables! It is a woman!"

The speaker is Pipriac, and he stands in the stern of the pinnace,
glaring over at Marcelle.

"The lantern! let us see her face!"

Some one lifts a lighted lantern from the bottom of the boat and
flashes its rays right into the face of Marcelle. She is soon
recognised; and then the same proceeding is gone through with Goron,
whose identity is hailed with a volley of expletives.

"Is this treason?" cries Pipriac. "Malediction! answer, one or both.
What the foul fiend are you doing out here by the Gate at such an
hour? Do you know what will be the consequence if you are discovered
aiding and abetting the deserter? Well, it will be death!--death, look
you--even for you, Marcelle Derval, though you are only a girl and a
child!"

Marcelle answers with determination, though her heart is sick with
apprehension lest her errand is discovered--

"Surely one may row upon the water without offence, Sergeant Pipriac."

"Ah, bah! tell that to the fishes; old Pipriac is not so stupid. Here,
one of you, search the boat."

A man leaps, lantern in hand, from the larger boat into the smaller,
searches it, and finds nothing: at which Pipriac shakes his head and
growls. It is characteristic of Pipriac that when he is least really
angry he vociferates and objurgates the most; when most subdued he is
most dangerous.

On the present occasion his language is quite unquotable. When he has
finished, one of the men inquires quietly if Marcelle and Goron are to
be arrested or suffered to go about their business.

"Curses upon them, let them go! but we must keep our eyes open
henceforth. Jn Goron, I suspect you--be warned, and take no more
moonlight excursions. Marcelle, you too are warned; you come of a good
stock, and I should be sorry to see you get into trouble. Now, away
with you--Home, like lightning! And, hark you, when next you come out
here by night you will find it go hard with you indeed. Begone!"

So Marcelle and Goron go free--partly, perhaps, through the secret
good-nature of the Sergeant. Goron pulls rapidly for the village, and
soon his boat touches the shore immediately beneath the cottage of
Mother Gwenfern.

Meantime Pipriac has peered through the Gate into the Cathedral;
seeing all quiet and in darkness, he gives the order to depart, and so
his boat, too, disappears from the scene. No sooner has the sound of
his oars quite died away in the distance than a dark figure begins to
descend from the Cave; hanging by feet and hands to creep down from
crevice to crevice of the dangerous wall, until it reaches the space
of shingle beneath: there it finds the burthen which Marcelle brought,
which it secures carefully before again climbing; then, even more
rapidly than it came down, it proceeds to re-ascend, and, ere long, in
perfect safety, it returns to the mouth of the Cave. So Rohan Gwenfern
is saved from famine for the time being.



Chapter 34. A FOUR-FOOTED CHRISTIAN



The siege has lasted nearly a fortnight, and still the deserter seems
as far off from surrendering as ever. It is inscrutable,
inconceivable; for every avenue of aid is now blocked, and there is no
known means by which a human being could bring him help, either by
land or sea. Save for the fact that from time to time glimpses are
caught of his person, and indications given of his existence, one
would imagine the deserter to be dead. Yet he is not dead; and he does
not offer to surrender; and, indeed, he is tiresomely on the alert.
Naturally, the patience of his pursuers is exhausted; but they do not
neglect their usual precautions. Pipriac, in his secret mind (where he
is superstitious), begins to think he is dealing with a ghost after
all; for surely no human being, single-handed, could so consummately
and so calmly set at defiance all the forces of the law, of Pipriac,
and of the great Emperor. Of one thing Pipriac is certain, that no
human hand brings the deserter food; and yet he lives; and to live he
must eat! and how all the devils does he provide the wherewithal?
Unless he is mysteriously fed by an angel, or (which is far more
probable in Pipriac's opinion) by a spirit of a darker order, he must
himself be something more than human: in which case affairs look grim,
and yet ridiculous indeed. Food does not--at least in these degenerate
days--drop from heaven; nor does it, in a form suitable for human
sustenance, grow in rocks and caves of the sea. How then by all that
is diabolic does the deserter procure that food which is so terrible
and commonplace a human necessity? It puzzles thinking.

What the open-minded and irascible soldier, too fair and too fiery for
subtle suspicions, fails altogether to discover, is finally, after
many nights and days, rooted out and brought to light by the mole-like
burrower in mean soil, Mikel Grallon. Honest Mikel has been all this
time, more or less, a hanger-on to the skirts of the besieging party:
coming and going at irregular intervals, but never quite abandoning
his functions as scout and spy in general. Him Pipriac ever regards
with a malignant and baleful eye, but to Pipriac's dislike he is skin-
proof. His business now is to ascertain by what secret means the
deserter sets his enemies at defiance and cannot even be starved out
of, or in, his citadel. Here Grallon, unlike the Sergeant, has no
superstitions; he is convinced, with all his crafty mind, that there
are sound physical reasons for all that is taking place: Rohan
Gwenfern is receiving ordinary sustenance--but how?

It comes upon Grallon in one illuminating flash, as he stands, not far
from Pipriac, at the foot of the Stairs of St. Triffine, looking
upward. Westward, on the cliff's face, not far from the Cathedral,
something is moving, walking with sure footsteps on paths inaccessible
to man: it pauses ever and anon, gazing round with quiet unconcern;
then it leisurely moves on; nor does it halt until it has descended
the green side in the very neighbourhood of Rohan's Trou. Great
inspirations come suddenly; to Grallon it seems "as if a star has
burst within his brain." He runs up to Pipriac, who is sullenly
sitting on a rock with a group of his men around him.

"Look, Sergeant, look!"

And he points at the object in the distance. Pipriac rolls his one eye
round in no amiable fashion, and demands by all the devils what Mikel
Grallon means.

"Look!" repeats Mikel. "The goat!"

"And what of the goat, fisherman?"

"Only this: it is going to the Trou, and it goes there by day and
night to feed its master: now at the cottage, then at the cave. What
fools we have been!"

Here Grallon chuckles silently, much to the anger of the Sergeant.

"Cease grimacing, and explain!" cries Pipriac. "Well?"

"I have my suspicions--nay, am I not certain?--that Madame Longbeard
yonder is in the plot. Is she not ever wandering to and fro upon the
cliffs, and will she not come to the deserter's call, and would it not
be easy to conceal food about her body?--no matter how little; a crust
will keep life alive. Look! she descends--she is out of sight; she is
going straight down to the Cave!"

Pipriac keeps his live-coal of an eye fixed on Grallon's, looking
through rather than upon him, in a grim abstraction; then he rises,
growling, to his feet, and calls a consultation, the result of which
is that the goat shall be strictly watched.

The morning after Jannedik is intercepted as she emerges on the cliff
surrounded, and "searched," but, nothing being discovered, she is
suffered to go. The morning afterwards, however, Pipriac is more
fortunate; for he finds, carefully buried among the long hair of the
goat's throat, and suspended by a strong cord round the neck--a small
basket of woven reeds containing black bread and strong cheese. It is
now clear enough that Jannedik has been the bearer of supplies from
time to time.

"It would be only just," says one of the gendarmes, "to shoot her for
treason against the Emperor."

Pipriac scowled.

"No, let her go," he cried, "the beast knows no better;" and as
Jannedik leapt away without the load, and began descending the cliffs
in the direction the Cathedral, he muttered, "She will not be so
welcome to-day as usual, without her little present."

So the gendarmes eat the bread and cheese, and laugh as they reflect
that Rohan is circumvented at last; while Pipriac paces up and down,
in no lamb-like mood, for he is secretly ashamed of the whole
business. Still, duty is duty, and the Sergeant, with dogged
pertinacity, means to perform his.

Henceforth all efforts to use Jannedik as the bearer of supplies are
unavailing;--a gendarme is posted at the widow's door night and day,
with strict orders to watch the whole family, especially the goat. He
notices that Jannedik seldom goes and comes at all, and never stays
long out of doors; for lying on the hearth within she has a little
kid, who requires constant maternal attention. When one night, the kid
dies and Jannedik is left lamenting, the gendarme regards the affair
as of no importance;--but he is wrong.

More days pass, and still the deserter is not dead but liveth. Wild
winds blow with rain and hail, the sea roars night and day, the
besiegers have a hard time of it and are growing furious. How the
fierce rains lash the cliff! how the spindrift flies in from the
foaming waters!--and yet screened from all this sits the deserter,
while the servants of the Emperor are dripping like drowned rats.
Hours of storm, when Pipriac's loudest malediction is faint as the
scratch of a pin, unheeded and scarce heard! Is this to last for ever?

To Pipriac and the rest, pacing there in mist and cloud, peeping,
muffled to the throat, there come from time to time tidings from the
far-off seat of war. The great Emperor has met with slight reverses,
and some of his old friends are falling away from him; indeed, if
Pipriac could only discern it, the cloud no bigger than a prophet's
hand is already looming on the German Rhine. The gendarmes laugh and
quote the bulletins as they tramp up and down. They are amused at the
folly of those who have fallen off from the Emperor, and look forward
for the news of French victory which is to come soon!

Once more, as they stand below the cliffs, Mikel Grallon points
upward, calling the attention of Pipriac.

"Well?" snaps the Sergeant.

"That accursed goat; it goes to the Trou oftener than ever."

"What then? It goes empty, fisherman--we take care of that. Pshaw, you
are an ass!"

Mikel trembles and quivers spitefully as he replies--

"I will tell you one thing that you have overlooked, clever as you
think yourself; if you had thought of it you would never have let the
goat go."

"Well?"

"The goat is in full suck, though her kid is dead; and a mouth draws
her milk each day!"

Pipriac utters an exclamation; here is a new light with a vengeance!

"Is this true?" he growls, glaring round. "Malediction! but this Mikel
Grallon is the devil! After all, a man cannot live on the milk of a
goat."

"It may suffice for a time," says Mikel Grallon; "there is Life in it.
Curses on the beast! If I were one of you, I would soon settle its
business."

As he speaks the goat is passing overhead, at a distance of several
hundred yards, leisurely pausing ever and anon, and cropping the thin
herbage as she goes. A diabolical twinkle comes into the Sergeant's
eye.

"Can you shoot, fisherman?" he asks.

"I can hit a mark," is the reply.

"I will wager a bottle of good brandy you could not hit a barn-door at
a hundred yards! Nevertheless--Hol, give him your gun."

The gendarme hands his weapon to Mikel Grallon, who takes it silently,
with a look of interrogation at Pipriac.

"Now, fire!"

"At what?"

"Malediction! at the goat; let us see what you are made of. Fire,--and
miss!"

The thin lips of Mikel Grallon are pressed tight together and his brow
comes down over his eyes. His hand does not tremble as, kneeling down
on one knee, he steadies the piece and takes aim. Up above him
Jannedik, with her side presented full to him, pauses unconscious.

He is so long in taking aim that Pipriac swears.

"Malediction!--fire!"

There is a flash, a report, and the bullet flies on to its mark above.
For a moment it appears to have missed, for the goat, though it seemed
to start at the sound, still stands in the same position, scarcely
stirring; and Hol is snatching his gun back with a contemptuous
laugh, when Pipriac, pointing upwards, cries--

"Tous les diables!--she is hit; she is coming down!"

But the niche where the goat stands is broad and safe, and she has
only fallen forward on her knees; it is obvious she is hurt, for she
quakes and seems about to roll over; restraining herself however, she
staggers to her legs, and then, as if partially recovered, she runs
rapidly along the cliffs in the direction of the Cave.



Chapter 35. VIGIL



For a second time Mikel Grallon, with the cunning of his class, had
guessed correctly; and for two long days and nights Rohan Gwenfern had
received no other sustenance than the milk of the goat. At first,
after the death of her kid, Jannedik had been running about the cliffs
distracted, burthened with the weight of the milk the little lips
could no longer draw; and the famished man in the Cave, finding in her
discomfort his bodily salvation, had in direst extremity put his mouth
to her teeming udder and drunk. From that moment forth Jannedik
returned many times a day to be relieved of her painful burthen; and
the more relief came the freer the milk flowed--a vital and an
invigorating stream.

But by this time the struggle was well-nigh over, and Rohan Gwenfern
knew well that the end was near. The hand of Death seemed upon him,
the wholesome flesh had worn from off his bones, and his whole frame
was shrunken and famine-stricken. No eye undimmed with tears could
have seen him there, crouching like a starved wolf upon his dark bed,
with wild eyes glaring out through hair unkempt, his cheeks sunken,
his jaw dropping in exhaustion and despair. From time to time he
wailed out to God inarticulate sounds of misery: and often his head
grew light and he saw strange visions flitting about him in the gloom.
But always, when there came any sound from below, he was ready, with
all his fierce instinct upon him, to watch and to resist.

He was sitting thus towards evening, while the tide was full and the
waves were roaring in storm underneath the Cave, when the entrance was
darkened, and Jannedik crept in, and passing across the damp and slimy
floor, lay down at his bed. For a time he scarcely noticed her, for he
was light-headed, muttering and murmuring to himself; but presently
his attention was attracted by the rough tongue licking his hand.
Turning his hollow eyes upon her, he murmured her name and touched her
softly, at which she stirred, looking up into his face and uttering a
low cry of pain; and then, quivering from head to foot in agony, she
rolled over at his feet. He then saw, with horror, that she was
suffering from a terrible wound in the side, some distance behind the
shoulder; and from that wound her life's blood was ebbing fast.

Pitiful--even more pitiful than the pain of human beings whose lips
can speak--are the fatal pangs of poor beasts that the good God made
dumb. By an instinct diviner than our reason they know and fear the
approach of death, and sometimes they seem to love life well--so well,
they dare not die. Shall we weep by mortal deathbeds and keep dry eyes
by these? or shall we not rather deem that the Shadow that darkens our
hearts is terrible to theirs, and that the blessing we ask upon our
last sleep should be spoken on theirs as well: with the same hope of
awakening, with the same poor gleam of comfort, with the same faith
born of despair in the presence of that great darkness we cannot
understand?

To Rohan, this poor goat had been more than succour and solace: she
had been a friend and a companion, almost human in the comfort she
brought. So long as she came to him, with or without tidings from the
world, he did not seem quite deserted, he did not feel quite heart-
broken. Several times he had flung his arms around her neck, and
almost wept, as he thought of the loving ones from whom she came, and
her familiar presence, seen from day to day, had made the dark cave
almost like home.

And now she lay at his feet panting, dying, her large eyes upturned
beseechingly to his. He uttered a wild groan, and knelt beside her.

"Jannedik! Jannedik!"

The poor beast knew her name and licked the hand of her master; then,
with one last quiver of the bleeding frame, she dropped her gentle
head, and died.

Darkness came, and found Rohan Gwenfern still kneeling by the side of
his dead friend, his face white as death and lit with frenzy, his
frame trembling from head to foot. All his own physical troubles were
forgotten for the time, in this new surprise and pain; he gazed on the
dead goat as on a murdered man, innocent yet martyred; and again and
again he called his heart's curse on the hand that struck her low. A
sick horror possessed him: he could not rise nor stir, but the wild
thoughts coursed across his brain like clouds across the sky.

The moon rose in the high heavens, but the wind had not abated, and
the sea was still thundering on the shore. It was one of those wild
autumn nights when there is a great shining in the upper air, with a
strange trouble and conflict of the forces below; when the moon and
stars fulfil their ministrations to an earth that trembles in darkness
and a sea that moans in pain; a night of elemental contradictions:
vast calm in the heavens, but mighty tumult under the heavens; the
clouds drifting luminously yet softly overhead, but the North-West
Wind going forth tumultuously below, with his foot on the neck of the
Deep.

The cold moonlight from the sky crept into the Cave and touched the
dead goat, and trembled on Rohan's face and hands as if in
benediction; but no benediction came; and the man's heart was fierce
as a beast's within him, and the man's brain was mad. As a wild beast
broods in its cave, gazing out through the lunar sheen with glazed and
mindless eyes, Rohan crouched in his place in a sort of savage trance.
One hour--two--passed thus. He seemed scarcely to see or hear.

Meanwhile the foaming, surging tide had drifted out through the Gate,
and the tomblike rocks and stones were again visible on the weedy,
shingly shore. The sea roared farther off, beyond the Gate, but its
roar was still deafening. The wind, moreover, was yet rising, and
there was a halo like Saturn's ring round the vitreous Moon.

All at once Rohan leapt to his feet and listened; for, above the roar
of the sea and the shriek of the wind, he heard a startling sound. In
a moment he sprang to the mouth of the Cave--and not too soon; for the
Cathedral was full of men, and wild faces were moving up from beneath
towards his hiding-place. Ladders had at last been procured and,
lashed together, placed against the dripping Altar. Up these ladders
men were clambering. But when Rohan appeared like a ghost above them
in the moonlight, they shrank back with a loud cry.

Only for an instant; then they began to swarm up again.



Chapter 36. VICTORY



It was the work of a moment for Rohan, exerting all his extraordinary
strength, to hurl back the two ladders, the highest rungs of which
rested against the foot of the Trou. Fortunately those upon them had
not climbed far, and fell backwards shrieking, but little harmed;
while, urged to frenzy by the appearance of the besieging crowd, Rohan
straightway commenced to hurl down upon the mass the ponderous
fragments of rock which he had placed, ready for use, at the Cave's
mouth. Shrieks, cries, oaths arose: and the men withdrew tumultuously
out of reach. Then a voice shrieked "Fire!" and a shower of bullets
rained round the deserter's form; but all missed their mark.

It was now quite clear that Pipriac, weary of so long waiting, had
made up his martial mind to carry the position by storm. Under cover
of the firing a number of gendarmes advanced again, and the ladders
were once more placed against the dripping wall of the "Altar"; but in
another moment the besiegers were again baffled and driven back by
terrible showers of rocks and stones. More like a wild beast than a
human creature, Rohan flitted above in the dark mouth of the Cave:
silently, with mad outreaching arms, gathering and discharging his
rude ammunition; gazing hungrily and fiercely down on the cruel faces
congregated below him; taking no more heed of the bullets pouring
around him than he might have done of falling rain or hail. In their
excitement and fury the men aimed wildly and at random; so that,
although his body was a constant target for their bullets, the
deserter remained unharmed.

Presently, discovering all attempts to be unavailing, the gendarmes
withdrew out of reach in eager consultation. Behind them, filling the
aperture of the Gate, gathered villagers of both sexes, from whose
lips from time to time came low cries of terror and amaze.

Finding the position his own and his security no longer assailed,
Rohan withdrew back into the Cave.

But the patience of the besiegers had been long exhausted, and the
suspension of attack was not destined to last long. Now that they
possessed scaling ladders and other implements of attack ready to
their hand, they were determined, at any risk, to unearth the creature
who had resisted them so calmly for so prolonged a period. Dead or
alive, they would secure him; and that night. The storm which was
raging all around did not interfere with their manuvres; on the
contrary, it facilitated them; and from time to time, when the moon
was veiled under the clouds and all was darkness and confusion, the
assault seemed easy.

Under cover of a sharp fire of bullets given by a file of gendarmes
told off for that purpose, a number of men again advanced to the
attack. Lying flat on his face, Rohan kept himself well concealed
behind the heap of rocks and stones which he had accumulated at the
mouth of the Cave; so that, although he presented no mark for the
bullets, his arms were ready to precipitate his heavy missiles on
those below. So soon as the advance was made, and the ladders were
rested against the face of the cliff, the defence began anew.

Showers of rocks; great and small, rolled down from the Trou. Had some
of the larger missiles struck their mark the result would speedily
have been fatal; but the besiegers were wary, and by their rapid
movements escaped much of Rohan's point-blank fire. From time to time,
indeed, there was a yell of fury when a stray stone struck home and
caused some furious besieger to limp or crawl back to his comrades in
the safe part of the Cathedral; but as yet no man was dangerously
hurt, and ere long the ladders were again safely placed against the
cliff, and men began rapidly to ascend. It was now that Rohan,
springing erect and holding high in the air a huge fragment of rock,
dashed it down with incredible force and fury on one of the ladders.
Fortunately, no human being had reached the point where the rock
struck; but the rungs of the ladder snapped like dry faggots, and amid
a yell of execration, the entire ladder itself collapsed, and those
who were climbing fell back heavily, bleeding and half stunned.

"Fire! fire!" shrieked Pipriac, pointing at the figure of Rohan, which
was now distinctly visible above him in the moonlight. Before the
command could be obeyed Rohan had crouched down under shelter, and the
bullets rained harmlessly round the spot where he had just stood.

"Devil! deserter! Chouan!" yelled the infuriated Sergeant, shaking his
fist impotently at the Trou. "We will have you alive or dead!"--and
turning again to his men, he cried, "Forward again! to the attack!"

Again the body of men moved forward under cover of fire, and again the
extraordinary contest was renewed.

It was a scene to be remembered. The dark masses moving and crying in
the Cathedral, with glistening of bayonets and flashing of guns; the
wild astonished groups of villagers congregated at the Gate, far
without which the sea was roaring and gleaming in furious storm; the
great black cliffs above, reaching up as it were into the very heaven,
and ever and again gleaming like sheet-lightning under the sudden
illumination of the moon; and high up above the Cathedral floor the
lonely Cave, with the wild figure of a man coming and going across it
like a ghost. To the cannonade of wind and sea, before which the
mighty crags seemed to take to their foundations, there was added the
sharp sound of the muskets and the hoarse roaring from the throats of
men; but at intervals, when all sounds ceased for an instant, both the
roar of the elements and the disturbing cries of mortals, the
stillness was deathlike though momentary, and you could distinctly
hear the cry of some disturbed sea-bird far up among the crags.

The conflict grew tumultuous. As a succession of huge clouds came up
obscuring the moon for many minutes together, there was frequently
almost total darkness.

Only the extraordinary impregnability of Rohan's position prevented it
from being carried twenty times over; for as the time flew, and the
attack continued unabated, the man's strength began to fail him. Hours
passed, and he still succeeded in keeping his enemies at bay; but his
hands were bleeding from the sharp rocks, his head seemed whirling
round, his eyes were blinded with fatigue, and he heard rather than
saw the crowd that raged and climbed beneath his feet. For, remember,
he was spent with hunger, worn with long watching and waiting, and he
possessed only a tithe of his old gigantic strength.

Again and again the besiegers were repulsed; more than one was wounded
and had crept away; but the shower of rocks continued terrific
whenever they approached again. Over all the other tumult rose the
voice of Pipriac urging on his men.

Had the gendarmes been marksmen Rohan would have fallen early in the
fight; but partly from want of skill, and partly from excessive
excitement, they fired at random, until their ammunition was almost
spent.

Many hours had passed away when the besiegers made a final attack,
more desperate than any that had taken place before. Advancing under
cover of darkness, they set their ladder against the cliff, while
their comrades covered the mouth of the Cave with their guns. In a
moment Rohan, had sprung up again, and had hurled back the ladder with
tremendous strength. There was a flash--a roar--and once more the
bullets rained round him. He drew back startled, and before he could
recover himself the assault was renewed.

Simultaneously with the central attack two gendarmes, taking off their
shoes and holding their bayonets between their teeth, began,
completely unseen and unsuspected, to make their way upward by the
fissures in the rock at the side of the "Altar." Rohan had twice again
hurled back the ladder, and was in the act of discharging a fresh
volley of stones, when he was startled by the apparition of two human
faces rising at his feet and glaring upward. A wild exclamation burst
from his lips, and, stooping down, he loosened from the rock at his
feet two convulsive human hands.

With a shrill cry, the man fell backward into the crowd below;
fortunately, his fall was broken by the moving, heaving mass, and
although he was half stunned, and half stunned several others, he was
not killed. Meantime his companion, fearful of meeting the same fate,
had rapidly descended.

But in the meantime the ladder was again fixed and held firmly down
against the cliff, while more men were climbing. By this time Rohan
was well-nigh exhausted and yielding rapidly to a species of vertigo.
He no longer saw his enemies; but, seizing rock after rock, hurled
them down furiously into the darkness. Suddenly, however, he became
conscious of dark figures rising to him from below. His head swam
round. Uplifting with all his strength a gigantic fragment of rock,
almost the last remaining of his store, he poised it for one moment
over his head, and then, with a wild cry, hurled it downward at the
shapes he saw approaching! There was a crash, a shriek; under the
frightful weight of the rock the ladder yielded, and the figures upon
it shrank groaning down; horrible cries followed, of agony and
terror;--and then, overcome by his excitement and fatigue, Rohan
swooned away.

How long he lay unconscious he could not tell; but when he opened his
eyes he was lying unmolested in the mouth of the Cave. The wind was
still crying and the sea was still roaring, but all other sounds were
silent; and when, remembering his recent peril, and half expecting to
find himself face to face with his enemies, he started up and gazed
around him, he saw no sign of any human being. The moon was out
without a cloud, her beams were flooding the Cathedral of St. Gildas;
and lo! the foaming tide had entered the Gate and was rapidly creeping
nearer and nearer to the great Altar. The silence was now explained.
The besiegers had withdrawn, as before, at the tide's approach, and
left him master of the situation.

Peering over into the gloom he saw the shingle below thickly strewn
with huge rocks and stones, the dbris of the recent struggle, but of
any lingering human being there was no sign. Indeed, for any one
remaining in the Cathedral, and lacking the skill or power to ascend
to the Cave, there would only have been one doom--a swift death in the
cruel, crawling tide. Inch by inch, foot by foot, the stormy waters
were coming in, and already the great Cathedral floor was half paved
with the liquid, shimmering pools.

Well, the battle was over, and he had conquered; and indeed properly
provisioned for the purpose, and duly recovered from the effects of
his long privation, he could have held the position for an indefinite
period against hundreds of men. But now, alas! all his force had gone
from him. Hunger and cold had done their work, and the last citadel of
his bodily strength seemed overcome. Trembling and shivering he looked
around him, conscious of no feeling save a sense of utter desolation
and despair. He had held out bravely, but he felt that he could hold
out no longer; he was safe for a little space, but he knew that his
persecutors would soon return; and altogether both man and God seemed
against him, as he had feared and believed from the beginning.

The Gate of the Cathedral was now full of the boiling, rushing,
whirling waves, and the floor was more than two thirds covered. A roar
like thunder was in the air, and the salt flakes of foam were blown by
the wind up into his very face. As he stooped again, gazed down, he
beheld for the first time, right under him in the moonlight, something
which riveted his attention, something dark and moveless, extended on
the shingle immediately below the Cave, and towards which the tide was
rapidly rushing, with white lips ready to touch and tear!

He gazed on for some moments in silent fascination, his heart quite
cold and sick with dread; then eager to satisfy a wild curiosity, he
prepared to descend the face of the cliff.



Chapter 37. THE MIRAGE OF LEIPSIC



Slowly, swinging in the darkness, Rohan descended the face of the
cliff until he reached the narrow place of shingle below, on which the
troubled tide was momentarily creeping; and suddenly the moonlight
came out anew upon the Cathedral, flooding its weedy walls and watery
floor with streams of liquid silver. The wind still shrieked and
moaned, and the sea roared terribly without the Gate; but within the
Cathedral there was a solemn calm, as in some consecrated temple made
by hands.

Slipping down upon the wet shingle, and involuntarily looking from
side to side in dread of a pursuer, Rohan saw the sea rushing in
through the Gate with a roar like thunder and a snow-white flash of
foam; and the waters as they entered boiled in eddies, whirling round
and round, while the great far-away heart of the ocean uplifted them
in one throbbing pulsation till they washed and splashed wildly
against the dripping walls. Overhead the moving heavens, roofing the
great Cathedral, were sailing past, drifting and changing, brightening
and darkening, in one wild rush of wavelike shades and gleams. So loud
was the tumult that it would have drowned a strong man's shriek as
easily as an infant's cry.

But the light of the moon increased, illuming the boiling surge within
the Gate and creeping onward until it touched the very feet of the
fugitive. Rohan shivered, as if a cold hand had been laid on his
shoulder; for the rays fell luminously on something horrible--on a
white face upturned to the sky.

He drew back with a shudder. After a moment he looked again. The face
was still there, touched by the glimmering fingers of the moon; and
half resting on the shingle, half submerged in the waters of the still
rising tide, was the body of a man.

One of the great rocks hurled down by Rohan in his mad fury had struck
the creature down; hence, doubtless, that wild shriek of horror which
had arisen from his pursuers before they fled. The rock still lay upon
the man's crushed breast, for death had been instantaneous. One white
hand glimmered from beneath, while the awful face looked with open
eyes at heaven.

Words cannot depict, human language is too weak to represent, the
feelings which at that moment filled the soul of Rohan Gwenfern. A
dull, dumb sensation, morally the analogue of the physical feeling of
intense cold, numbed and for the time being paralysed his faculties;
so that he staggered and almost fell; and his own heart seemed crushed
under a load like the rock upon the dead man's breast. Fire flashed
before his eyes, with a horrid glimmer of blood. He was compelled to
lean his head against the crag, breathing hard like a thing in mortal
pain.

His first wild emotions of wrath and bloodthirst had worn away, now
that his enemies were no longer near to fan the fierce flames to fury.
The Battle was over, and he was the Victor, standing alone upon the
field; and at his feet, the Slain.

If at that moment his persecutors had returned he might have renewed
the fray, have struck again, and have been thenceforth insensible to
blood; but it had been so willed that his victory should be complete
as well as single; his enemies would not return that night, and they
had left behind them, glimmering solitary in the moonlight, their
dead.

Bear in mind that Rohan, like all men of his race and religion, had
been familiar with Death before, under other and more beautiful
conditions. The gentle sleep of men and women dying in their beds; the
low farewell of wearied-out old age, blest by the Church and
consecrated by the priest--these he knew well; and he had loved to
hear the solemn music of the Celtic dirge sung round the shrouded
forms of those who had passed away under natural circumstances. His
hands were bloodless then. He had now to realize, under the fullest
and most terrible of conditions, the presence of the cold Phantom as
it appears to the eyes of murderers and of uninitiated men upon the
battle-field. He had now to conceive, with a horrible and sickening
fascination, that his hands had destroyed that strangest and solemnest
of mysteries--a breathing, moving human life.

True, he was vindicated by the circumstance that he had merely
stricken in self-defence; but what is circumstance to one whose soul,
like Rohan Gwenfern's, is fashioned of stuff as sensitive as the
feelers of the gleaming medus of the ocean? For him there was but one
perception. A blinding white light of agony arose before him. He,
whose heart was framed of gentleness, whose nature was born and bred
in love and kindness, he out of whose hand the lamb ate and the dove
fed, who had never before destroyed any creature with life, not even
the helpless sea-birds of the crags, had now done dreadful murder, had
hurried into eternity the miserable soul of a fellow man. For him, for
Rohan Gwenfern, there was no vindication. Life was poisoned to him;
the air he breathed was sick and sacrificial. This, then, was the end
of all his dreams of love and peace!

The clouds drifted above him with flying gleams of moonlight, the wind
shrieked and the sea roared with hollow cannonade beyond the Gate, as,
partially recovering his self-possession, he stooped down to gaze at
the face of the murdered man. In his terror he was saying that he
might recognise some bitter enemy--Mikel Grallon, for example, and
thus discover a partial justification for his own deed. The first look
made him despair. The man wore uniform, and his hair and beard were
quite white. It was Pipriac himself; gazing with a bloodless face at
heaven!

Strangely enough, he had never, although Pipriac led the besieging
party, looked upon him in the light of a deadly foe. He had been his
father's boon-comrade; under all his fierce swash-buckler air, there
had ever existed a certain rude generosity and bonhomie, and after all
he had only been doing his duty in attempting to secure a deserter
dead or alive. In his own mind, moreover, Rohan knew that Pipriac
would cheerfully have winked at his escape, had such escape been
possible.

Death gives strange dignity to the commonest of faces, and the
features of the old Sergeant look solemn and venerable in their fixed
and awful pallor. The moon rises high over the Cathedral, within which
the tide has now grown calm; but the waters, the deep ululation of
which fills the air, have now reached to Rohan's feet. Above, the
mighty crags rise black as jet, save where at intervals some space of
moist granite flashes in the changeful light... Rohan listens. Far
overhead there is a sound like human voices, dying faintly away.

And now, old Pipriac, all thy grim jokes and oaths are over, all thy
voice is hushed for ever, and the frame that once strutted in the
sunshine floats idly as a weed in the shallows of the tide. Bottle of
red wine or flask of corn brandy will never delight thee more. Thou,
too, hast fallen at thy post with many a thousand better men, in the
cause of the great Colossus who bestrides the world; and though thy
fall has been inglorious and far away from all the splendours of the
busy field, thou hast fulfilled thine allotted task, my veteran, as
truly as any of the rest. After all, thou wast a good fellow, and thy
heart was kindly, though thy tongue was rough. So at least thinks
Rohan Gwenfern, as he bends above thee, looking sadly in thy face.

Ah God, to kill!--to quench the living spark in howsoever base a heart
it burns! To strike down the quivering life, to let loose the sad and
perhaps despairing soul! Better to be dead like Pipriac, than to be
looking down with this agony of the heart, as Rohan is looking now.

The heavy rock still lies on Pipriac's breast; but now, stooping
softly, Rohan lifts it in his arms and casts it out into the tide. The
corpse, freed from its load, washes upward and swings from side to
side as if it lived, and turning over on its stomach, floats face
downward at Rohan's feet. And now the place where Rohan stands is
ankle-deep, and the tide has yet another hour to rise. With one last
despairing look at the dead man, Rohan turns away, and slowly, with
feet and hands that tremble in the fissures of the rock, reascends to
the Cave above.

Scarcely has he reached his old position when his sense is once more
attracted by the sound of voices far above him. He starts, listening
intently, and looks upward. Then, for the first time, the reality of
his situation returns upon him, and he remembers the consequences of
his own deed. Though he has slain a man in self-defence, rather than
become an authentic and accredited slayer of men, his act, in the eye
of the law, is murder, and doubtless, sooner or later, he will have to
die a murderer's death.

Stooping over from the Cave, he gazes down on the spot where he so
lately stood. The floor of the Cathedral is now completely covered,
and there, glimmering in one gleaming patch of moonlight, is the sight
he dreads. He utters a wild cry of agony and despair and falls upon
his knees.

Hear him, O merciful God, for he is praying! Have pity, and hearken to
his entreaty, for he is in Thy hand! Ah, but this wild cry which rises
on the night is not a gentle prayer for pity or for mercy; say rather,
it is a frantic wail for redress and for revenge. "I have been
innocent in this thing, O God; not on my head be the guilt, but on his
who hunted me down and made me what I am; on him whose red Sword
shadows all the world, on him who points Thy creatures on to doom, let
the just retribution fall! As he has curst my days, be his accurst;
and spare him not, O God!" Even thus, not in such speech, but with the
same annihilating thought, prays--or curses--Rohan Gwenfern. Then,
rising wildly to his feet, careless now of his life, he follows the
dizzy path that leads up the face of the cliffs.

The date of that night is memorable. It was the 19th of October, 1813.

The circumstance which we are now about to relate is variously given
by those familiar with Rohan Gwenfern's life-history. Some, among the
more credulous and superstitious, believe that the man actually on
that occasion beheld an apocalyptic vision; others, although admitting
that he seemed to see such a vision, affirm that it must have been
merely mental and psychical, due to the wanderings of a naturally wild
and temporarily conscience-stricken imagination; while the purely
sceptical, forming a small minority, go the length of affirming that
the fancy only occurred to the man in after years, when mind and
memory were so confused as to blend all associations into one
extraordinary picture. Be that as it may, the story, resting on the
solemn testimony of the man himself; asserts that Rohan Gwenfern, as
he fled upward that night from the scene of his conflict and left the
body of Pipriac floating in the sea below him, was suddenly arrested
by a miraculous Mirage in the heavens.

The moon had passed into a cloud, whence, as from the folds of a
transparent tent, her light was diffused over the open sky;
tumultuously, in troubled masses, the vapours still continued to drift
in the direction in which the wind was blowing: when suddenly, as if
at the signal of a Hand, the wind ceased, the clouds stood still, and
there was silence both in sky and sea. This terrible silence only
lasted for a moment, during which Rohan hung his head in horrible
expectation. Gazing up once more, he saw the forms of heaven again in
motion; and lo! they had assumed the likeness of mighty Armies
tumultuously passing overhead. The vision grew. He saw the flashing of
steel, the movement of great bodies of men,--the heavy squadrons of
soldiers on foot, the dark silhouette of the artillery rapidly drawn!

The Mirage extended. The whole heavens became as the moonlit earth,
crossed by moving bodies of men, and strewn with dead and dying; and
in the heart of heaven was a great river, through which the tumultuous
legions came.

Clear and distinct, yet ghostlike and unreal, the Shapes passed by;
and far away as the faces loomed he seemed to see each one distinctly,
like that dead face from which he was flying. Presently, however, all
his faculties became absorbed in the contemplation of one Form which
rose gigantic, close to the semi-lucent cloud which veiled the moon.

It sat on horseback, cloaked and hooded, with one hand pointing
onward; and though its outline was gigantic, far exceeding that of any
human thing, its face seemed that of a man. He saw the face clearly,
white as marble, cold as death.

Slowly, as a cloud moves, this Form passed across the heavens; and all
around it the flying legions gathered, pointed on in flight by the
index finger of its hand; but the head was dejected; the chin drooped
upon the breast, and the eyes, cold and pitiless, looked down in still
despair. Awe-stricken, amazed, Rohan stood stretching his hands
upwards with a cry, for the lineaments on which he gazed seemed almost
godlike, and the Form too seemed divine. But as he looked the features
took another likeness and grew terribly familiar, until he recognised
the face which had so long haunted his life, and which the white
Christ had once revealed to him in dream!

Column after column moved past, the whole heavens were darkened, and
in their midst, satanic and commanding, moved the Phantom of
Bonaparte.

It was the 19th of October 1813, and at that very moment the French
armies were in full retreat from Leipsic--with Bonaparte at their
head.



Chapter 38. "HOME THEY BROUGHT THEIR WARRIOR DEAD"



When the besieging party returned to the Cathedral they found the body
of the Sergeant stranded high and dry near the Gate. Not without fear
and trembling, they again placed their ladders against the wall, and
mounting without opposition searched the Cave. However, not a trace of
Rohan was to be found; horror-stricken, doubtless, at his own deed, he
had fled--whither they knew not, nor did they greatly care just then
to know, for the death of Pipriac had filled them with terror and
amaze. By this time dawn had come and the storm had ceased. Dejectedly
enough, followed by a crowd of villagers, they bore their burthen
away--out through the Gate, up the stairs of St. Triffine, and along
the green plateau towards the village. It was a sorrowful procession,
for, with all his faults, the Sergeant was a favourite.

Passing underneath the bunch of mistletoe which hung as a sign over
the door of the little cabaret, they bore in their burthen and placed
it down on the great table which stood in the centre of the kitchen.
Then Hol the gendarme took off his greatcoat and placed it over the
corpse, covering the blood-stained face from sight. Poor old Pipriac!
Many a morning had he swaggered into that kitchen to taste the widow
Cloriet's brandy! Many a time had he smoked his pipe beside that
kitchen fire! Many a time, also, with a wink of his one eye, had he
wound his arm in tipsy affection round the waist of the red-haired
waiting wench Yvonne! It was all over now, and there he lay, a
statelier and more solemn figure than he had ever been in life; while
the trembling widow, in honour of the sad occasion, distributed little
cordial glasses all round.

The cabaret was soon full, for the dreadful news had spread far and
wide. Ere long the little Priest, with a face as white as a sheet,
entered in, and, kneeling by the dead man's side, said a long and
silent prayer. When he had finished he rose to his feet and questioned
the gendarmes.

"And the other--Rohan--where is he? Is he taken?"

The gendarme Hol shook his head.

"He is not taken, and never will be taken, alive; we have searched the
Cave, the cliffs; but the Fiend protects him, Father Rolland, and it
is all in vain."

There was a loud murmur of astonishment and acquiescence.

"How did it all happen?" pursued the Priest. "You attempted to take
him, and he struck in self-defence; but then?"

This was the signal for Hol to launch forth into a long description
of the latter part of the siege, during which he was ever and anon
interrupted by his excited comrades. The consensus of testimony went
to show that Rohan, in his maniacal resistance, had neither been alone
nor unassisted, but that, in the shadow of the night, and amid the
loudness of the storm, he had conjured to his aid the powers of
darkness, whose hands had hurled down upon the besiegers fragments of
rock far too huge to be uplifted by human strength. That he had sold
himself to the Devil, who had formally undertaken to protect him from
the Emperor, was a statement which received general affirmation.
"Master Roberd," it was well known, was ever on the look-out for such
bargains; and the belief that he had been leagued with the deserter
against them flattered alike the vanity of the gendarmes and their
superstition.

Down from his cottage stumped the old Corporal, followed by the
remnant of his "Maccabees;" and when he looked in the dead man's face
his eyes were for a moment dim.

"Peace to his soul--he was a brave man!" ejaculated the veteran. "He
did his duty to the Emperor, and the good God will give him his
reward."

"And after all," said the Priest in a low voice, "he died in fair
fight, as it might be on the open field."

"That is not so," answered the Corporal firmly, looking very white
round the edges of his mouth. "That is not so, m'sieur le cur, for he
was foully murdered by a coward and a chouan, whom God will punish in
his turn. Hear me--I say it, though the man was flesh and blood of
mine."

The little cur shook his head dolefully.

"It is a sad thing, and it all comes, doubtless, of resisting the laws
of the Emperor; but look you, it was a matter of life and death, and
if he had not stricken in self-defence, he would have been taken and
slain. After all, it was one man against many?"

"One man!--a thousand Devils!" cried Hol, unconsciously repeating his
dead leader's favourite expression.

"He was wrong from the beginning," pursued the Priest moralising. "One
man cannot set the world right if it is in error; and it is one's
place to obey the law, and to do one's duty to God and the Emperor. He
would not obey, and now he has shed blood, for which, alas! the good
God will have a reckoning late or soon."

To such purpose, and in so many words, moralised Father Rolland; and
those who heard shuddered and crossed themselves in fear. It occurred
to no one present to reflect that Pipriac had fallen in fair war, in a
war, moreover, in which he was the aggressor; and that Rohan Gwenfern
was as justified in the sight of Heaven as any qualified licentiate of
the art of killing. So strange a law is it of our human consciousness,
that murder loses its horror when multiplied by twenty thousand! Those
who would have calmly surveyed a battle-field strewn with dead could
not regard one solitary corpse with equanimity. Those who would have
adored Napoleon as a great man, who would have kissed his raiment hem
in reverence and tears, turned their hearts against Gwenfern as
against some base and abominable creature.

"Aunt Loz, it is all true! Pipriac is dead, and they have carried his
body up yonder; but Rohan is yet alive. Yes, he has killed Pipriac."

"What could he do? It was a fight for life."

"And now no man will pity him, for there is blood upon his hands; and
no man will give him bread or yield him shelter; and till he yields
himself up no priest will shrive his poor soul and make his peace with
God."

"Is that so, Marcelle?"

"Yes, they all say it is murder--even Father Rolland, who has a kind
heart. But it is false, Aunt Loz!"

"Of course it is false; for what could he do? It is they who are to
blame, not he, not my poor persecuted boy. May the good God forgive
him, for he struck in self-defence, and he was mad. O my son, my son!"

They sat together in the cottage under the cliff, and they spoke, with
sobs and tears, clinging to each other. The horror of Rohan's deed lay
upon them like some frightful shadow. It seemed like horrible
blasphemy to have struck down the emissary of the great Emperor; and
they knew that for such a deed, however justifiable, there would be no
mercy, and that for such a murderer there would be no pity. Rohan was
outlawed for ever, and every human hand would now be raised against
him.

To them, as they sat together, came Jn Goron, with more tidings of
what was going on in the village. The gendarmes, furious and
revengeful, had been searching the Cave and scouring the cliffs again,
but not a trace of Rohan could now be found. In the darkness and
confusion of last night's storm he had doubtless sought some other
hiding-place.

"There is other news," said Goron, anxious to change the sad subject.
"The King of Saxony has deserted the Emperor, and the armies of France
have fallen back on Leipsic. Some say the Emperor is meeting his match
at last, and that all the Kings are now against him. Well, he has
eaten half a dozen Kings for breakfast before now, and will do so
again."

At another time these tidings would have greatly excited Marcelle
Derval; but now they seemed almost devoid of interest. The fortunes of
France and the Emperor were utterly forgotten in her individual
trouble. However, she shrugged her pretty shoulders incredulously when
Goron hinted at defeat, and said listlessly--

"At Leipsic, say you?--both Hol and Gildas will be there." And she
added in a low weary voice, "We had a letter from Gildas last week,
and he has been three times under fire without so much as a scratch or
a burn. He has seen the Emperor quite close, and he says he is looking
very old. Hol, too, is well . . Ah, God, if my cousin Rohan were with
them as he might have been, happy and well and strong, fighting for
the Emperor!"

As she spoke her tears burst forth again, and Mother Gwenfern answered
her with a bitter wail. Yes, this doubtless was the bitterest of all:
the feeling that Rohan had been madly flying from a mere phantom, and
that, had he quietly accepted his fate, he would still have been
living honoured and happy, like Hol and Gildas. By doing his duty and
becoming a brave soldier, he would have avoided all that series of
troubles and sins which had been the consequence of his resistance.
Blood he might have shed, but only the blood of enemies; which, as all
good patriots knew, would have been of small consequence! It was not
for simple women like these to grasp the sublime truth that all men
are brothers, and that even staunch patriots may wear the livery of
Cain.

Night came on, black and stormy. The wind, which had fallen during the
day, rose again, and heavens and seas were blindly blent together. In
the cottage, which quaked with every blast and cowered before the
fierce torrents of rain, Marcelle still lingered, having sent word
home that she would not return that night.

The turf fire had burnt nearly out, and the only light in the hut was
cast by a miserable lamp which swung from the rafters. Side by side,
now speaking in whispers, now silent, the women sat on the rude form
before the fire; feeling all the world against them, heart-broken,
soul-stricken, listening to the elements that raved without and echoed
the hopeless wail of their own weary lives. Suddenly, above the
roaring of the wind and the beating of the rain, they heard a sound
without--something tapping at the pane.

Marcelle rose and listened. The sound was repeated, and followed by a
low knocking at the door, the latch of which was secured for the
night.

"Open!" cried a voice without.

Something in the sound woke a wild answer in their hearts. The mother
rose to her feet, white as death; Marcelle tottered to the door and
threw it open; and silently, swiftly, crouching like some hunted
animal, a man crept in.

There was no need for one look, for one word, of recognition; swift as
an electric flash the recognition came, in one mad leaping of the
heart; and before they could grasp his hand or gaze into his face they
knew it was he--the one creature they held dearest in the world.

Rapidly, with her characteristic presence of mind, Marcelle secured
the door; then, while Rohan ran shivering across to the nearly
extinguished fire, she carefully drew the curtain of the window,
closing all view from without. Then, too excited to speak, the women
stood gazing with affrighted eyes at the new corner. Ragged and half
naked, soaking and dripping, with his wild hair falling over his
shoulders, and a beard of many weeks' growth covering his face, he
stood, or rather crouched, before them, with his eyes on theirs.

Certainly the dark heavens that night did not look down on any
creature more pitiable; and most pitiable of all was the white light
upon his face, the dull dead fire that burned in his eyes.

With no word or sign of greeting he gazed round him; then, pointing
with his hand, he cried, hoarsely--

"Bread!"

Now for the first time they remembered that he was starving, and knew
that the mad light in his face was the light of famine. Swiftly,
without a word, Marcelle brought out food and placed it before him; he
seized it fiercely, and devoured it like a wild beast. Then the
mother's heart broke to see him eat. Kneeling by his side, while he
was eagerly clutching food with his right hand, she took the other
hand and covered it with kisses.

"O my son, my son!" she sobbed.

He did not seem to heed; all his faculties seemed absorbed in seeking
sustenance, and his eyes only moved this way and that like a hungry
hound's. When Marcelle brought brandy and placed it before him--he
drank; then, and not till then, his eyes fell on hers with some sort
of recognition, and he said, in a hard and hollow voice--

"Is it thou, Marcelle?"

She did not reply, but her eyes were blind with tears; then he laughed
vacantly, and looked down at his mother.

"I was starving, and so I came; they are busy up there, and they will
not follow; but if they do, I am ready. You have heard of Pipriac? the
old fool has got his deserts, that is all! What a night!"

There was something in his tone so reckless, so distraught, that they
almost shrank away from him, and ever and anon he gave a low mindless
laugh, very painful to hear. Presently he gazed again at Marcelle,
saying--

"You keep your good looks, little one: ah, but you have never known
what it is to starve! But for the starvation, look you, it would all
have been a good joke. See, I am worn to the bone--I have no flesh
left--if you met me out of doors you would say I was a ghost. How you
look at me! I frighten you, and no wonder, Marcelle Derval. Ah, God!
you are afraid!"

"No, Rohan, I am not afraid!" answered the girl, sobbing.

For a moment or two he looked fixedly at her, then his breast heaved
painfully, and he held his hand upon his heart.

"Tell me, then," he cried quickly, "why do you look at me like that?
Do you hate me? Mother of God, answer! Do you hate me, now?"

"No, no!--God help you, Rohan!"

And she sank, still sobbing, at his feet; and while the widow grasped
one hand, she held the other, resting her head upon his knee. He sat
spell-bound, like one between sleep and waking, while his frame was
shaken with the sobs of his mother and his beloved. Suddenly he
snatched his hands away.

"You are mad, I think, you women; you do not know what you are
touching; you do not know whom you are embracing. God and men are
against me, for I am a murderer, and for murderers there is no mercy.
Look you, I have killed Pipriac, who was my father's friend. Ah, if
you had seen--it was horrible! The rock crushed in his breast like a
crab's shell, and in a moment he was dead--old Pipriac, whom my father
loved!"

Their answer was a low wail, but they only clung the closer to him,
and both his hands were wet with tears. His own soul was shaken, and
his feverish eyes grew dim and moist. Reaching out his trembling arms,
he drew the women to him with a low heart-broken cry.

"Mother! Marcelle! you do not hate me, you are not afraid?"

They looked up into his face, and their features shone with that love
which passeth understanding. The old worn woman and the pale beautiful
girl alike looked up with the same passionate yearning, holding him
the dearer for his sorrows, even for his sins. His eyes lingered most
on the countenance of Marcelle; her devotion was an unexpected
revelation. Then across his brain flashed the memory of all the happy
past, and, hiding his face in his hands, he sobbed like a child, but
almost without tears--for tears his famished heart was too dry.

Suddenly, while they watched him in awe and pain, his attitude
changed, and he sprung wildly to his feet, listening with that fierce
look upon his face which they at first had feared so much. Despite the
sound of wind and rain, his quick ear had detected footfalls on the
shingle outside the cottage.

Before they could say another word a knock came to the door.

"Put out the light!" whispered Marcelle; and in a moment Rohan had
extinguished the swinging lamp, which, indeed, had almost burnt out
already. The cottage was now quite dark; and while Rohan, creeping
across the floor, concealed himself in the blackest corner of the
chamber, Marcelle crossed over to the door.

"Within there!" cried a voice. "Answer, I say! Will you keep a good
Christian dripping here all night like a drowned rat?"

"You cannot enter," said Marcelle; "it is too late, and we are abed."

The answer was a heavy blow on the door, which was only secured by a
frail latch.

"I know your voice, Marcelle Derval, and I have come all this way to
find you out. I have news to tell you; so open at once. It is I, Mikel
Grallon!"

"Whoever you are, go away!" answered Marcelle in agony.

"Go away? Not I, till I have seen and spoken with you. Open the door,
or I will break it open--Ah!"

As he spoke, the man dealt heavy blows upon the frail woodwork, and
suddenly, before Marcelle could interfere, the latch yielded, and the
door, to which there was no bolt, flew open. Mother Gwenfern uttered a
scream, while, amid a roar of wind and a shower of rain, Mikel Grallon
entered in. But white as death Marcelle blocked up the entrance, and
when the man's heavy form fell against her, pushed it fiercely back.

"What brings you here at this time, Mikel Grallon?" she demanded.
"Stand still--you shall not pass another step. Ah, that Alain, or
Jannick, or even my uncle were here, you would not dare! Begone, or I
shall strike you, though I am only a girl."

The reply was an imbecile laugh; and now for the first time Marcelle
perceived that Grallon was under the influence of strong drink. His
usually subdued and deliberate air was exchanged for one of impudent
audacity, and his voice was insolent, threatening, and devil-may-care.

"Strike me!" he cried huskily; "I do not think your little hand will
hurt much; but I know you do not mean it--it is only the way of you
women. Ah, my little Marcelle, you and I understand each other, and it
is all settled; it is all settled, and your uncle is pleased. Now that
that coward of a cousin is done for, you will listen to reason--will
you not, Marcelle Grallon? Ah, yes, for Marcelle Grallon sounds
prettier than Marcelle Derval!"

Leering tipsily, he advanced, and before she could resist had thrown
his arms around her; she struggled in his hold, and struck him with
her clenched hand upon the face, but he only laughed. Strange to say,
she uttered no cry. Her heart was too full of terror lest Rohan, whom
she knew to be listening, should betray himself or be discovered.

"Let me go!" she said in a low intense voice. "In God's name, let me
go!"

So saying, with a powerful effort, she shook herself free, while
Grallon staggered forward into the centre of the room. Recovering
himself with a fierce oath, he found himself face to face with Mother
Gwenfern, who, with wild skeleton frame and gleaming eyes, stood
before him like some weary ghost. "Aha, you are there, mother!" he
cried, as his eyes fell upon her. "Well, I suppose you have heard all
the news, and you know now what to think of your wretch of a son. He
has killed a man, and when he is caught, which will be soon, he will
be tortured like a dog. This is your reward for bringing cowards into
the world, old woman. I am sorry for you, but it is you that are to
blame."

"Silence, Mikel Grallon!" said Marcelle, still terror stricken;
"silence, and go away. For the love of the Virgin go away this night,
and leave us in peace."

She had come quite close to him as she spoke, and he again reached out
his arms and seized her with a laugh.

"I have come down to fetch you back," he said, "for you shall not
sleep under this roof. As sure as you will be Marcelle Grallon you
shall not stay; the home of a chouan and a coward is no place for you,
and Mother Gwenfern knows that as well as I know it. Do not be
obstinate, or I shall be angry--I, who adore you. Ah! you may
struggle, but I have you fast."

His arms were around her, and his hot face was pressed close to hers,
when suddenly a hand interposed, and, seizing Grallon by the throat
with terrific grip, choked him off. It was the work of a moment; and
Grallon, looking up in stupefaction, found himself in the hold of a
man who was gazing down upon him with eyes of murderous rage. Then his
blood went cold with terror, for even in the dimness of the room he
recognised Gwenfern.

"Help! the deserter! help!" he gasped; but one iron hand was on his
throat, and another was uplifted to smite and bruise him down.

"Silence!" said Rohan, while the wretch groaned half strangled; then
he said in a lower, more intense voice, "I have you now, Mikel
Grallon. If you know a prayer say it quickly, for I mean to kill you.
Ah, wretch! to you I owe so much that I have suffered; you have hunted
me down like a dog, you have driven me mad with hunger and cold, but
now it is my turn. Pipriac is dead, but you are more guilty than
Pipriac, and you shall follow him to-night."

Grallon struggled and gasped for breath; sober now through sheer
excess of terror, he glared up at his captor and writhed in vain to
set himself free. It would doubtless have gone ill with him, had not
the two women interfered and called in agonised tones upon Rohan not
to take his life. The sound of their beseeching voices seemed to allay
the fury in Rohan's breast and to call him to a sense of his own
danger. He threw off Grallon, and made a movement as it to approach
the door.

At this juncture Grallon, finding himself free, and seeing Rohan about
to escape, had the indiscretion to interfere once more.

"Help!--the deserter!--help!" he shrieked in a loud voice.

Before he could repeat the alarm Rohan had turned again upon him,
uplifted him in his powerful arms, and dashed him down with great
force upon the hard earthen floor, where he lay senseless as if dead.
Then Rohan, with one last look at his mother and Marcelle, passed out
through the door and disappeared into the night.



Chapter 39. "A CHAPEL OF HATE"



In the autumn of 1813, it was wild weather out in the great world
where Emperors and Kings were wildly struggling in a grasp of death.
On earth, were the red shadows of armies; in heaven, were the black
shadows of rain; and the wind blew these and those to and fro on the
faces of earth and heaven, so that the eye looked in vain this way and
that for a spot of sunshine and peace. The great Tidal Wave which had
deluged Europe with blood was at last subsiding, and the strand was
strewn with the wreck of empires and kingdoms and the great drifts of
dead.

Through this general storm, physical as well as political, Bonaparte
was rapidly retreating on France: before him, the startled faces of
his people; behind him, the angry murmur of his foes; and at every
step he took the way darkened and the situation became more dire.
Nevertheless, if chronicle is to be trusted, his face was calm, his
mien composed. The fifty thousand Frenchmen lost at Leipsic sent no
spectres to trouble him; or, if the spectres came, he waved them down!
Spectres of the living--mad famished Frenchmen who made hideous riot
wherever they came--preceded and followed him: scarecrows of his old
glory and his old renown. In this wise he came to Erfurt, where, so
few years before, he had presided at the memorable Congress of Kings.

Things were indeed changed--even in the man's own soul. He could not
fail to foresee--for he was not destitute of prophetic vision--that
this was only the beginning of the end. One by one the powers of the
earth had fallen away from him, and, like Death on his white steed, he
was riding he knew not whither--shadows around and behind him; and
above him, still, the Shadow of the Sword.

On the 25th of October, says the chronicler, he left Erfurt, "amid
weather as tempestuous as his fortunes."

It was wild weather, too, down in lonely Brittany, and in all the
quiet old hamlets, set, like Kromlaix, by the sea. Black mists charged
with rain brooded night and day over the great marshes, and over the
desolate plains and moors and the salt scum and foam blew inland for
miles, bringing rumours of the watery storm. Kromlaix crouched and
trembled, looking seaward; and deep under its steep street a voice
murmured--the hidden river moaning as it ran.

On a dark afternoon the solitary figure of a man struggled across the
great plain which stretches within the high sea-wall to the north of
Kromlaix. With few landmarks to guide him, and these few looming
confusedly through a grey vapour of thin rain, he was proceeding
slowly in the direction of the village, which was still several miles
away. The wind had been rising all day, and was blowing half a gale,
while mountains of rain-charged vapour were rising ever upward from
the sea. He was an old man, and with wind and rain beating furiously
in his face he made but little way. Again and again, to avoid the fury
of the blast, he almost crouched upon the ground.

He was thinly clad, in the peasant costume of the country; on his back
he carried a bag resembling a beggar's wallet, and he leant for
support upon an oaken staff.

At every step he took the storm deepened and the darkness grew, until
he veritably seemed walking through the clouds. Ever and anon wild
cattle, rushing for shelter, passed like ghosts across his path; or
some huge pile of stone glimmered and disappeared. At last, he stood
confused and undecided, with a sound in his ears like the roaring of
the sea. Just then he discerned, looming through the vapour, the
outline of a building which stood alone in the very centre of the
waste. Eager to find shelter, he hurried towards it, and soon stood
before the door.

The building was a ruin; the four walls, with a portion of the roof,
being intact, but door and windows had long since been swept away--
perhaps by human hands in the days of the Revolution. The walls were
black and stained with the slime of centuries. Above the doorway, but
half obliterated, were these words written in antique characters--
"Notre Dame de la Haine;" in English, "Our Lady of Hate."

For the moment the traveller hesitated; then, with a peculiar smile,
he quietly entered. Just within the doorway was a stone form, on which
he sat down, well screened from the storm, and surveyed the interior
of the Chapel.

For Chapel it was, though seemingly deserted and forsaken; and such
buildings still stand in Brittany, as ghastly reminders of what, in
its darkest frenzy, religion is capable of doing. Nor was it so
forsaken as it seemed. Hither still, in hours of passion and pain,
came men and women to cry curses on their enemies: the maiden on her
false lover, the lover on his false mistress, the husband on his false
wife; praying, one and all, that Our Lady of Hate might hearken, and
that the hated one might die "within the year." So bright and so deep
had the gentle Christian light shone within their souls! Many, as
their own passions, were the names of the Mother of God; and this one
of Lady of Hate was surely as sweet to them as that other--Mother of
Love.

The interior of the Chapel was dark with vapours and shadows. At the
further end, which was quite roofless, loomed a solitary window, and
through this the rain was wildly beating, striking in pitilessly on a
mutilated stone image of Our Lady, which still stood on its pedestal
within the space where the altar once had been;--a dreary image,
formless and deformed; rudely hewn of coarse stone, and now marred
almost beyond recognition. Yet that Our Lady's power had not
altogether fled, or rather that firm faith in that power still
remained, was attested by the rude gifts scattered at her feet:
strings of black beads, common rosaries, coarse lockets of brass and
tin, even fragments of ribbon and scraps of human attire. One of these
lockets was quite new, and held a lock of human hair. Woe to the head
on which that hair grew, should Our Lady hear the prayer of her who
placed it there!

The floor of the Chapel had been paven, but few of the slabs remained.
Everywhere grew long grass, nettles, and weeds, dripping with the
rain; at the ruined altar the nettles and weeds grew breast-high,
touching Our Lady's feet, and climbing up as if to cover her from
human sight; but at the front of the altar was a paven space, where
men and women might kneel.

The old man glanced into the dreary place, and sighed; then taking his
wallet from his back and opening it, he drew forth a piece of black
bread and began to eat. He had scarcely begun, when he was startled by
a sound as of a human voice, coming from the interior of the chapel;
peering through the darkness, he failed to distinguish any human form,
but immediately after, on the sound being repeated, he rose and walked
towards the altar, and beheld, stretched on the ground before the
stone image, the figure of a man.

Face downward, like a man asleep or in a swoon; with the heavy rain
pouring down upon him from the window above; moaning and murmuring as
he lay;--an object more forlorn it was scarcely possible to conceive;
for his rags scarcely covered his nakedness, his wild unkempt hair
swept to his shoulders, and he seemed stained from head to foot with
the clammy moisture of the storm.

As the old man approached and bent above him, he did not stir; but
when, with a look of recognition, the old man stooped and touched him,
he sprang to his feet like a wild beast, and, as if awakened from
stupor, glared all round with bloodshot eyes. His face was so wild and
terrible, covered with its matted hair and beard, and the light in his
eyes was so fierce, yet so vacant and woe-begone, that the old man
shrunk back startled.

"Rohan!" he said, in a low voice, "Rohan Gwenfern!"

The arms of Rohan, which had been outstretched to clutch and tear,
dropped down to his side, and his eyes rolled wildly on the speaker.
Gradually the feline expression faded from his face, but the woe-
begone light remained.

"Master Arfoll!"

It was indeed the itinerant schoolmaster, little changed, though
somewhat greyer and sadder than when we last saw him. He stretched out
his arms, and with both hands grasped the right hand of Rohan, looking
tenderly into his face. Not a word more was uttered for some minutes,
but the powerful frame of Rohan shook with agitation.

"You live! you live!" at last exclaimed Master Arfoll. "Over there, at
Travnik, there was a report that you were dead, but I did not believe
it, and I hoped on. Thank God; you live!"

Such life as lingered in that tormented frame seemed scarce worth
thanking God for. Better to have died, one would have thought, than to
have grown into this--a ghost--

"A shadow, Upon the skirts of human nature dwelling."

All wild and persecuted things are pitiful to look on, but there is no
sadder sight on earth than the face of a hunted man.

Presently, Master Arfoll spoke again.

"I was going through Kromlaix, and I came hither to shelter from the
storm. Of all the places on the earth to find you here! Ah, God, it is
an evil place, and those who come here have evil hearts. What were you
doing, my Rohan? Praying?--To Notre Dame de la Haine!"

Rohan, whose eyes had been fixed upon the ground, looked up quickly
and answered.

"Yes!"

"Ah, you have great wrongs, and your enemies have been cruel indeed.
May God help you my poor Rohan!"

A sharp expression of scorn and semi-delirium passed over Rohan's
face.

"It is not God I ask," he answered in a hollow voice, "not God, but
her! None can help me now if she cannot. Look you, I have prayed here
again and again. I have torn my heart out in prayer against the
Emperor--in curses on his head, that she may hunt him down." Suddenly
turning to the altar, and stretching out his hands, he cried, "Mother
of God, hear me! Mother of Hate, listen! Within a year, within a
year!"

A new access of passion possessed him; his face flashed white as
death, and he seemed about to cast himself again on the stones before
the altar. But Master Arfoll stretched out his hands again, and
touched him gently on the shoulder.

"Let us sit down and talk together," he said softly. "There is news. I
have bread in my wallet and a little red wine;--let us eat and drink
together as in old times, and you shall hear all I know."

Something in the manner of the speaker subdued and soothed Rohan, who
suffered himself to be led across the Chapel to the stone seat close
to the door. Here the two men sat down side by side. By this time the
Chapel had grown quite dark, but, although the wind blew more
furiously than ever, the rain had almost ceased to fall. Little by
little, the excitement of Rohan was subdued. Gently pressed to eat, he
did so automatically, and it was evident that he was sadly in need of
sustenance. Then Master Arfoll drew forth a leathern bottle, which had
been filled with wine that morning by a farmer's wife whose children
he had been teaching. Rohan drank, and his pale cheek kindled; but by
this time all his passion had departed, and he was docile as a child.

Gradually Master Arfoll elicited from him many particulars of his
position. After several days passed in the open plains and among the
great salt marshes, he had at last returned again to the Cave of St.
Gildas, whence, in a sort of delirium, he had issued that day to pray,
or rather to curse, in the Chapel of Hate.

"If they should return to seek me," he said, "I have discovered a way.
The Cave has an outlet which they will never find, and which I only
learned by chance."

He paused a moment; then in answer to Master Arfoll's questioning
look, he proceeded:

"You know the great Cave? Ah, no; but it is vast, like the Cathedral
at St. Emlett, and no man except myself has ever searched it through.
After I had killed Pipriac I returned, for all other places were
dangerous; and as I entered Pipriac stood before me as if in life,
with his great wounds bleeding, and his eyes looking at me. That was
only for a moment, then he was gone; but he came to me again and again
till I was sick with fear. Master Arfoll, it is terrible to have shed
blood, and old Pipriac was a good fellow, after all--besides, he was
my father's friend, and that is worse. Mother of God, what a death! I
think of it always, and it gives me no peace!"

As he spoke, his former manner returned, and he shivered through and
through as if with violent cold; but the touch of Master Arfoll's hand
again calmed him, and he proceeded:

"Well, at last, one night, when there was black storm, I could bear it
no longer, and I struck a light with flint and steel, and I lit my
torch, and to pass away the hours I began measuring round and round
the walls with my feet, counting the paces. It was then I discovered,
in the far darkness of the great Cave, a hole through which a man
might crawl, a hole like a black stain; one might search for days and
not find it out. I crawled through on hands and knees, and a little
way in I found another Cave, nearly as large as the first. Then!
thought, 'Let them come when they like, I shall be safe; I can crawl
in here.' That was not all, for I soon found that the cliffs were
hollowed out like a great honeycomb, and whichever way I searched
there were stone passages winding into the heart of the earth."

"It is the same along there at La Vilaine," said Master Arfoll; "the
entrances are known, but no men have searched the caverns through, for
they believe them haunted. Some say the Romans made them long ago. But
who can tell?"

Rohan did not reply, but seemed to have fallen again into a sort of
waking trance. At last he looked up, and pointing at the window of the
Chapel, said quietly:

"See, the rain is over, and the moon is up."

The rain had indeed ceased, and through the cloudy rack above a stormy
moon was rising and pouring her vitreous rays on a raging surf of
cloud. The wind, so far from abating, roared more wildly than ever,
and the face of heaven was as a human face convulsed with torturing
passion and illumed by its own mad light.

Master Arfoll gazed upwards for some moments in silence; then he said
quietly:

"And now, what will you do? Ah, that I could help you! but I am so
feeble and so poor. Have you no other friend?"

"Yes, one--Jn Goron. But for him I should have died."

"God reward him!"

"Three times since Pipriac died Jn has hidden food under the dolmen
in the Field of the Festival; and my mother has made torches of tallow
and pitch, that I might not go mad in the dark; and besides these I
have a lantern and oil. Jn hides them and I find them, under the
dolmen."

Master Arfoll again took the outcast's hands between his own, and
pressed them affectionately.

"God has given you great courage, and where another man's heart would
have broken, you have lived. Have courage still, my poor Rohan--there
is hope yet. Do you know, there has been a great battle, and the
Emperor has lost."

That one word "Emperor" seemed enough to conjure up all the madness in
Rohan's brain. He rose to his feet, reaching out his arms to the altar
of the chapel, while Master Arfoll continued--

"There are wild sayings afloat. Some say the Emperor is a prisoner in
Germany others that he has tried to kill himself; but all say, and it
is certain, that he has been beaten as he was never beaten before, and
that he is in full retreat. The world has arisen against him at last."

An hour later the two men stood together at the Chapel door.

"I shall visit your uncle's house," said the itinerant, "and I shall
see your cousin Marcelle. Shall I give her any message?"

Rohan trembled, but answered quietly:

"Tell her to comfort my mother--she has no one else left in the
world."

Then the men embraced, and Master Arfoll walked away into the night.
For a space Rohan stood in the chapel entrance, watching the figure
until it disappeared; then, throwing up his arms with a bitter cry, he
too fled from the place, like a man flying from some evil thing.



Chapter 40. INTRODUCES A SCARECROW OF GLORY



Early the next day, as the Derval household were assembled at their
morning meal, Master Arfoll entered the quaint old kitchen, and with
the quiet salutation of the country--"God save all here!"--took his
seat uninvited by the fire. The Corporal nodded his head coldly, Alain
and Jannick smiled, and the women murmured the customary "welcome;"
but an awkward silence followed, and it was clear that the entrance of
Master Arfoll caused a certain constraint. Indeed, the Corporal had
just been engaged, spectacles on nose, in deciphering aloud a bulletin
from the seat of war--one of those fanciful documents on which
Bonaparte was accustomed to expend all the splendour of a mendacious
imagination. But even Bonaparte, on this occasion, was unable to
concoct a narrative totally misleading as to the true state of the
situation. Amid all his pomp of sounding words, and all his flourish
of misleading falsehoods, there peeped out the skeleton fact that the
imperial army had been terribly and almost conclusively beaten, and
that it had been compelled to give up all its dreams of conquest, and
to retreat ("confusedly," as old stage directions have it) back to the
frontier.

Now, the Corporal was no fool, and in reality his heart was very sore
for the sake of his favourite; but he was not the man to admit the
fact to unsympathetic outsiders. So when Master Arfoll entered he
became silent, and stumping over to the fireside, began to fill his
pipe.

"You have news, I see," said the itinerant, after a long pause. "Is it
true, then, Corporal Derval?"

The Corporal scowled down from his height of six feet, demanding--

"Is what true, Master Arfoll?"

"About the great battle, and the retreat. Is not the Emperor still
marching on France, as they say?"

The Corporal gave a fierce snort, and crammed the tobacco down
savagely in the bowl of his pipe.

"As they say?" he repeated, contemptuously. "As the geese say, Master
Arfoll! Ah! if you were an old soldier, and if you knew the Emperor as
I know him, you would not talk about retreating. Soul of a crow, does
a spider 'retreat' into his hole when he is trying to coax the flies?
Does a hawk 'retreat' into the sky when he is looking out for
sparrows? I will tell you this, Master Arfoll: when the Little
Corporal plays at 'retreating,' his enemies may keep their eyes open
like the owls; for just as they are laughing and running after him, as
they think, up he will pop in their midst and at their backs, ready to
eat them up!"

The itinerant saw how the land lay, and offered no contradiction; only
he said after a little, looking at the fire:

"Before Leipsic it was terrible. Is it not true that fifty thousand
Frenchmen fell?"

The Corporal had now lighted his pipe, and was puffing furiously.
Master Arfoll's quiet questions irritated him, and he glared round at
his nephews, and down at the visitor, with a face as red as the bowl
of his own pipe.

"I do not know," he replied, "and I do not care. You are a scholar,
Master Arfoll, and you know a good deal of books, but I will tell you
frankly, you do not understand war. A great general does not count
these things; fifty men killed or fifty thousand, it is all the same;
he may lose twice as many men as the enemy, and yet he may have won
the victory for all that. Fifty thousand men, bah! If it were twice
fifty thousand it would be all the same. Go to! the Emperor knows what
he is about."

"But your own nephews," said Master Arfoll, "they, at least, are
safe?"

The Corporal cast an uneasy glance at the widow, who had lifted her
white face eagerly at Master Arfoll's words, then he smiled grimly.

"Good lads, good lads!--yes; when we last heard from them they were
safe and well. Gildas wrote for both; as you know, he writes a brave
hand, and he was in high spirits, I can tell you. He had a little
scratch, and was nursed at the hospital for a month, but he was soon
all right again, and merry as a cricket. Ah! it is a brave life, he
says: plenty to eat and drink, and money to spend; that is the way,
too, one sees the world."

"Were your nephews in the great battle, Corporal Derval?"

With another uneasy glance at the widow, the Corporal snorted a reply:

"I do not know; powers of heaven, I cannot tell, for we have not heard
since; but this I know, Master Arfoll, wherever the Emperor pointed
with his finger, and said to them 'Go,' Hol and Gildas were there."

"Then you are not sure that they survive?" said Master Arfoll, sinking
his voice.

The white face of the widow was uplifted again, and the Corporal's
voice trembled as he replied:

"They are in God's hands, and God will preserve them. They are doing
their duty like brave men in a glorious service, and He will not
desert them; and of this I am sure,--that we shall hear from them
soon."

[But ah, my Corporal, what of the fifty thousand who fell on Leipsic
field? Were they all in God's hands too, and did He desert them? Each
hearth for its own; and from fifty thousand went up a prayer, and from
fifty thousand the same fond cry, "We shall hear from them soon!"]

As the Corporal ceased to speak, the company became conscious of the
figure of a man, which had entered quietly at the open door, and now
stood regarding them. A pitiful object, indeed, and grim as pitiful!
His face was dirty and unshaven, and round his head was twisted a
coloured handkerchief instead of hat or cap. A ragged great-coat
reached to his knees; beneath it dangled ragged ends of trousers; the
feet were bare, and one was wrapped up in a bloody handkerchief. He
leant upon a stick, surveying the circle, and on his face there was an
expression of rakish wretchedness, such as might be remarked in a very
old jackdaw in the last stage of moulting and uncleanliness.

"God save all here!" he said in a shrill voice.

"Welcome, good man!" said the Corporal, motioning the mendicant--for
such he seemed--to a seat by the fire.

The new comer did not stir, but, leaning on his staff, wagged his head
from side to side with a diabolical grin at Marcelle, and then winked
frightfully at Alain and Jannick.

The widow sprang up with a scream.

"Mother of God, it is Gildas!"

All started in amazement: the boys from their seats at the table,
Marcelle from her spinning-wheel, while the Corporal dropped his pipe
and gazed. In another moment Mother Derval had embraced the
apparition, and was crying over him, and kissing his hands.

It was, indeed, Gildas Derval--but so worn, and torn, and stained with
travel, so begrimed with dust of the road, and so burnt and blistered
with the sun, that only his great height made him recognisable. His
face was covered with a sprouting beard, and over his right eye he had
a hideous scar. A more disreputable scarecrow never stood in a green
field, or darkened a respectable door.

Before another word could be said the mother screamed again.

"Mother of God, he has lost an arm!"

It was but too true. From the soldier's left side dangled an empty
ragged sleeve There was another wail from the mother, but Gildas only
laughed and nodded knowingly at his uncle. Then Marcelle came up and
embraced him; then Jannick and Alain; and, finally, the Corporal, with
flaming face and kindling eye, slapped Gildas on the back, wrung him
by the hand, and kissed him on both cheeks.

The poor mother, fluttering like some poor bird about her young, was
the first to think of the fledgling who was far away. When Gildas was
ensconced in the great chair, with Mother Derval kneeling at his feet,
and resting her arms on his knees, while Marcelle was hanging over him
and kissing him again, came the question,--

"And Hol? where have you left Hol?"

Gildas stretched out his great hand and patted his mother on the head.
In every gesture of the man there was a swaggering patronage quite
different to his former stolid manner, and he was obviously on the
best terms with himself and with the world.

"Hol is all right, mother, and sends his love. Ah, he has never had a
scratch, while I, look you, have had my old luck." Turning to Master
Arfoll, who still sat in the ingle, he continued, "You see I am
invalided, worse luck, just as the fun is beginning. A bullet wound,
uncle, and they thought at first I should not be maimed; but when I
was lying in the hospital, well content, in comes the surgeon-major
with his saw--grrr!" (Here he ground his teeth to imitate the
instrument at work)--"and before I could squeal, off it came, and left
me as you see!"

As he spoke, his mother trembled, half fainting, and the boys looked
at him in admiration. The Corporal nodded his head approvingly, as
much as to say, "Good! this is a small matter; but the boy has come
through it well."

"Where did you get your wound?" asked Master Arfoll.

"Before Dresden," replied the soldier, "on the second day; then I was
carried in the ambulance to Leipsic; and when I was strong, I received
my discharge. I had a government pass as far as Nantes, and plenty of
good company; after that, I and a comrade tramped to St. Gurlott,
where we parted, and I came home. Well, here I am at home, and that's
the way of the world--ups and downs, ups and downs!"

By this time the Corporal had brought out a bottle, and was filling
out little glasses of corn brandy.

"Drink, mon garz!" he said.

Gildas tipped off his glass, and then held it out to be refilled,
while the mother, with many sighs and ejaculations to herself, was
furtively taking stock of his dilapidated attire. When her eyes fell
upon his bandaged foot, she wept, quietly drying her eyes with her
apron.

"It is not bad stuff," said the hero. "To you all!"

He tossed off the fiery fluid without winking; then looking up at
Marcelle, who was still bending over him, he said roguishly, with the
air of a veteran--

"I will tell you this, little one. The German girls are like their own
hogsheads, and I have not seen as pretty a face as yours since I left
France. They are greedy, too, these fat frauleins, and will rob a
soldier of his skin."

Marcelle stooped down and whispered a question in his ear; whereat he
smiled and nodded, and quietly opening the breast of his shirt, showed
her, still hanging by a ribbon round his neck, one of the medals she
had dipped before his departure in the Pool of the Blood of Christ.
Marcelle kissed him again, and raised her eyes to heaven, confident
now that her charm had wrought his preservation.

Unwilling to intrude longer on the family circle, Master Arfoll rose,
and again felicitating Gildas on his safe return, took his departure.
Left to themselves, the excited family eagerly surrounded the hero,
and plied him with question after question, all of which he answered
rather by imagination than by strict matter of fact. Scarecrow as he
was, he was surrounded in their eyes by a halo of military glory, and
by his side even the Corporal, with his stale associations, seemed
insignificant. Indeed, he patronised his uncle like the rest, in a
style worthy of an old veteran: and, brimful of his new and raw
experience, quietly pooh-poohed the other's old-fashioned opinions.

"And you have seen the Emperor, mon garz?" said the Corporal "You have
seen him with your own eyes?"

Gildas nodded his "I believe you," and then said, with his head cocked
on one side, in his uncle's own fashion--

"I saw him last at Dresden. It was raining cats and dogs, and the
little man was like a drowned rat; his grey coat soaked, and his hat
drawn over his eyes, and running like a spout. Diable! how he galloped
about--you would have said it was an old woman on horseback, riding
straddle-legged to market. He may be a great general, I admit," added
the irreverent novice, "but he does not know how to ride."

"Not know how to ride! the Emperor!" ejaculated the Corporal, aghast.
In his days such criticism would have been treated as blasphemy; but
now, when misfortunes were beginning, the rawest recruit passed
judgment on his leader.

"He sits hunched up in a lump--like this," said Gildas, suiting the
action to the word, "and no rascally recruit from the Vosges is more
shabby. You would not say he was the Emperor at all, but a beggar who
had stolen a horse to ride on. Ah, if you want something like a
general to look at, you should see Marshal Ney."

"Marshal Ney!" echoed the Corporal with a contemptuous snort.

"He dresses himself for battle as if he were going to a ball, and his
hair is all oiled and perfumed, and he has rings on his fingers, and
his horse is all silver and gold and crimson like himself. And then,
if you please, he can ride like an angel! His horse obeys him like a
pretty partner, and he whirls and curvets and dances till your eyes
are dazzled."

"Bah!" cried the Corporal. "The great doll!"

It is just possible that the veteran and his nephew might have come to
words on the subject of their favourites; only just then the mother
brought warm water to bathe the soldier's sore feet, and, with a look
at her brother-in-law to deprecate further argument, knelt down and
unrolled the bandage from the foot that was cut and lame. With many
loving murmurs she then bathed the feet, and anointed them with sweet
oil, while Marcelle prepared clean linen for Gildas to wear. "To-
morrow," thought the widow, "little Plout shall come in to trim his
hair and shave his beard, and then he will look my own handsome boy
again." Plout was an individual who to his other avocations added the
duties of village barber, and wielded the razor, to use the popular
expression, "like an angel."

Happy is he, however lowly, to whom loving hands minister, and who has
such a home to receive and shelter him in his hour of need! Gildas
might complain of his bad luck, but in his heart he knew that he was a
fortunate fellow. From a stranger's point of view, just then, he was
certainly as disreputable a looking object as could be found in a
day's march. Long before the widow had dried his aching feet, he had
collapsed in his chair, and was snoring lustily. With his chin sunk
deep into his great-coat, his matted hair escaping from the coloured
handkerchief which covered his head, his empty sleeve dangling, and
his two ragged legs outstretching, he looked more and more a
scarecrow, more and more capable of frightening off the small birds of
his village from the paths of glory. But to the trembling mother he
was beautiful, and her heart yearned out to him with unutterable pity
and affection. He had come back to her in life, though sadly marred,
and, like Bottom, "marvellously transformed;" but he had paid his
contribution to glory, and, come what might, he could never go to war
again.



Chapter 41. GLIMPSES OF A DEAD WORLD



Rohan Gwenfern needed to have had little apprehension that fresh
search would be made for him in the Cave of St. Gildas. After once
searching the Cave, and finding it empty, the gendarmes were glad of
any pretext to keep away: not that they were actually afraid, or that
they would have hesitated to raise the siege anew, but the death of
Pipriac, occurring as it did, had filled them with a superstitious
dread.

For some days after Pipriac's death vigorous exertions were made to
discover the whereabouts of his murderer; but although the gendarmes
were more than once upon his track, and although he had come into
personal collision with Mikel Grallon, all the pursuit was unavailing.
The authorities at St. Gurlott stormed; a fresh reward was offered in
well-posted placards; but Rohan still remained at large. And before
many days had elapsed, his very existence seemed forgotten in the
excitement of the news from the seat of war.

In vain was it for Corporal Derval and others of his way of thinking
to hold forth in the street and by the fireside, and to prove that the
sun of Bonaparte was not setting but actually rising. In vain was it
for the "scarecrow of glory," trimmed by the barber, and made sweet by
clean linen, to hold forth in the cabaret that all would be well so
long as the Emperor had "Marshel Ney" at his right hand. In vain did
the lying bulletins come in from Paris to St Gurlott, and from St.
Gurlott to its tributary villages. A very general impression was
abroad that things were in a bad way. The loyalist party in Kromlaix
began to look at each other and to smile.

From the little upper chamber in the Corporal's dwelling still went up
a virgin's prayers for the great Emperor, mingled with more passionate
prayers for Rohan Gwenfern. Marcelle could not, or would not,
understand that the Emperor was the cause of her lover's misfortunes;
no, he was too great, too good, and--ah! if one could only reach his
ear! He loved his people well; he had given her uncle the Cross, and
all men knew he had a tender heart. How could he know what wicked men
did in his name? If she could only go to him, and fall at his feet,
and ask for her lover's life! Alas, how rash and foolish Rohan had
been! It was wicked for him to refuse to help the Emperor; but then he
had not been himself, he had been mad. And here was the end!--here was
Gildas come back covered with glory and alive and well, while Rohan
was still a hunted man, with Pipriac's blood upon his head. If Rohan
had only been brave like her brother, God would have brought him back.

While Marcelle was pleading and praying, Rohan Gwenfern was moving
like a sleepless spirit through the darkness of the earth. Was it
broad awake, or in a wondrous dream, that he crept through sunless
caverns, torch in hand, exploring night and day? It did not seem real,
and he himself did not feel real. Phantoms troubled him, voices cried
in his ears, cold hands touched him, and again and again the ghost of
Pipriac uprose before him with rebuking eyes.

It was all real, nevertheless. The discovery of the mysterious inlet
from the Cave of St. Gildas led to a series of discoveries no less
remarkable. He had not exaggerated when he had asserted to Master
Arfoll that the cliffs were veritably "honeycombed."

In sheer despair, to keep his thoughts from driving him completely
mad, he prosecuted his lonely search. From the great inner cave which
he had by accident discovered, ran numerous narrow passages, some far
too small to admit a human body, others high and vaulted. Most of
these passages, after winding for greater or less distances into the
solid cliff, terminated in cul de sac. After minute examination he
discovered one which did not so terminate, but which, after extending
for a long distance parallel with the face of the cliff, and gradually
ascending upward, ended in a small cave well lighted by a narrow chink
in the cliff. From this chink, which was like a window in the very
centre of the most inaccessible and perpendicular crag on the coast,
he could see the ocean for miles around him, the fishing vessels
coming from and going to the beach of the village, and, higher still,
a glimpse of the lower extremity of the village itself, quite a mile
away. Beneath him there was no beach, only the sea washing at all
sides on the base of the cliff, and creeping here and there into the
gloomy water-caverns which the superstitious fishermen never ventured
to explore.

With a strange sense of freedom and exultation he discovered this new
hiding-place, the aperture of which, to any one sailing on the sea
below, would have seemed like a mere dark stain on the crag's face.
Here he soon made his headquarters, free to enjoy the light of sun and
moon. Inaccessible as an eagle in its eyrie, he could here draw the
breath of life in peace.

A day or so later he ascertained that this cave communicated by a
precipitous passage with the sea below. Not without considerable
danger he descended through the darkness, and, after feeling his way
cautiously for hours, he found himself standing on a narrow shelf of
slippery rock in the very heart of a great water-cave.

Vast crimson columns, hung with many coloured weeds and mosses,
supported a vaulted roof which distilled a perpetual glistening dew
and shook it down on the deep waters beneath, which were clear as
crystal and green as malachite. A faint phosphorescent light, which
seemed to issue from the water itself, but stole in imperceptibly from
the distant mouth of the cave, showed purple flowers and flags
stirring gently far below, and strange living creatures that moved
upon a bottom of shining sand.

As Rohan stood looking downward, a large female seal, splashing down
from a shelf of rock, began swimming round and round the cavern
without any effort to escape; and Rohan, listening, could hear the
bleat of its tiny lamb coming from the darkness. After a minute it
disappeared, and the faint bleat ceased.

A little reflection showed Rohan where he stood. Quite a hundred yards
away was the mouth of the cavern--a space some twelve feet broad but
only a few high, and so hung with moss and fungi as to be almost
concealed. Around this mouth the sea was many fathoms deep, and a
boiling current eddied for ever at all states of the tide. Rohan
remembered well how often he had rowed past, and how his fellow-
fishermen had told awful legends of foolhardy mortals who, in times
remote, had tried to enter "Hell's Mouth," as they called it, and how
no boat that sailed through was ever known to return. Certain it was
that at times there issued thence terrific volumes of raging water,
accompanied by sounds as of internal earthquake, which served to make
the place terrible even without the aid of superstition. Later on the
causes of these phenomena will be sufficiently apparent.

There is something awful to a sensitive mind in coming by accident on
any strange secret of Nature, in penetrating unaware to some solemn
arcanum of the Mother-goddess where never human foot before has trod,
and where the twilight of primval mystery lingers for ever. Even in
those solemn caves of the sea which are safely accessible to man there
is something still and terrible beyond measure. In no churches do we
pause half so reverently, in no shrines are we so strangely
constrained to pray. To the present writer these natural temples are
familiar, and he has spent within them his most religious hours.

To Rohan Gwenfern, who had crouched so long in darkness, and who had
suffered so dark a persecution from all the forces of the world
without, it suddenly seemed as if Nature, in a mystery of new love and
pity, had taken him to her very heart; had touched his lids with a new
balm, his soul with a new peace, and, folding him softly in her arms,
had revealed to him a fary vision of her own soul's calm--a divine
glimpse of that:

"Central peace subsiding at the heart

Of endless agitation,"

which so few men that live are permitted to feel and enjoy. He could
not have expressed his happiness in sthetic phrases, but he had it
none the less; and by those new discoveries his soul was greatly
strengthened. Up there in the arial cave he could bask in the
sunlight without fear; and down here, in a silent water-world, he
could spend many wondering hours.

A stranger discovery was yet to come. He had found the key to a
mystery, and it opened many doors.

Along the sides of the water-cavern ran a narrow ledge, communicating
with that on which he had first descended; although it was slippery as
glass, it afforded a footing for Rohan's naked feet. Creeping along
this ledge for some thirty yards, and clinging to the crimson columns
for partial support, he reached the extreme inner end of the cave and
leaped down upon a narrow space of steep shingle, against which the
still, green water washed. He had no sooner done so than he
discovered, to his astonishment, a vaulted opening, gleaming with
stalactite and crimson moss, leading apparently into the heart of the
cliffs. It was very dark. After groping his way stealthily forward
till all light faded, he retraced his steps.

His curiosity was now thoroughly aroused. Returning to his arial
hiding-place, he procured a rude horn lantern with which Jn Goron had
supplied him, lit it carefully, and then again descended. Finally,
lantern in hand, he again entered the dark passage, determined to
explore it to its furthest limits.

It was just so broad that he could touch both walls with the tips of
the fingers of his outstretched hand; so high that, standing on
tiptoe, with the tips of his fingers he could touch the roof. It
seemed of solid stone, and fashioned as symmetrically as if by human
hands. Wherever the light fell the walls glimmered smooth and moist,
without any trace of vegetation. The air was damp and icy cold, like
the air of a sepulchre, but it did not seem otherwise impure. He had
crept forward some hundred yards or more, when he came to an ascending
flight of stone steps. Yes, his eyes did not deceive him: red granite
steps, carefully and laboriously hewn. His heart gave a great leap,
for now he knew for certain, what he had indeed suspected from the
first, that the excavations were not natural, but had been wrought by
human hands.

Simple as this fact may appear, it filled him with a kind of terror,
and he almost turned to retrace his way. Recovering himself, however,
he ascended the steps, and entered, at their top, another passage,
which bore unmistakably the signs of human workmanship.

After he had proceeded another hundred yards he came to another ascent
of steps, and, after ascending these, to another passage. The air now
became suffocating and oppressive, and the light in the lantern grew
faint almost to dying. Crawling forward, however, he emerged in a
space so vast and so forbidding that he stood trembling in
consternation--a mighty Vault or Catacomb compared to which all the
other caverns he had explored were insignificant. Vast walls of
granite supported a roof high as the roof of a cathedral, from which
depended black fungi bred of perpetual moisture and dripping an
eternal dew. The interior was wrapped in pitch darkness, and full of a
murmur as of the sea. The floor was solid black stone, polished to icy
smoothness, but covered by a slippery sort of moss.

Rohan stood in awe, half-expecting to see appalling phantoms start
from the darkness and drive him forth. Into what place of mystery had
he penetrated? Into what catacomb of the dead? Into what ghostly abode
of spirits? His head swam; for a moment his customary seizure came,
and he heard and saw nothing. Then he crept cautiously forward into
the cavern.

As he moved, the sea-like murmur grew deeper, seeming to come from the
very ground beneath his feet. He drew back listening,--and just in
time; for he was standing on the very edge of a black gulf, at the
foot of which a moaning water ran. He peered over, flashing the light
down. A black liquid glimmer came from beneath, from water in motion,
rapidly rushing past.

He then perceived that the gulf and its contents occupied the entire
interior of the great vault, and that the floor on which he stood was
merely a narrow shelf artificially fashioned. The vast columns rose on
every side of him, glittering with silvern damp, and the curtain of
fungi stirred overhead like a black pall.

Suddenly, as he flashed his light over the place, he started aghast.
Not far away stood another figure, on the edge of the gulf, looking
down.

Rohan was superstitious by nature, and his mind had been unsettled by
his privations. He stood terror-stricken, and the lanthorn almost fell
from his hands. Meantime the figure did not stir.



Chapter 42. THE AQUEDUCT



Eager to satisfy himself, Rohan drew nearer, and at last recognised,
in the shape which he had at first deemed human or ghostly, a gigantic
Statue of black marble set on a pedestal on the very edge of the
chasm.

Lifeless as it was, the Shape was terrible. It had stood there for
centuries, and the perpetual drops distilling from the roof above had
eaten into its solid mass, so that part of the face was destroyed and
portions of the body had melted away. Its lower limbs were completely
enwrapped in a loathsome green vegetation, crawling up, as it seemed,
out of the water beneath. In size it was colossal, and standing close
beside it Rohan seemed a pigmy.

Little by little Rohan discerned that it had represented an imperial
figure, clad in the Roman toga, bareheaded, but crowned with bay.
Though the face was mutilated, the contour of the neck and head
remained, and recalled the bull-like busts of Roman emperors and
conquerors which may be seen on ancient medals, engravings of which
Rohan had noticed in the French translation of Tacitus given him by
Master Arfoll. In a moment the mind of Rohan was illuminated. He
recalled all the popular traditions concerning the Roman towns
submerged under Kromlaix. He remembered the strange pictures conjured
up by Master Arfoll--of the houses of marble and temples of gold, the
great baths and theatres, the statues of the gods. Then, it was all
true! Not far away, perhaps, the City itself glimmered, and this was a
first glimpse of its dead world.

But this water, flowing so murmurously through the cave, whence did it
come, and whither did it go? He was still speculating when he
perceived close to the Statue's pedestal a broad flight of steps
leading downward. They were slippery with green slime, but with
extreme care one could descend.

He crawled down cautiously, feeling his way foot by foot and stair by
stair; and at last he ascertained that the steps descended into the
very water itself, which rushed past his feet with a cry like a
falling torrent, but black as jet. He reached out his hand, lifted
some of the water to his lips and found that it was quite fresh, with
the flavour of newly-fallen rain.

Then, for the first time, he remembered the subterranean River, about
which superstition was so garrulous, and above the buried bed of which
Kromlaix was said to be built. All the memories of mysterious sounds
heard in times of storm came back upon his brain; and he remembered
how often, down in the village, he had pressed his ear against the
earth and listened for the murmur of the River far below. The dark
waters on which he was now gazing were doubtless a tributary stream,
if not the very river itself; and were he to launch himself upon them,
he would come perchance to the doomed ruins of the City. It was all
real, then; yet so strange, so like a wonderful dream!

Returning to his arial chamber on the face of the great cliff, Rohan
sat and brooded in a new wonder. He was like a man who had been down
into the grave and had interviewed the dead, and had brought with him
strange secrets of the sunless world. His discovery of the great Roman
vault, with its dark passages communicating with the sea, came upon
him with a stupefying surprise. And even as he sat he thought of that
black Statue, standing like a living thing in its place, the emblem of
a world that had passed away.

HE, too, whoever he was, had lived and reigned, as the Emperor was
then reigning; he too, perhaps, robed in purple and filleted with bay,
had "bestrode the world like a Colossus," and urged a bloody
generation on. Temples and coliseums, baths of precious marble and
amphitheatres adorned with gold, had arisen at his bidding; at the
lifting of his finger victories had been won and lands been lost; and
ere his death mortals had hailed him as a god. That statue of him had
been set there by his slaves, and other statues of him had been set
elsewhere in street and mart, that men might know the glory of his
name, and cry, "Hail, O Csar, we who are about to die salute thee!"
And the Statue stood there still in its place, buried from the light
of the sun, but of his footprints in the world there was no sign.

For two days the burthen of his discovery was so heavy upon him that
Rohan did not dare to return to the mysterious Vault. He sat listening
to the wind, whose fierce wings flapped with iron clang against the
face of the cliff and gazing out upon the white and troubled sea. For
some time there had been heavy rain, and it was still falling,
falling.

The morning of the third day broke dark and peaceful; rain still fell,
but there was no wind, and the sea was calm as glass. Gazing from the
window of his cave, Rohan saw the still waters, stained with purple
shadows, and broken here and there by outlying reefs, stretching
smooth and still as far as Kromlaix; and the red fishing boats
crawling this way and that among the reefs, and here and there a great
raft drifting between the reefs and the shore. For it was close upon
the season for gathering the sea-wrack, or gomon, a harvest which
takes place twice a year; and the produce of which is used for fuel as
well as for manuring the land. Rafts are made of old planks and
barrels, rudely lashed together, piled high with the wrack gathered
from the weedy reefs, and suffered to drift to shore before the wind
or with the tide.

There was companionship, at least, in watching others at the work he
knew so well. How often had not Rohan lashed his raft together, and
piloted himself along the rocky coast--not without many a swim in the
deep sea, when his raft was too much ladened and had overturned.

He sat looking on for hours. As the day advanced, however, great banks
of cloud drifted up from the south, and a black vapour crawling in
from the sea covered the crags, and entirely obscured the prospect in
every direction. There was a dreary and oppressive silence, broken
only by the heavy falling of a leaden rain. The air seemed full of a
nameless trouble, like that which precedes a thunderstorm and shakes
the forest leaves without a breath.

As the afternoon advanced, the rain fell more heavily, but the mists
did not rise. Weary and dreary, Rohan prepared his lantern and
determined again to visit the mysterious Vault. By this time, he had
almost ceased to realize his own discovery; it seemed more and more a
dream, a vision, such as those to which his troubles had made him
accustomed and he was quite prepared to find himself in the position
of the man who, having once found and forsaken a fairy treasure,
sought in vain to discover it again.

He descended rapidly to the basaltic water-cave communicating with the
sea, and found it calm, beautiful, and unchanged; then, passing along
the rocky ledge to its innermost extremity, he leapt down upon the
shingle, and stood again before the vaulted opening, leading into the
heart of the cliffs.

As he entered, there came from within a strange sound which he had not
previously remarked--a dull, heavy murmur, as of water struggling and
rushing between trembling barriers. He hesitated, and listened. He
seemed to hear strange voices moaning and crying, and another sound
like the flapping of the great wind against the crag.

After a few minutes' pause he hurried onward, through the clammy
passages, up the flights of marble steps, nearer and nearer to the
Roman vault. As he advanced the murmur grew to a roar, and the roar to
thunder, until it seemed the solid earth was quaking all around him;
and when, trembling and shuddering, he entered the great Vault itself,
he seemed surrounded by all the thunders and ululations of an Inferno.

The cause of the commotion now became unmistakable. The river was
tumbling and shrieking in the gulf, and tearing at the walls of stone
between which it ran. He crept forward along the slippery floor, which
seemed quaking beneath his feet, and approached the Statue of stone.
It still stood there, colossal and awful, but it was trembling in its
place like a mortal man quivering with awe; indeed, the whole Vault
was quaking as with the throes of a sudden earthquake.

He gazed over the flight of black stairs leading to the River, and
flashed his light down. In a moment he perceived that the water had
risen, so that only a few steps remained uncovered; and as it foamed
and fretted, and whirled and eddied past, boiling and shrieking in its
bed, flakes of fierce foam were beaten up into his face.

Rushing he knew not whence, roaring he knew not whither, the water
filled the gulf, and shook its solid barriers with the force that only
water possesses. Another look convinced him that it was rapidly and
tumultuously rising.

Already it was within a few feet of the base of the Statue, and still
it was swelling upward with inconceivable rapidity. It was as if the
tide itself had rushed into the gulf filling and overflooding it.

The mind of Rohan was well skilled in danger, and perceived
instantaneously the full peril of the situation. To remain where he
stood would be to encounter instantaneous death.

With the thunder of the waters in his ears, the walls of solid stone
quaking around him, and the ground trembling beneath his feet, he
turned and fled.

Not a moment too soon. Down the vaulted passages he passed, until he
emerged upon the great water-cave far beneath.

As he touched the narrow space of shingle he heard behind him a
horrible concussion, a sound as if the very crags were crumbling down
together; then a roar as of many waters escaping, as of a great river
rushing after him, and coming ever nearer and nearer.

Swift as thought he climbed up on the rocky ledge above the water, and
made his way to the aperture by which he had descended from his arial
cave. Pausing there, and clinging to the rocks, he beheld vast volumes
of smoke and water belching from the passage by which he had just
escaped; roaring and rushing down tumultuously to mingle with the sea,
till all the still green waters of the cave, stained brown and black,
were bubbling like a great cauldron at his feet.



Chapter 43. "THE NIGHT OF THE DEAD"



It was All Saint's Eve, 1813.

While Rohan Gwenfern was penetrating, torch in hand, into the ghostly
Roman Vault or Aqueduct, deep-buried in the heart of the cliffs, the
chapel bells of Kromlaix were ringing, and crowds were flocking
through the darkness to hear the priest say mass, a task in which he
and his "vicaire" would be engaged unceasingly till the coming of
dawn. The night was dark and still, but the rain was falling heavily,
and a black curtain covered the sea. Everywhere in the narrow streets
of Kromlaix were glistening pools formed by the newly fallen rain, and
into these the heavy drops plashed incessantly, making a dreary
murmur. But fainter and deeper than the sound of the rain came another
sound, like a cry from the earth beneath: a strange far-off murmur,
like the distant moaning of the sea.

The doors stood open wide, and in every house the supper-table stood
spread, with a clean linen cloth, lights, and the evening meal; and
around the table stood vacant chairs; and on the hearth there burnt a
fire carefully arranged to last till dawn. For it was the Night of the
Dead; and after the death-bell had been tolled, the dead-mass said,
the supper eaten, and the household retired to rest, the Souls of the
Dead would enter in and partake of the solemn feast in the dwellings
where they had died, or where their kin abode. Then the household
would listen, and hear strange wailings in the rooms and at the doors;
and then they would rise from their beds, fall upon their knees, and
pray that, but for this one waking night of the year those they loved
might sleep in peace.

Not only from the little churchyard on the hill-side, where the light
was gleaming through the open chapel door, would the Souls of the Dead
come; but over the wild wastes inland, and down the lonely roads from
the far-off towns, and most of all, in from the washing waters of the
sea. Strange phosphorescent lights were moving already to and fro upon
the deep. High in the air strange eerie voices were crying. From land
and sea, from all the places where they slept, the Dead were coming
back to the homes they loved in life.

At one o'clock in the morning the moon would be full, and it would be
grandemer or high tide. There was no moonlight, and in deep windless
darkness fell the rain; but lights flashed in all the windows, and a
lurid gleam came from the little chapel, where Father Rolland and his
"vicaire" were performing the mass. The living were praying, and
ghosts were hovering in the black air, when Marcelle Derval, leaving
her mother behind her in the chapel, came down through the darkness
with some companions of her own age and sex, and parted with them at
her uncle's door.

Entering in she found the kitchen bright and cleanly swept, lights
upon the table, a great fire on the hearth, and the hero of Dresden
seated alone in the chimney corner.

"Are you there, Marcelle?" he cried with a nod, withdrawing from his
mouth a great wooden pipe which he had brought back with him from
Germany. "The old one was anxious about you, and he has gone up the
street to look after you. Where is mother,--and the boys?"

"She is still at chapel, and will not return till it strikes twelve."

"And you?"

"I am tired, and I shall go to bed"

"Supper is ready," said Gildas; "sit down and eat."

Marcelle shook her head. She looked very pale, and her whole manner
betokened bodily or mental fatigue.

"Good night," she said, kissing Gildas; then she lit her lamp, and
went wearily up the stairs. All that day her heart had been full of
Rohan, and now, when night came, she was thinking of him with strange
pain. It was the Night of the Dead, but she was too young to have much
to mourn for, and, beyond her two brothers, who had died in battle,
had known no losses. Nevertheless, the burthen of the time lay heavily
upon her, and she trembled before the shadow of something that did not
live. Rohan Gwenfern was her dead, lost to her and the world, buried
out yonder in the black night, as surely as if he no longer breathed
at all. While others had been praying for their lost, whom the good
God had stricken, she had been praying for hers, whom God had no less
surely taken away. With the dead there was peace; for the dead-living
there was only pain. So her sorrow was the worst to bear.

With this great agony in her heart she had yearned to be alone in her
chamber--to think, to pray; and so she had come home. The others would
soon follow, and, after midnight struck, the room below would be left
in silence, that the poor ghosts might come in and take their place at
the board. Ah God! if he too might come, eating for one night at least
the blessed bread of peace!

Left alone again in the great kitchen, Gildas Derval smoked away in
his corner, ever and anon giving vent to an expression of impatience.
The rain still fell without with weary and ceaseless sound, and there
was a murmuring from the black streams pouring down the narrow street.
Once or twice Gildas arose, and gazed out into the pitch-black night--
a Night of Death indeed!

As the minutes crept on, and the hands of the Dutch clock in the
corner pointed to half-past eleven, Gildas grew more uneasy. The
witching hour was close at hand, and the silence was growing
positively sepulchral. At every sound he started, listening intently.
Hero as he was, he felt positively afraid, and bitterly regretted that
he had suffered Marcelle to go to bed.

"What the devil can detain my uncle?" he muttered again and again.

At last the door opened and the Corporal staggered in, wrapped in his
old military coat, and dripping from head to foot; his cocked hat,
which he wore  l'Empereur, formed a miniature waterspout upon his
head.

"Soul of a crow!" he cried, "was there ever such a night? Are they not
returned?"

"Only Marcelle," growled Gildas; "the rest are still at the chapel,
though it is time all good Christians were abed."

The Corporal stumped across the room, and remained with his back to
the fire, his wet clothes steaming as he stood.

"I went up the street to look for them, but seeing they did not come,
I went to the shore. The tide is up to the foot of the street, and it
has still some time to flow. They are frightened down there, and will
not sleep to-night; but the sea is calm as glass."

As the Corporal ceased to speak Gildas sprang to his feet, and
simultaneously the house shook to its very foundations as if smitten
by a sudden squall of wind.

"What's that?" cried Gildas, now quite pale, crossing himself in his
terror.

"It must be the wind rising," said the Corporal; but when he walked to
the door, and threw it open to listen, there was not a breath.

"It is strange," he said in a low voice coming back to the fire. "I
have heard it twice before to-night, and one would say the earth was
quaking underfoot."

"Uncle!" murmured Gildas.

"Well, mon garz?"

"If it is the Souls of the Dead!"

The old Corporal made a gesture of reverence, and, turning his face
round, looked at the fire. Several minutes passed in uneasy silence.
Then suddenly, without warning of any kind, the house shook again!
This time it did not seem as if stricken by wind; but there came to
both Gildas and the Corporal that strange unconscious sickening dread
which is the invariable accompaniment of earthquake. The sound, like
the sensation, was only momentary, but as it ceased, the men looked
aghast at one another.

"It is dreadful," said the Corporal. "Soul of a crow why does the
woman linger?"

With a suddenness which startled Gildas and made him growl in nervous
irritation, the little trap-door of the Dutch clock sprang open, and
the wooden cuckoo sprang out, uttering his name twelve times, and
proclaiming the hour Midnight! The Corporal, full of a nameless
uneasiness, could no longer restrain himself.

"It is unaccountable," he exclaimed. "I will go again and see."

Before Gildas could interpose he had wrapped his coat once more about
him and sallied forth into the night.

Through the heavy murmuring of the rain and the rushing of the
waterspouts and streams Gildas could hear the "clop clop" of the
wooden leg dying up the street; then all was silence.

Of all situations this was the one Gildas was least fitted to face
with advantage. He was not deficient in brute courage, and in good
company he might have faced even a visitor from another world; but his
little "campaign" had disturbed his nervous system, and that night of
all nights in the year he did not care to be left alone. And, indeed,
a far more enlightened being would, under the circumstances, have
shared his trepidation. The air was full of a sick uncomfortable
silence, broken only by the "plopping" and "pinging" of the heavy
metallic rain, and ever and anon, when the house trembled with those
mysterious blasts, the effect was simply paralytic.

Gildas stood at the door, looking out into the rain. The darkness was
complete, but the light from the chamber glistened on a perfect stream
of black rain running down the street. As he stood there listening,
mysterious hands seemed outstretched to touch him, cold breaths blew
upon his cheek, and there was a sound all round him as of the wailing
dead. Lights burned in the windows down the street, and many doors
stood open like his own, but there was no sign of any human being.

Re-entering the kitchen, he approached the wooden stairs, and called
gruffly--

"Marcelle! Marcelle!"

There was no answer.

"Marcelle! are you asleep?"

The door of the room above opened, and Marcelle's voice replied--

"Is it my uncle?"

"No, it is I--Gildas. Are you abed?"

"I am undressed, and was half asleep. What is it?"

Gildas did not care to confess that he was afraid, and wanted company;
so he growled--

"Oh, it is nothing! Mother has not come home yet, that is all; but my
uncle has gone to look after her. It is raining cats and dogs!"

"She told me she would not return till midnight, and she has the boys.
Good-night again, Gildas!"

"Good-night!" muttered the hero of Dresden; then just as the door
above was closing he called, "Marcelle!"

"Yes."

"You--you need not close your door--I may want to speak to you again."

"Very well."

There was silence again, and Gildas returned to the fireside. As he
did so the cottage again trembled as before. He drew back to the foot
of the staircase.

"Marcelle!" he cried.

"Yes," answered the voice, this time obviously from between the
sheets.

"Did you hear that?"

"The noise? Ah, yes; it is only the wind."

"It is only the Devil," muttered Gildas to himself, and, inwardly
cursing Marcelle's coolness, he stepped again to the street door and
looked out. A black wall of rain and darkness still stared him in the
face. He stood for some minutes in agitation, with the cold drops
splashing into his face. There was not a breath of wind, and by
listening closely he could distinctly hear the murmur of the sea.

Suddenly his ears were startled by a sound which made his heart leap
into his mouth and his blood run cold. From inland, from the direction
of the chapel, there came a murmur, a roar, as if the sea lay that
way, and was rising in storm. Before he could gather his wits together
there rose far away a sound like a human shriek, and all at once,
through the dreary moaning of the rain, came the rapid tolling of a
bell. Simultaneously he saw dark figures rushing rapidly up the street
from the direction of the sea shore. Though he called to them they did
not reply.

Yes, there could be no mistake. A bell was tolling faintly in the
distance; doubtless the chapel bell itself. Something unusual was
happening--what, it was impossible to guess.

Two or three more figures passed rapidly, and he again demanded what
was the matter. This time a voice answered, but only with a frightened
cry--"This way, for your life!"

Anything was better than to stand there in suspense; so without a
moment's reflection Gildas ran after the others up the street.

There had been rain for weeks, and the valleys inland were already
half flooded; but to-night it poured still as if all the vials of the
aqueous heavens had been opened. Well might the ground tremble and the
hidden River roar! At last, as if at a preconcerted signal, the
elements awoke in concert, and sounded the signal of storm. The sea
rose high on the shore, the wind began to blow, the River rose blackly
in its bed, and, most terrible of all, the pent-up floods burst their
barriers among the hills.

With the natural position of Kromlaix our readers are already
familiar. Situated in the gap of the great sea-wall, and lying at the
mouth of a narrow valley, it was equally at the mercy of inundations
from inland and of inundations from the ocean. Rocked, as it were,
upon the waves of the sea which crawled in beneath it to meet the
subterranean river, it had nevertheless endured from generation to
generation.

Only once in the memory of the oldest inhabitant had destruction come.
That was many years ago, so far back in time that it seemed an old
man's tale to be heard and forgotten. Yet there had been warnings
enough of danger during this same autumn of 1813. Never for many a
long year had there been such a rainfall; never had there been such
storms to mark the period of the autumnal equinox. Night after night
the hidden river had given its warning, so that sometimes the very
earth seemed shaken by its cry. The spring-tides, too, were higher
than they had been for many seasons past.

And now, on this Night of the Dead, when earth, air, and sea were
covered with ghastly processions trooping to their homes, when the
little churches all along the coast were lighted up, and death-lights
were placed in every house, the waters rose and rushed down upon their
prey. Down through the narrow valleys above the village came, with the
fury of a torrent, the raging Flood, filling the narrow chasm of the
valley, and bearing everything before it towards the sea. It came in
darkness, so that only its voice could be heard; but could the eye of
man have beheld it as it came, it would have been seen covered with
floating prey of all kinds--with trees uprooted from the ground,
fences and palings torn away, thatched roofs of houses, and even
enormous stones. Well might those shriek who heard it come! Faster
than a man might gallop on the fleetest horse, swifter than a man
might sail in the swiftest ship, it rolled upon its way, fed by
innumerable tributary torrents rushing down from the hills on either
side, and gathering power and volume as it approached. But when it
reached the dreary tarns of Ker Lon, some miles above the village, it
hesitated an hour, as if prepared to sink into the earth like the
River which there ends his course; then, recruited by new floods from
the hillsides, and from the overflowing tarns themselves, it rushed
onward, and the fate of Kromlaix was sealed.

During that brief space of indecision up among the tarns, the farmer
of Ker Lon, a brave man, had leapt upon his horse without stopping to
use saddle or bridle, and galloped down to Kromlaix, shrieking warning
as he went. At midnight he reached the chapel on the hill-side, and
without ceremony, wet, dripping, and as white as a ghost from the
dead, delivered his awful news. Fortunately the large portion of the
population was still in the chapel. Shrieks and wails arose.

"Sound the alarm!" cried Father Rolland; and the chapel bell began to
toll.

It was at this moment that the old Corporal, soaking and out of
temper, arrived at the chapel door, and found the widow and his two
nephews just ready to return home. He passed through the wailing
groups of men and women, and accosted the farmer himself.

"Perhaps, after all, it will not come so far," he cried; "the pools of
Ker Lon are deep."

The answer came, but not from the farmer; the roar of the waters
themselves coming wildly down the valley.

"To the hill-sides!" cried Father Rolland. "For your lives!"

Through the pitch darkness, struggling, screaming, stumbling, fled the
crowd, leaving the chapel behind them illumined but deserted. The rain
still fell in torrents. Guided by a few spirits more cool and
courageous than the rest, the miserable crowd rushed towards the
ascents which closed the valley on either side, and which fortunately
were not far distant. The old Corporal caught the general panic, and
with eager hands helped on his affrighted sister-in-law. They had not
gone far when a voice cried in the darkness close by--

"Mother! uncle!"

"It is Gildas, and alone," cried Mother Derval. "Almighty God! where
is Marcelle?"

The voice of Gildas replied--

"I left her in the house below. But what is the matter? Are you all
mad?"

A wild shriek from the panic-stricken creatures around was the only
answer. "The Flood! the Flood!" they cried, flying for their lives;
and, indeed, the imminent hour had come, for the lights of the chapel
behind them were already extinguished in the raging waters, and the
flood was rushing down on Kromlaix with a fatal roar, answered by a
fainter murmur from the rising Sea.



Chapter 44. DELUGE



After emerging into the great water cave and clinging to its walls as
the furious torrents came boiling down to mingle with the sea, Rohan
Gwenfern paused for some minutes, awestricken and amazed; for it
seemed as if the very bosom of the Earth had burst and all the dark
streams of its heart were pouring forth. The tumult was deafening, the
concussion terrific, and it was with difficulty that Rohan kept his
place on the slippery ledge above the water. When his first surprise
had abated he left the cave and ascended to his arial home on the
face of the cliff.

All there was dark, for night had now fallen. Leaning forth through
the cranny which served him as a window, he saw only a great wall of
blackness, heard only the heavy murmur of torrents of rain. There was
no wind, and the leaden drops were pattering like bullets into the
sea, in straight perpendicular lines.

He sat for a time in the darkness, pondering on the discoveries that
he had made. Although his brain was to a certain extent deranged by
the agonies he had undergone, and although he was subject to alarming
cerebral seizures during which he was scarcely accountable for what he
thought or did, the general current of his ideas was still clear, and
his powers of observation and reflection remained intact. He was
perfectly able, therefore, to perceive the obvious explanation of what
he had seen and discovered. The subterranean cave and its passage
communication with the sea formed an enormous Aqueduct, fashioned,
doubtless, for the purpose of letting the overflowing waters escape in
times of flood. He had read of similar contrivances, and he knew that
an aqueduct had been excavated not many leagues away, beyond La
Vilaine. In fashioning the extraordinary place advantage had doubtless
been taken of natural passages which had existed there from time
immemorial; but how the work was effected was a question impossible to
answer, unless on the supposition that the Roman colonists had
possessed an engineering skill little short of miraculous.

He remembered now all the old stories he had heard concerning former
submersions of his native village, as well as the popular tradition
that the buried Roman city had been itself destroyed by inundations.
Was it possible, then, that the river which he had discovered crawling
through the heart of the cliffs was the same river which plunged into
the earth among the tarns of Ker Lon, and which, after winding for
miles, eventually crept under Kromlaix and poured itself into the sea?
If this was the case, all the phenomena were intelligible. The Roman
colonists, fearful of floods and of the rising of the river, had
constructed the Aqueduct for purposes of overflow, so that when the
hour came, the angry waters, before reaching their City, might be
partially diverted into the great water cave, and thence through
"Hell's Mouth" to the open ocean. How carefully the hands of man had
worked! How grandly, under the inspiration of that dead Csar whose
marble shadow still stood below, the mind of man had planned and
wrought the Aqueduct! Yet all had been of no avail. At last the finger
of God had been lifted, and the shining City by the sea was seen no
more.

Real and simple as seemed the explanation, the fact of the discovery
was nevertheless awful and stupefying. It seemed no less a dream than
Rohan's other dreams. He saw the ghost of a buried world, and his
heart went sick with awe.

As he sat thinking he suddenly remembered that that night was the
Night of the Dead.

No sooner had the remembrance come than a nameless uneasiness took
possession of him, and, approaching the loophole, he gazed forth
again. And now to his irritated vision there seemed faint lights here
and there upon the black waste of waters. He listened intently. Again
and again amid the heavy murmur of the rain there came a sound like
far-off voices. And yonder in Kromlaix the mass was being spoken and
the white boards were being spread, for the Souls which were flocking
from all quarters of the earth that night.

He lit his lantern, and sat for some time in its beam; but the dull
dim light only made his situation more desolately sad. Pacing up and
down the cave in agitation, and pausing again and again to listen to
the sounds without, he waited on. The darkness grew more intense, the
sound of the rain more oppressively sad. Repeatedly, from far beneath
him, he heard a thunderous roar, which he knew came from the waters
rushing into the great ocean-cave.

As the hours crept on there came upon his soul a great hunger to be
near his fellow-beings, to escape from the frightful solitude which
seemed driving him to despair. In the dense darkness of that night he
would be safe anywhere. As for the rain, he heeded it not. There was a
fire in his heart which seemed to destroy all sense of wet or cold.

At last, yielding to his uncontrollable impulse, he groped his way
slowly downward through the natural passages and caves, until he
emerged at the great Trou of St. Gildas. Here he paused until his eyes
had grown accustomed to the darkness, and at last he was able dimly to
discern the outline of the vast natural Cathedral. It was nine
o'clock, and the tide had scarcely three parts flowed, so that not a
drop had yet touched the Cathedral floor, and egress through the Gate
was still possible.

Descending rapidly in his customary fashion, he reached the shingle
below. Familiar even in darkness with every footstep of the way, he
passed out through the Gate and waded round the promontory, where the
water was only knee deep, until he reached the shore beyond. The rain
was still falling in torrents, and he was soaking to the skin; but,
totally indifferent to the elements, he proceeded on his way. Yet he
was bare-headed, and the ragged clothes he wore were only enough to
cover his nakedness. Accustomed to exposure and to hardships of all
kinds, he did not feel cold; it would be time enough for that when
winter came.

Crossing the desolate shingle, he ascended the Ladder of St. Triffine.

At midnight Rohan Gwenfern stood leaning against the Menhir, and
gazing down into the blackness where Kromlaix lay. The rain still
continued, and the night was pitch-dark; but he could see the blood-
red gleam of the window lights and the faint flickerings of lanterns
carried to and fro. Inland, in the direction of St. Gurlott, streamed
glittering rays from the windows of Father Rolland's chapel. Listening
intently he could hear at times the cry of a human voice.

It was the Night of the Dead, and he knew that in every house that
night the board would be left spread with remnants that the dead might
enter and eat. Less houseless and less outcast than himself, they were
welcome, that night at least, wherever they chose to knock; while he,
condemned to a daily living death, only creeping forth from his tomb
in the cliffs like any other wandering and restless ghost, dare not
even at such a time approach close to any human hearth. He had
resisted "even unto blood," and Cain's mark was upon him. For him
there was no welcome; he was outcast for evermore.

As he stood thus, watching and thinking, the bell of the chapel began
to peal violently. The sound, coming thus unexpectedly from the
darkness, was as the sudden leaping of a pulse in the wrist of a dead
man. Almost simultaneously Rohan heard a faint far-off human scream.
At first, with the superstitious instinct that had been bred in him
and had not yet altogether forsaken him, he thought of the poor
outcast ghosts peopling the rainy night, and wondered if the sounds he
heard were not wholly supernatural--whether dead hands were not
touching the ropes of the chapel bell, while corpses gathered round
the belfry and wailed a weary echo to the sound. But the bell pealed
on, and more human cries followed. Something terrible was happening,
and the alarm was being given.

He had not long to wait for an explanation. Soon, from inland, came a
roaring like the sea, as the mighty torrents approached; shrieks arose
from the gulf, on which the black rain still poured; and lights
flitted this way and that, moving rapidly along the ground. He heard
voices sounding clearer, as the flitting lights came nearer, and on
the hill-side opposite lights were moving too. Rohan understood all in
a moment. The inundation was coming, and those who had been warned
were taking to the heights.

It was now past midnight, and with the rising of the high tide there
had risen a faint wind, which, as if to deepen the horror of the
catastrophe, now blew back the clouds covering the moon, then at the
full. Although the rain continued to fall in torrents, the air was
suddenly flooded with a watery gleam, and the village stood revealed
in silhouette, with the black tide glistening coldly at its feet; and
above it, approaching with terrific rapidity from the inland valley,
and towering up like a great wall, rolled the Flood. Simultaneously,
from a hundred throats, rose horror-stricken screams; and Rohan
distinctly beheld, on the slope beneath him, the human figures
clustering and looking down. Meantime, all seemed quiet down in the
village itself: the lights gleamed faintly in the windows, and the
moonlight lay on the dark roofs, on the empty streets, on the caloges
close to the water's edge, and on the black line of smacks and skiffs
which now floated, as if at anchor, on the high tide.

Again the clouds covered the moon, and the picture of Kromlaix was
hidden. Amidst the darkness, with a roaring like that of a strong sea,
the Flood entered the village and began its dreadful work of
destruction and of death. It was dreadful to stand up there on the
hill-side, and to hear the unseen waters struggling in the black gulf;
like a snake strangling its victim and stifling his dying cries. The
tumult continued, deadened to a heavy roar, through the heart of which
pierced sharp shrieks and piteous calls for help. One by one the
lights were extinguished. Like a Thug strangler crawling and killing
in the night, the waters ran from place to place, feeling for their
prey.

When the clouds again drifted off the face of the moon, and things
were again dimly visible, the Flood had met the Tide, and wherever the
eye fell a black waste of water surrounded the houses, many of which
were flooded to the roofs; the main street was a brawling river, and
the lanes on all sides were its tributary streams; many of the boats
had driven from shore and were rocking up and down as if on a stormy
sea: and there was a sound in the air as of an earthquake, broken only
by frantic human cries. The desolation was complete, but the
destruction had only just begun. From the inland valley fresh torrents
were tumultuously flowing to recruit the floods; so that the waters
were every moment rising; and the tide, flowing into the streets,
mingled with the rivers of rain. Under the fury of the first attack
many buildings had fallen, and the fierce washing of the waters was
rapidly undermining others. And still there was no sign of the
cessation of the rain. Deluge was pouring upon deluge. It seemed as if
the wrath of Heaven had only just begun.



Chapter 45. "MID WATERS WILD"



Situated apart, some distance from the main village, and built close
upon the sea-shore under the shelter of the eastern crag, the house of
Mother Gwenfern stood, with several other scattered abodes, far out of
danger. The only peril which seemed to threaten it came from the high
tide, which that night rose nearly to the threshold, and, augmented by
the rains of the flood, surged threateningly close upon it. Leading
from the cottage to the heights above was a rocky path, and on this,
gazing awe-stricken in the direction of the village, stood Mother
Gwenfern, gaunt as a spectre in the flying gleams of moonlight. Around
her gathered several neighbours, chiefly women and children, the
latter crying in terror, the former crouching on the ground.

Hard by was a group of men, including Mikel Grallon. Little had been
said; the situation was too appalling for words. While the flood
played tiger-like with his victim, the women prayed wildly and the men
crossed themselves again and again. From time to time an exclamation
arose when the moon looked out and showed how the work of destruction
was progressing.

"Holy Virgin! old Plout's house is down!"

"Look--there was a light in the cabaret, but now it is all black!"

"They are screaming out yonder!"

"Hark, there!--it is another roof falling!"

"Merciful God! how black it is! One would say it was the Last
Judgment!"

The heights on each side of the village were now dotted with black
figures, many carrying lights. It was clear that, owing to the
superstitious customs of the night, many of the population had made
good their escape. It was no less certain, however, that many others
must have perished, or be perishing, amid the raging waters or in the
submerged dwellings. Hope of escape or rescue there seemed none. Until
the flood abated nothing could be saved.

The group of men on the face of the cliff continued to gaze on and
mutter among themselves.

"The tide is still rising," said Mikel Grallon, in a low voice. He was
comparatively calm, for his house, being situated apart from the main
village, had so far escaped the fury of the inundation.

"It has nearly an hour yet to flow!" said another of the men.

"And then!" cried Grallon, significantly. All the men crossed
themselves. Another hour of destruction, and what would then be left
of Kromlaix and of those poor souls who still lingered within it?

As they stood whispering a figure rapidly descended the path from the
heights above them, and, joining the group, called out the name of
Mikel Grallon. The moon was once more hidden, and it was impossible to
distinguish faces.

"Who wants Mikel Grallon? I am here!"

The new comer replied in a voice full of excitement and terror.

"It is I, Gildas Derval! Mikel, we are in despair. The old one and all
the rest are safe up there: all of our family are safe but my sister
Marcelle. Holy Virgin protect her, but she is in the house, out yonder
amid the flood. My uncle is mad, and we are heart-broken. Can she not
be saved?"

"She is in God's hands," cried an old man. "No man can help her now."

Gildas uttered a moan of misery, for he was really fond of his sister.
Mother Gwenfern, who stood close by and had heard the conversation,
now approached, and demanded in her cold, clear voice--

"Can nothing be done? Are there no boats?"

"Boats!" echoed Mikel Grallon. "One might as well go to sea in a shell
as face the flood in any boat this night; but, for all that, boats
there are none. They are all out yonder, where the flood meets the
tide, save those that are already carried out to sea."

The widow raised her wild arms to heaven, murmuring Marcelle's name
aloud. Gildas Derval almost began to blubber in the fury of his grief.

"Ah God! that I should come back from the great wars to see such a
night as this! I have always had bad luck, but this is the worst. My
poor Marcelle! Look you, before I went away she tied a holy medal
around my neck, and it kept me from harm. Ah, she was a good little
thing! and must she die?"

"The blessed Virgin keep her!" cried Mikel Grallon; "what can we do?"

"It is not only Marcelle Derval," said the old man who had already
spoken; "it is not only one, but many, that shall be taken this night.
God be praised I have neither wife nor child to die so sad a death."

As the speaker finished and reverently crossed his breast, another
voice broke the silence.

"Who says there are no boats?" it demanded in strange sharp tones.

"I," answered Mikel Grallon. "Who speaks?"

There was no reply, but a dark figure, pushing through the group of
men, rapidly descended the crag in the direction of the sea.

"Mother of God!" whispered Grallon, as if struck by a sudden thought,
"it is Gwenfern."

Immediately several voices cried aloud, "Is it thou, Ronan Gwenfern?"
and Rohan--for it was he--answered from the darkness, "Yes; come this
way!"

In the great terror and solemnity of the moment no one seemed
astonished at Rohan's appearance, and, strange to say, no one, with
the exception perhaps of Mikel Grallon, dreamed of laying hands on the
deserter. The apparition of the hunted and desperate man seemed
perfectly in keeping with all the horrors of that night. Silently the
men followed him down to the shore. The tide was now lapping at the
very door of his mother's cottage. He paused, looking down at the
water, and surrounded by the men.

"Where are all the rafts?" he asked.

"The rafts! What raft could live out yonder?" cried Gildas Derval; and
he added, in a whisper to Mikel Grallon, "My cousin is mad."

At that moment Rohan's foot struck against a black mass washing on the
very edge of the sea. Stooping down he discovered, by touch rather
than by eye-sight, that it was one of those smaller rafts which were
rudely constructed at that season of the year for the purpose of
gathering the gomon or sea-wrack from the reefs. It consisted of
several trunks of trees and tree branches, crossed with fragments of
old barrels, and lashed together with thick slippery ropes twisted out
of ocean-tangle. A man might safely in dead calm weather pilot such a
raft when loaded, letting it drift with the tide or pushing it with a
pole along the shallows; and that it had quite recently been in use
was clear from the fact that it was still partially loaded and kept
under water by clinging masses of slippery weed.

As Rohan bent over the raft the moon shone out in full brilliance, and
the village was again illumined. The flood roared loudly as ever, and
the black waters of the sea seemed nearly level with the roofs of the
most low-lying dwellings. Upon the edge where flood and sea met, the
waters boiled like a cauldron, and dbris of all descriptions came
rushing down in the arms of the rivers of rain. There was another
heavy crash, as of houses falling in. As if the terror had reached its
completion, the rain now ceased, and the moon continued visible for
many minutes together.

"Quick! bring me a pole or an oar!" cried Rohan, turning to his
companions.

Several men ran rapidly along the beach in quest of what he sought;
for though they did not quite understand how he intended to act, and
although, moreover, they believed that to launch forth on the raft was
to put his life in jeopardy, they were under the spell of his stronger
nature, and offered neither suggestion nor opposition.

"Rohan! my son!" cried Mother Gwenfern, creeping down and holding him
by the hand; "what are you going to do?"

"I am going to Marcelle Derval!"

"But you will die! you will perish in the waters!"

In the excitement of the moment Mother Gwenfern, like all the rest,
forgot the man's actual relation to society, forgot that his life was
forfeited, and that all hands would have been ready, under other
circumstances, to drag him to the guillotine. All she remembered was
his present danger; that he was going to certain death.

In answer, Rohan only laughed strangely. Seizing a large oar from
Gildas Derval, who ran up with it at that moment, he sprang on the
raft and pushed from shore. Under his weight, the raft swayed
violently and sank almost under water.

"Come back! come back!" cried Mother Gwenfern; but, with vigorous
pushes of the oar, which he thrust to the bottom and used as a pole,
Rohan moved rapidly away. For better security, since the raft seemed
in danger of capsizing, he sank on his knees, and thus, partially
immersed in the cold waters that flowed over the slippery planks, he
disappeared into the darkness.

The men looked at one another shuddering.

"As well die that way," muttered Mikel Grallon, "as another!"



Chapter 46. MARCELLE



The wind had risen, and was blowing gently off the land; and the sea,
at the confluence of flood and tide, was broken into white waves. As
Rohan approached the vicinity of the submerged village his situation
became perilous, for it was quite clear that the raft could not live
long in those angry waters. Nevertheless, fearlessly, and with a
certain fury, he forced the raft on by rowing, now at one side, now at
another. Though the work was tedious, it was work in which he was well
skilled, and he was soon tossing in the broken water below the
village. The tide all round him was strewn with dbris of all kinds--
trunks of trees, fragments of wooden furniture, bundles of straw,
thatch from sunken roofs--and it required no little care to avoid
perilous collisions.

The moon was shining clearly, so that he had now an opportunity of
perceiving the extent of the disaster. The houses and caloges lying
just above high-water mark were covered to the very roofs, and all
around them the sea itself was surging and boiling; while above them
the buildings of the main village loomed disastrously amid a gleaming
waste of boiling pools; muddy rivers and streams, and stagnant canals.
Many dwellings, undermined by the washing of the torrents, had fallen
in, and others were tottering.

A heavy roar still came from the direction whence the flood had
issued, but it was clear that the full fury of the inundation had
ceased. Nevertheless, it being scarcely high tide, it was impossible
to tell what horrors were yet in store; for though the rivers of rain
in the main streets were growing still, the water was working subtly
and terribly at the foundations of the houses.

How many living souls had perished could not yet be told. Some,
doubtless, dwelling in one-storied buildings, had been found in their
beds and quietly smothered, almost before they could utter a cry.
Fortunately, however, the greater portion of the population had been
astir, and had been able to escape a calamity which would otherwise
have been universal.

Eighty or a hundred yards from shore a crowd of unwieldy vessels, with
masts lowered, tossed at anchor; others had floated off the land and
were being blown farther and farther out to sea; and here and there in
the waters around were drifting nets which had been swept away from
the stakes where they had been left to dry. More than once the raft
struck against dead sheep and cattle, floating partially submerged,
and as it drifted past the nets Rohan saw, deep down in the tangled
folds, something which glimmered like a human face.

Once among the troubled waters, he found it quite impossible to
navigate the raft. The waters pouring downward drove it back towards
the floating craft and threatened to carry it out to sea. At last, to
crown all, the rotten ropes of tangle gave way, the trunks and staves
fell apart, and Rohan found himself struggling among the troubled
waves of the tide.

He was a strong swimmer, but his strength had been terribly reduced by
trouble and privation. Grasping the oar with one hand and partially
supporting himself by its aid, he struck out to the nearest of the
deserted fishing craft; reaching which, he clung on to the bowsprit
chain and drew his body partially out of the water. As he did so, he
espied, floating a few yards distant, at the stern of a smack, a small
boat like a ship's "dingy."

To swim to the boat, and to drag himself into it by main force, was
the work of only a few minutes. He then discovered to his joy that it
contained a pair of paddles. Unfortunately, however, it was so leaky
and so full of water that his weight brought it down almost to the
gunwale, and threatened to sink it altogether.

Every moment was precious. Seizing the rope by which the boat was
attached to the smack, he climbed up over the stern of the latter, and
searching in its hold found a rusty iron pot. With this he in a few
minutes baled out the punt; then seizing the paddles, he pulled wildly
towards the shore.

The work was easy until he again reached the confluence of flood and
tide. Here the waters were pouring down so rapidly, and were moreover
so strewn with dangerous dbris, that he was again and again in
imminent danger.

Exerting all his extraordinary strength, he forced the boat between
the roofs of the caloges, and launched out into the stream of the main
river pouring from the village. Swept back against a nearly covered
caloge, he was almost capsized; but, leaping out on the roof, he
rapidly baled his boat, which was already filling with water.
Fortunately the flood was decreasing in violence and the tide had
turned, but it nevertheless seemed a mad and hopeless task to force
the frail boat further in the face of such obstacles. The main street
was a rapid river, filled with great boulders washed down from the
valley, and with flotsam and jetsam of all kinds. To row against it
was utterly impossible; the moment he endeavoured to do so he was
swept back and almost swamped.

Another man, even if he had possessed the foolhardiness to venture so
far, would now have turned and fled. But perhaps because his forfeited
life was no longer a precious thing to him, perhaps because his
strength and courage always increased with opposition, perhaps because
he had determined once and for ever to show how a "coward" could act
when brave men were quaking in their shoes, Rohan Gwenfern gathered
all his strength together for a mighty effort. Rowing to the side of
the river, he threw down his oars and clutched hold of the solid
masonry of a house; and then dragging the boat along by main force
from wall to wall, he rapidly accomplished a distance of fifteen or
twenty yards. Pausing then, and keeping firm hold of the projecting
angle of a roof, while the flood was boiling past, he beheld floating
among the other dbris, the body of a child.

Repeating the same manuvre, he again dragged the boat on; again
rested; again renewed his toil; until he had reached the very heart of
the village. Here fortunately the waters were less rapid, and he could
force his way along with greater ease. But at every yard of the way
the picture grew more pitiful, the feeling of devastation more
complete. The lower houses were submerged, and some of the larger ones
had fallen. On many of the roofs were gathered groups of human beings,
kneeling and stretching out their hands to heaven.

"Help! help!" they shrieked, as Gwenfern appeared; but he only waved
his hand and passed on.

At last, reaching the narrow street in which stood the Corporal's
dwelling, he discovered to his joy that the house was still intact.
The flood here was very swift and terrible, so that at first it almost
swept him away. He now to his horror perceived, floating seaward, many
almost naked corpses. Opposite to the Corporal's house a large barn
had fallen in, and within the walls numbers of cattle were floating
dead.

The Corporal's house consisted, as the reader is aware, of two
stories, the upper forming a sort of attic in the gable of the roof.
The waters had risen so high that the door and windows of the lower
story were entirely hidden, and a powerful current was sweeping along
right under the window of the little upper room where Marcelle slept.

Ah God! if she did not live! If the cruel flood had found her below,
and before she could escape had seized her and destroyed her like so
many of the rest!

The house was still some twenty yards away and very difficult to
reach. Clinging with one hand to the window-frame of one of the houses
below, Rohan gathered all his strength, baled out his boat, and then
prepared to drag it on. To add to the danger of his position the wind
had now grown quite violent, blowing with the current and in the
direction of the sea. If once his strength failed, and he was swept
into the full fury of the mid-current, the result must be almost
certain death.

With the utmost difficulty he managed to row the boat to the window of
a cottage two doors from that of the Corporal; here, finding further
progress by water impracticable, for the current was quite
irresistible, he managed to clamber up to the roof, and, clutching in
his hand the rope of the boat, which was fortunately long, to scramble
desperately on. At this point his skill as a cragsman stood him in
good stead. At last, after extraordinary exertions, he reached the
very gable of the house he sought, and, standing erect in the boat,
clutched at the window-sill. In a moment the boat was swept from
beneath his feet, and he found himself dangling by his hands, while
his feet trailed in the water under him.

Still retaining, wound round one wrist, the end of the rope which
secured the boat, he hung for a few seconds suspended; then putting
out his strength and performing a trick in which he was expert, he
drew himself bodily up until one knee rested on the sill. In another
moment he was safe. On either side of the window were clumsy iron
hooks, used for keeping the casement open when it was thrown back.
Securing the rope to one of these by a few rapid turns, he dashed the
casement open and sprang into the room.

"Marcelle! Marcelle!"

He was answered instantly by an eager cry. Marcelle, who had been on
her knees in the middle of the room, rose almost in terror. Surprised
in her sleep, she had given herself up for lost, but with her
characteristic presence of mind she had hurriedly donned a portion of
her attire. Her feet, arms, and neck were bare, and her hair fell
loose upon her shoulders.

"It is I--Rohan! I have come to save you, and there is no time to
lose. Come away!"

While he spoke the house trembled violently, as if shaken to its
foundations. Marcelle gazed on her lover as if stupefied, his
appearance seemed unaccountable and preternatural. Stepping across the
room, the floor of which seemed to quake beneath his feet, he threw
his arms around her and drew her towards the window.

"Do not be afraid:" he said, in a hollow voice. "You will be saved
yet, Marcelle. Come!"

He did not attempt any fonder greeting; his whole manner was that of a
man burthened by the danger of the hour. But Marcelle, whom recent
events had made somewhat hysterical, clung to him wildly and lifted up
her white face to his.

"Is it thou, indeed? When the flood came I was dreaming of thee, and
when I went to the window and saw the great waters and heard the
screaming of the folk I knelt and prayed to the good God. Rohan!
Rohan!"

"Come away! there is no time to lose."

"How didst thou come? One would say thou hadst fallen from heaven. Ah,
thou hast courage, and the people lie!"

He drew her to the window, and pointed down to the boat which still
swung below the sill. Then in hurried whispers he besought her to
gather all her strength and to act implicitly as he bade her, that her
life might be saved.

Seizing the rope with his left hand, he drew the boat towards him
until it swung close under the window. He then assisted her through
the window, and bade her cling to his right arm with both hands while
he let her down into the boat. Fearful but firm, she obeyed, and in
another minute had dropped safely down. Loosening the rope and still
keeping it in his hand, he leapt after her. In another instant they
were drifting seaward on the flood.

It was like a ghastly dream. Swept along on the turbid stream, amid
floating trees, dead cattle and sheep, flotsam and jetsam of all
kinds, Marcelle saw the houses flit by her in the moonlight, and heard
troubled voices crying for help. Seated before her, Rohan managed the
paddles, restraining as far as possible the impetuous progress of the
boat. Again and again they were in imminent peril from collision, and
as they proceeded the boat rapidly filled. Under Rohan's directions,
however, Marcelle baled out the water, while he piloted the miserable
craft with the oars.

At last they swept out into the open sea, where the tide, beaten by
the wind and meeting with the flood, was "chopping" and boiling in
short sharp waves. The danger was now almost over. With rapid strokes
Rohan rowed in the direction of the shore whence he had started on the
raft. Gathered there to receive him, with flashing torches and
gleaming lanterns, was a crowd of women and men.

After a moment's hesitation he ran the boat in upon the strand.

"Leap out!" he cried to his companion.

Springing on the shore, Marcelle was almost immediately clasped in the
arms of her mother, who was eagerly giving thanks to God. Amazed and
aghast, the Corporal stood by with his nephews, gazing out at the dark
figure of Rohan.

Before a word could be said Rohan had pushed off again.

"Stay, Rohan Gwenfern!" said a voice.

Rohan stood up erect in the boat.

"Are there no men among you," he cried, "that you stand there useless
and afraid? There are more perishing out there, women and children.
Jn Goron!"

"Here," answered a voice.

"The flood is going down, but the houses are still falling in, and
lives are being lost. Come with me, and we will find boats."

"I will come," said Jn Goron; and wading up to the waist, he climbed
into the boat with Rohan. Marcelle uttered a low cry as the two pushed
off in the direction of the village.

"God forgive me!" murmured the Corporal. "He is a brave man!"

The tide was now ebbing rapidly; and though the village was still
submerged, the floods were no longer rising. Nevertheless, the
devastation to a certain extent continued, and every moment added to
the peril of those survivors who remained in the village.

Aided by Jn Goron, Rohan soon discovered, among the cluster of boats
at anchor, several large fishing skiffs. Springing into one, and
abandoning the small boat, the two men managed with the aid of the
paddles to row to the shore, towing astern another skiff similar to
the one in which they sat. A loud shout greeted them as they ran into
land.

Totally forgetful of his personal position, Rohan now rapidly
addressed the men in tones of command. Oars were found and brought,
and soon both skiffs were manned by powerful crews and pulling in the
direction of the village. In the stern of one stood Rohan, guiding and
inspiring his companions.

What followed was only a repetition of Rohan's former adventure, shorn
of much of its danger and excitement. The inundation was now
comparatively subdued, and the men found little difficulty in rowing
their boats through the streets. Soon the skiffs were full of women
and children, half fainting and still moaning with fear. After
depositing these in safety, the rescuing party returned to the village
and continued their work of mercy.

It was weary work, and it lasted for hours. As the night advanced
other boats appeared, some from neighbouring villages, and moved with
flashing lights about the dreary waste of waters. It was found
necessary again and again to enter the houses and to search the upper
portions for paralyzed women and helpless children; and at great peril
many creatures were rescued thus. Where the peril was greatest, Rohan
Gwenfern led: he seemed, indeed, to know no fear.

At last, when the first peep of dawn came, all the good work was done,
and not a living soul remained to be saved. As the dim chill light
rose on the scene of desolation, showing more clearly the flooded
village with its broken gables and ruined walls, Rohan stepped on the
shore close to his mother's cottage, and found himself almost
immediately surrounded by an excited crowd. Now for the first time the
full sense of his extraordinary position came upon him, and he drew
back like a man expecting violence. Ragged, half naked, haggard,
ghastly, and dripping wet, he looked a strange spectacle. Murmurs of
wonder and pity arose as he gazed on the people. A woman whose two
children he had saved that night rushed forward, and with many appeals
to the Virgin kissed his hands. He saw the Corporal standing by, pale
and troubled, looking on the ground; and near to him Marcelle, with
her passionate shining white face towards him.

Half stupefied, he moved up the strand. The crowd parted, to let him
pass.

"In the name of the Emperor!" cried a voice. A hand was placed upon
his arm. Turning quietly, he encountered the eyes of Mikel Grallon.

Grallon's interference was greeted with angry murmurs, for the popular
sympathy was all with the hero of the night.

"Stand back, Mikel Grallon!" cried many voices.

"It is the deserter!" said Grallon, stubbornly; and he repeated, "In
the name of the Emperor!"

Before he could utter another word he found himself seized in a pair
of powerful arms and hurled to the ground. Rohan Gwenfern himself had
not lifted a finger. The attack came from quite another quarter. The
old Corporal, red with rage, had sprung upon Grallon, and was fiercely
holding him down.

Scarcely paying any attention, Rohan passed quietly through the crowd
and rapidly ascended the cliff. Pausing on the summit, he looked down
quietly for some seconds; then he disappeared.

But the Corporal still held Mikel Grallon down, shaking him as a
furious old hound shakes a rat.

"In the name of the Emperor!" he cried, angrily echoing the prostrate
man's own words. "Beast, lie still!"



Chapter 47. THE GROWING OF THE CLOUD



And now the darkness of winter fell, and days and weeks and months
passed anxiously away.

Down at lonely Kromlaix, by the sea, things were sadder than they had
been for many winters past. When the flood subsided, and the full
extent of the desolation could be apprehended, it was found that more
lives had been lost than had at first been calculated. Many poor souls
had perished quietly in their beds; others, while endeavouring to
escape, had been crushed under the ruins of their crumbling homes. The
mortality was chiefly among women and little children. Although the
greater part of the corpses were recovered and buried with holy rites
in the little churchyard, some had been carried out to the bottom of
the deep ocean and were never seen again.

When the Corporal went down to take stock of his dwelling, he found
that portion of the walls had yielded, and that some of the roof had
fallen in; so that Marcelle, had she remained a little longer in the
house on that fatal night, would most certainly have encountered a
terrible and cruel death. It took many a long day to rebuild the
ruined portion of the dwelling, and to make good the grievous loss in
damaged household goods; and not until the new year had come
boisterously in was the place decently habitable again.

Meantime, Famine had been crawling about the village, hand in hand
with Death, for much grain had been destroyed,--and when grain fails,
the poor must starve and die. And then, following close upon the
flood, had come the news of the new conscription of 300,000 men, of
which little Kromlaix had again to supply its share. Well might the
poor souls think that God was against them, and that there was neither
hope nor comfort anywhere under Heaven.

Over all these troubles we let the curtain fall. Our purpose in these
pages is not to harrow up the heart with pictures of human torture--
whether caused by the cruelty of Nature or the tyranny of Man--nor to
light up with a lurid pen the darkness of unrecorded sorrows. It is
rather our wish, while telling a tale of human patience and endurance,
to reveal from time to time those higher spiritual issues which
fortify the thoughts of those who love their kind, and which make
poetry possible in a world whose simple prose is misery and despair.
Let us, therefore, for a time darken the stage on which our actors
come and go. When the curtain arises again, it is to the sullen music
of the great Invasion of 1814.

Like hungry wolves the Grand Army was being driven back before the
scourges of avenging nations. For many a long year France had sent
forth her legions to feed upon and destroy other lands; now it was her
turn to taste the cup she had so freely given. Across her troubled
plains, moving this way and that, and shrieking to that da??? who
seemed at last to have deserted him, flew Bonaparte. Already in
outlying districts arose the old spectre of the White, causing foolish
enthusiasts to trample on the tricolor. Mysterious voices were heard
again in old chateaux, down in lonely Brittany. Loyalists and
Republicans alike were beginning to cry out aloud even in the public
ways, despite the decree of death on all those who should express
Bourbon sympathies or give assistance to the Allies. Duras had armed
Touraine, and the Abb Jacquilt was busy in La Vende.

Meantime, to those honest people who hated strife, the terror
deepened. While the log blazed upon the hearth and the cold winds blew
without, those who sat within listened anxiously and started at every
sound; for there was no saying in what district the ubiquitous and
child-eating Cossack (savage forerunner of the irrepressible Uhlan of
a later and wickeder invasion) might appear next, pricking on his
pigmy steed. The name of Blucher became a household word, and men were
learning another name,--that of Wellington.

The hour came when Bonaparte, surrounded and in tribulation, might
have saved his Imperial Crown by assenting to the treaty of Chatillon;
but, overmastered by faith in his destiny, and a prey, moreover, to
the most violent passions, he let the saving hour glide by, and
manuvred until it was too late. By the treaty of March, 1814, Austria,
Russia, Prussia, and England bound themselves individually to keep up
an army of 150,000 men, until France was reduced within her ancient
limits; and by the same treaty, and for the same purpose, that of
carrying on the war, four millions were advanced by the "shopkeepers"
of England. Nevertheless, the Emperor, still trusting in his lurid
star, continued to insist on the imperial boundaries. So insisting, he
marched upon Blucher at Soissons, and began the last act of the war.

Thus the terrible winter passed away. Spring came, and brought the
violet; but the fields and lanes were still darkened with strife, and
all over France still lay the Shadow of the Sword.

Meantime, what had become of Rohan Gwenfern? After that night of the
great flood he made no sign, and all search for him virtually ceased.
It was clearly impossible that he could be still in hiding out among
the cliffs, for the severe weather had set in: no man could have lived
through it under such conditions. That Rohan was not dead Marcelle
knew from various sources, although she had no idea where he was to be
found: and she blessed the good God, who had preserved him so far, and
who would perhaps forgive all his wild revolt, for the sake of the
good deeds that he had done on the terrible Night of the Dead.
Doubtless some dark roof was sheltering him now, and, fortunately, men
were too full of affairs to think much about a solitary revolter. Ah,
if he had not killed Pipriac! If the guilt of blood were off his
hands! Then the good Emperor might have forgiven him and taken him
back, like the prodigal son.

In one respect, at least, Marcelle was happy. She no longer lay under
the reproach of having loved a coward; her lover had justified himself
and her; and he had vindicated his courage in a way which it was
impossible to mistake. Ah, yes, he was brave! and if Master Arfoll and
other wicked counsellors had not put a spell upon him, he would have
shown his bravery on the battle-field! It was still utterly
inscrutable to her that Rohan should have acted as he did. General
principles she could not understand, and any abstract proposition
concerning the wickedness and cowardice of War itself would have been
as incomprehensible to her as a problem in trigonometry or a page of
Spinosa. War was one of the institutions of the world--

"It had been since the world began.

And would be till its close."

It was as much a thing of course as getting married or going to
confession; and it was, moreover, one of the noble professions in
which brave men, like her uncle, might serve their ruler and the
State.

Although it was now subtly qualified by anxiety for her lover's fate,
her enthusiasm in the Imperial cause did not many degree abate.
Marcelle was one of those women who cling the more tenaciously to a
belief the more it is questioned and decried, and the more it
approaches the state of a forlorn faith; so that as the Emperor's star
declined, and people began to look forward eagerly for its setting,
her adoration rose, approaching fanaticism in its intensity. It was
just the same with Corporal Derval. All through that winter the
Corporal suffered untold agonies, but his confidence and his faith
rose with the darkening of the Imperial sphere. Night after night he
perused the bulletins, eagerly construing them to his master's triumph
and glory. His voice was loud in its fulminations against the Allies,
especially against the English. He kept the Napoleonic pose more
habitually than ever--and he prophesied; but, alas! his voice now was
as the voice of one crying in the wilderness, and there were none to
hearken.

For, as we have already more than once hinted, Kromlaix was too near
to the chteaux not to keep within it many sparks of Legitimist flame
ready to burn forth brilliantly at any moment; and although Corporal
Derval had been a local power, he had ruled more by fear than by love,
receiving little opposition because opposition was scarcely safe.
When, however, the tide began to turn, he found, like his master, that
he had been miscalculating the true feelings of his neighbours. Again
and again he was openly contradicted and talked down. When he spoke of
"the Emperor," others began to speak boldly of "the King." He heard
daily, in his walks and calls, enough "blasphemy" to make his hair
stand on end, and to make him think with horror of another Deluge. One
evening, walking by the sea, he saw several bonfires burning up on the
hill-sides. The same night he heard that the Duc de Berri had landed
in Jersey.

Among those who seemed quietly turning their coats from parti-red to
white was Mikel Grallon; and, indeed, we doubt not that honest Mikel
would have turned his skin also, if that were possible, and if it
could be shown to be profitable. He seemed now to have abandoned the
idea of marrying Marcelle, but he none the less bitterly resented her
fidelity to his rival. As soon as the tide of popular feeling was
fairly turned against Napoleon, Grallon quietly ranged himself on the
winning side, secretly poisoning the public mind against the Corporal,
in whom, ere long, people began to see the incarnation of all they
most detested and feared. Things grew, until Corporal Derval, so far
from possessing any of his old influence, became the most unpopular
man in Kromlaix. He represented the fading superstition, which was
already beginning to be regarded with abhorrence.

The Corporal's health had failed a little that winter, and these
changes preyed painfully on his mind. He began to show unmistakable
signs of advancing age: his voice lost much of its old ring and
volume, his eyes grew dimmer, his step less firm. It required vast
quantities of tobacco to soothe the trouble of his heart, and he would
sit whole evenings silent in the kitchen, smoking and looking at the
fire. When he mentioned Rohan's name, which was but seldom, it was
with a certain gentleness very unusual to him; and it seemed to
Marcelle, watching him, that he quietly reproached himself with having
been unjust to his unfortunate nephew.

"I am sure uncle is not well," Marcelle said in a low voice, glancing
across at the Corporal sitting by the fire.

"There is only one thing that can cure him," said Gildas, whom she
addressed, "and that is, a great Victory."



Chapter 48. "VIVE LE ROI!"



While the great campaign was proceeding in the interior, and the
leaders of the allied armies were hesitating and deliberating, a hand
was waving signals from Paris and beckoning the invaders on. So little
confidence had they in their own puissance, and so great, despite
their successes, continued their dread of falling into one of those
traps which Bonaparte was so cunning in preparing, that they would
doubtless have committed fatal delays but for encouragement from
within the City.

"You venture nought, when you might venture all!

Venture again!"

wrote this hand to the Emperor Alexander. The hand was that of
Talleyrand.

So it came to pass, late in the month of March, that crowds of
affrighted peasants, driving before them their carts and horses and
their flocks and herds, and leading their wives and children, flocked
into Paris, crying that the invaders were approaching on Paris in
countless hosts. The alarum sounded, the great City poured out its
swarms into the streets, and all eyes were gazing in the direction of
Montmartre. Vigorous preparations were made to withstand a siege--
Joseph Bonaparte encouraging the people by assurances that the Emperor
would soon be at hand.

"It is a bad look-out for the enemy," said Corporal Derval nervously,
when this news reached him. "Every step towards Paris is a step
further away from their supplies. Do you think the Emperor does not
know what he is about? It is a trap, and Paris will swallow them like
a great mouth--snap! one bite, and they are gone. Wait."

A few days later came the news of the flight of the Empress. The
Corporal turned livid, but forced a laugh.

"Women are in the way when there is to be fighting. Besides, she does
not want to see her relations, the Austrians, eaten up alive."

The next day came the terrible announcement that Paris was taken. The
Corporal started up as if a knife had entered his heart.

"The enemy in Paris!" he gasped. "Where is the Emperor?"

Ah, where indeed? For once in his life Bonaparte had fallen into a
trap himself, and while Paris was being taken, had been lured towards
the frontier out of the way. It was useless now to rush, almost
solitary, to the rescue; yet the Emperor, seated in his carriage,
rolled towards the metropolis, far in advance of his army. His
generals met him in the environs, and warned him back. He shrieked,
threatened, implored; but it was too late. He then heard with horror
that the authorities had welcomed the invaders, and that the Imperial
government was virtually overthrown. Heartsick and mad, he rushed to
Fontainebleau.

To the old Corporal, sitting by his fireside, this news came also in
due time. Father Rolland was there when it came, and he shook his head
solemnly.

"The allied sovereigns refuse to treat with the Emperor," he read
aloud. "Well, well!"

This "well, well" might mean either wonder, or sympathy, or approval,
just as the hearer felt inclined to construe it for Father Rolland was
a philosopher, and took things calmly as they came. Even a miracle
done in broad day would not have astonished him much; to his simple
mind, all human affairs were miraculous, and miraculously commonplace.
But the veteran whom he had addressed was not so calm. He trembled,
and tried to storm.

"They refuse!" he cried, with a feeble attempt at his old manner. "You
will say next that the mice refuse to treat with the lion. Soul of a
crow! what are these emperors and kings? Go to! The Little Corporal
has unmade kings by the dozen, and he has eaten empires for breakfast.
I tell you, in a little while the Emperor Alexander will be glad
enough to kiss his feet. As for the Emperor of Austria, his conduct is
shameful, for is he not our Emperor's kith and kin?"

"Do you think there will be more fighting, my Corporal!" demanded the
little priest.

The Corporal set his lips fight together, and nodded his head
automatically.

"It is easier to put your hand in the lion's mouth than to pull it out
again. When the Emperor is desperate, he is terrible--all the world
knows that; and now that he has been trampled upon and insulted, he is
not likely to rest till he has obliterated these canaille from the
face of the earth."

"I heard news to-day," observed Gildas, looking up from his place in
the ingle, and joining in the conversation for the first time. "They
say that Duc de Berri has landed again in Jersey, and that the King--"

Before he could complete the sentence, his uncle uttered a cry of rage
and protestation.

"The King! Malediction! What king?"

Gildas grinned awkwardly.

"King Louis, of course!"

"A bas le Bourbon!" thundered the Corporal, pale as death, and
trembling with rage from head to foot. "Never name him, Gildas Derval!
King Louis! King Capet!"

The little cur rose quietly and put on his hat.

"I must go," he said; "but let me tell you, my Corporal, that your
language is too violent. The Bourbons were our kings by divine right,
and they were good friends to the Church; and if they should return to
prosperity, I, for one, will give them my allegiance."

So saying, Father Rolland saluted the household and quietly took his
departure. The Corporal sank trembling into a chair.

"If they should return!" he muttered. "Ah, well, there is no danger of
that so long as the little Corporal is alive!"

Corporal Derval was wrong. A fanatic to the heart's core, he did not
at all comprehend the true fatality of the situation; and although his
thoughts were full of secret alarm, he hoped, believed, and trusted
still. The idea of the total overthrow of the god of his faith never
occurred to him at all; as easily might the conception of the fall of
Mahomet have entered the brain of a proselytising Mussulman. As for
the return of the exiled family--why, that, on the very face of it,
was too ridiculous!

He was, of course, well acquainted with the state of popular
sentiment, and he knew how strong the Legitimist party was even in his
own village. Here, too, was little Father Rolland, who had no
political feelings to speak of, and who had served under the Emperor
so long, beginning to side with the enemies of truth and justice! The
priest was a good fellow, but to hear him talk about "divine right"
was irritating. As if there was any right more divine than the
sovereignty of the Emperor!

A few mornings afterwards, as the Corporal was preparing to sally
forth, he was stopped by Marcelle.

"Where are you going?" she said, placing herself in his way.

She was very pale, and there was a red mark around her eyes as if she
had been crying.

"I am going down to old Plout to get shaved," said the Corporal; "and
I shall hear the news. Soul of a crow! what is the matter with the
girl? Why do you look at me like that?"

Marcelle, without replying, gazed imploringly at her mother and at
Gildas, who were standing on the hearth--the former agitated, like her
daughter, the latter phlegmatically chewing a straw. Wheeling round to
them, the Corporal continued--"Is there anything wrong? Speak, if that
is so!"

"There is bad news," answered the widow, in a low voice.

"About Hol!"

The widow shook her head.

"Do not go out this morning," said Marcelle, crossing the kitchen and
quietly closing the door. As she did so, there came from without a
loud sound of voices cheering, and simultaneously there was a clatter
as of feet running down the road.

"What is that?" cried the Corporal. "Something has happened. Speak! do
not keep me in suspense."

He stood pale and trembling; and as he stood the finger of age was
heavy upon him, marking every line and wrinkle in his powerful face,
making his cheeks more sunken, his eyes more darkly dim. A proud man,
he had suffered tormenting humiliations of late, and had missed much
of the respect and sense of power which had formerly made his life
worth having. Add to this, the fact already alluded to, that his
physical health had been quietly breaking, and it is easy to
understand why he looked the ghost of his old self.

But the veteran's nature was aquiline; and an eagle, even in sickness
and amid evil fortune, is an eagle still.

"Speak, Gildas!" he said. "You are a man, and these are only women.
What is the meaning of all this? Why do they seek to detain me in the
house?"

Gildas mumbled something inarticulate, and nudged his mother with his
elbow. At that moment the cheering was repeated. Some gleam of the
truth must have flashed upon the Corporal, for he grew still paler and
increased his expression of nervous dread.

"I will tell you, uncle," cried Marcelle, "if you will not go out.
They are proclaiming the King!"

Proclaiming the King? So far as the Corporal is concerned they might
almost as well proclaim a new God. Have the heavens fallen? Sits the
sun still in his sphere? The Corporal stared and tottered like a man
stupefied. Then, setting his lips tight together, he strode towards
the door.

"Uncle!" cried Marcelle, interposing.

"Stand aside!" he cried in a husky voice. "Don't make me angry, you
women. I am not a child, and I must see for myself. God in Heaven! I
think the world is coming to an end."

Throwing the door wide open, he walked into the street. It was a
bright spring morning, much such a morning as when, about a year
before, he had cheerily sallied forth at the head of the conscripts!
The village, long since recovered from the effects of the inundation,
sparkled in the sunshine. The street was quite empty, and there was no
sign of any neighbour bustling about, but as he paused at the door he
again heard the sound of shouting far up the village.

Determined to make a personal survey of the state of affairs, Derval
stumped up the street, followed closely by Gildas, whom the women had
besought to see that his uncle did not get into trouble. In a few
minutes they came in sight of a crowd of people of both sexes, who
were moving hither and thither as if under the influence of violent
excitement. In their midst stood several men, strangers to the
Corporal, who were busily distributing white cockades to the men and
white rosettes to the girls. These men were well dressed, and one had
the air of a gentleman and indeed he was Le Sieur Marmont, proprietor
of a neighbouring chteau, but long an absentee from his possessions.

Then Derval distinctly heard the odious cry, again and again
repeated--"Vive le Roi! Vive le Roi!"

The nobleman, who was elegantly clad in a rich suit of white and blue,
had his sword drawn: his wrinkled face was full of enthusiasm.

"Vive le Roi! Vive le Sieur Marmont!" cried the voices.

Among the crowd were many who merely looked on smiling, and a few who
frowned darkly; but it was clear that the Bonapartists were in a
terrible minority. However, the business that was going forward was
quite informal--a mere piece of preparatory incendiarism on the part
of Marmont and his friends. News had just come of the Royalist rising
in Paris, and the white rose had already begun to blossom in every
town.

"What is all this?" growled the Corporal, elbowing his way into the
crowd. "Soul of a crow! what does it mean?"

"Have you not heard the news?" shrieked a woman. "The Emperor is dead,
and the King is risen."

The nobleman, whose keen eye observed Derval in a moment, stuck a
cockade of white cotton on the point of his sword, and pushed it over
politely across the intervening heads.

"Our friend has not heard," he said with a wicked grin. "See, old
fellow, here is a little present. It is not true that the usurper is
dead, but he is dethroned--so we are crying 'Vive le Roi.'"

Many voices shouted again; and now the Corporal recognised, talking to
a tall priest-like man in black who kept close to Marmont, his little
friend the cur.

"It is a LIE!" he cried, fixing his eye upon Marmont. "A bas les
Bourbons!  bas les emigrs!"

The nobleman's face flushed, and his eye gleamed fiercely.

"What man is this?" he asked between his set teeth.

"Corporal Derval!" cried several voices simultaneously. The tall
priest, after a word from Father Rolland, whispered to Marmont, who
curled his lips and smiled contemptuously.

"If the old fool were not in his dotage," he said, "he would deserve
to be whipped; but we waste our time with such canaille! Come, my
friends, to the chapel--let us offer a prayer to Our Blessed Lady, who
is bringing the good King back."

The Corporal who would have joined issue with the very fiend when his
blood was up, uttered a great oath, and flourishing his stick,
approached the nobleman. The villagers fell back on either side, and
in a moment the two were face to face.

"A bas le Roi!" thundered the Corporal. "A bas les emigrs!"

Marmont was quite pale now, with anger, not fear. Drawing himself up
indignantly, he pointed his sword at the Corporal's heart.

"Keep back, old man, or I shall hurt you!"

But before another syllable could be uttered the Corporal, with a
sabre-cut of his heavy stick, had struck the blade with such force
that it was broken.

"A bas le Roi!" he cried, purple with passion. "Vive l'Empereur!"

This was the signal for general confusion. The Royalist, furious at
the insult, endeavoured to precipitate himself on his assailant, but
was withheld by his companions, who eagerly besought him to be calm;
while the Corporal, on his side, found himself the centre of a
shrieking throng of villagers, some of whom aimed savage blows at his
unlucky head. It would doubtless have gone ill with him had not Gildas
and several other strong fellows fought their way to his side and
diligently taken his part. A mle ensued. Other Bonapartists sided
with the minority; blows were freely given and taken; cockades were
torn off and trampled on the ground. Fortunately, the combatants were
not armed with any dangerous weapons, and few suffered any serious
injuries. At the end of some minutes the Corporal found himself
standing half stunned, surrounded by his little party, while the crowd
of Royalist sympathisers, headed by Marmont, was proceeding up the
road in the direction of the Chapel.

When the Corporal recovered from the full violence of his indignation
his heart was very sad. The sight of the nobleman and his friends was
ominous, for he knew that these gay-plumaged birds only came out when
the air was very loyal indeed. He knew, too, that Marmont, although
part of his estates had been restored to the family by the Emperor,
had long been a suspected resident abroad; and it was quite certain
that his presence there meant that the Bonapartist cause had reached
its lowest ebb.

Hastening down into the village, and into the house of Plout the
barber, the veteran eagerly seized the journals, and found there such
confirmation of his fears as turned his heart sick and made his poor
head whirl wildly round. Tears stood in his old eyes as he read, so
that the old horn-spectacles were again and again misted o'er.

"My Emperor! my Master!" he murmured; adding to himself, in much the
same words that the great heart-broken King of Israel used of old,
"Would to God I might die for thee!"



Chapter 49. THE CORPORAL'S CUP IS FULL



About the beginning of the month of April a strange rumour spread over
France, causing simple folk to gaze at each other aghast, as if the
sun were falling out of heaven. It was reported, on good authority,
that the Emperor had attempted suicide.

The rumour was immediately contradicted, but not before it had caused
grievous heart-ache to many a hero-worshipper, and, among others, to
our Corporal. It seemed so terrible that he who had but lately ruled
the destinies of Europe should now be a miserable being anxious to
quit a world of which he was weary, that to some minds it was simply
inconceivable. If this thing was true, if indeed Bonaparte was at last
impotent, and upon his knees, then nothing was safe--neither the stars
in their spheres, nor the solid earth revolving in its place--for
Chaos was come.

How strange, and yet how brief had been the glory of the man! It
seemed but the other day that he was a young general, with all his
laurels to win. What a Drama had been enacted in the few short hours
since then! And already the last scene was being played--or nearly the
last.

It seemed, however, as if the Earth, released from an intolerable
burthen, had begun to smile and rejoice; for the primrose had arisen,
and the wild roses were lighting their red lamps at the sun, and the
birds were come back again to build along the great sea-wall. Clear
were the days and bright, with cool winds and sweet rains; so that
Leipsic and many a smaller battle-field, well manured by the dead,
were growing rich and green, with the promise of abundant harvest.

On such a day of spring Corporal Derval sat on the cliffs overlooking
the sea, with a distant view of Kromlaix basking in the light. By his
side, distaff in hand, sat Marcelle, a clean white coif upon her head
and shoes on her shapely feet. She had coaxed her uncle out that day
to smell the fresh air and to sit in the sun, for he had been very
frail and irritable of late, and had become a prey to the most violent
despondency. He was not one of those men who love Nature, even in a
dumb unconscious animal way, and, although the scene around him was
very fair, he did not gladden. Sweeter to him the sound of fifes and
drums than the soft singing of the thrush. As for prospects, if he
could only have seen, coming down the valley, the gleam of bayonets
and darkness of artillery, that would have been a prospect indeed!

He was very silent, gazing moodily down at the village and over the
sea, while Marcelle watched him gently, only now and then saying a few
commonplace words. They had sat thus for hours, when suddenly the
Corporal started as if he had been shot, and pointed up the valley.

"Look! what's that?"

Marcelle gazed in the direction indicated, but saw nothing unusual.
She turned questioningly to her uncle.

"There! at the Chapel," he cried, with peevish irritation. "Do you not
see something white?"

She gazed again, and her keen eyes at once detected--what his feebler
vision had only dimly guessed--that a flag was flying from a pole
planted above the belfry of the little building. A Flag, and white!
She knew in a moment what it betokened, and, though a sharp pain ran
through her heart, her first fear was for her uncle. She trembled, but
did not answer.

The old man, violently agitated, rose to his feet, gazing at the
Chapel as at some frightful vision.

"Look again!" he cried. "Can you not see? What is it, Marcelle?"

Marcelle rose, and, still trembling, gazed piteously into his face.
Her eyes were dry, her lips set firm, her cheeks pale as death. She
touched her uncle on the arm, and said in a low voice--

"Come, uncle; let us go home."

He did not stir, but drawing himself to his height and shading his
eyes from the sun, he looked again with a face as grimly set as if he
were performing some terrible military duty.

"It is white, and it looks like a flag," he muttered, as if talking to
himself. "Yes, it is a flag, and it stirs in the wind." He added after
a minute, "It is the White Flag!--some villain has set it there!"

Just then there rose upon the air the sound of voices cheering,
followed by a short report as of guns firing. Then he distinguished,
flocking on the road near the Chapel, a dark crowd of people moving
rapidly hither and thither. It was clear that something extraordinary
had occurred; and, indeed, Marcelle knew perfectly the true state of
affairs, and had for that reason among others coaxed the veteran out
of harm's way. That very morning orders had arrived from St. Gurlott
to hoist the Bourbon fleur de lys on the chapels of Kromlaix.
Bonaparte's last stake was lost, and the heir of legitimate Kings was
hourly expected in Paris.

Corporal Derval had known that it was coming--the last scene, the
wreck of all his hope; but his faith had kept firm to the last, and he
had listened eagerly for the sign that the lion had burst the net and
that the enemies of France--for such he held all the enemies of the
Emperor--were overthrown. He was not a praying man, but he had prayed
a good deal of late; prayed indeed that God might perfect a miracle
and "resurrect" the Empire. So the sight of the emblem of despair,
which it certainly was to him, caused a great shock to his troubled
heart. He stood gazing and panting and listening, while Marcelle again
sought to lead him away.

"A bas le Bourbon!" he growled mechanically; then shaking his hand
menacingly at the flag, he said, "If there is no other man to tear
thee down, I will do it, for the Emperor's sake. I will trample on
thee as the Emperor will trample on the King, thy master!"

Marcelle did not often cry, but her eyes were wet now: even wrath was
forgotten in pity for the idol of her faith. Despite her uncle's
fierce words she saw that his spirit was utterly crushed, that his
breast was heaving convulsively, and that his voice was broken. She
bade him lean upon her arm to descend the hill; but, trembling and in
silence, he sat down again on the green grass. Just then, however,
they heard footsteps behind them, and Marcelle, looking over her
shoulder, recognised no other than Master Arfoll.

Now, if at that moment she would have avoided one man more than
another, that man was the itinerant schoolmaster. His opinions were
notorious, and he was associated in her mind with revolt and
irreverence of the most offensive kind. His appearance at that
particular time was specially startling and painful. He seemed come
for the purpose of saying, "I prophesied these things, and you see
they have come true."

Marcelle would gladly have escaped, but Master Arfoll was close upon
them. Just as the Corporal, noticing her manner, turned and saw who
was following, Master Arfoll came up quietly with the usual
salutation. He seemed paler and more spectre-like than ever, and his
face scarcely lighted up into its usual smile.

As he recognised him, the veteran frowned. He too felt constrained and
vexed at the schoolmaster's presence.

Just then the sound of shouting and firing again rose upon his ears. A
constrained silence ensued, which was at last broken again by Master
Arfoll's voice.

"Great changes are taking place, my Corporal. Here you live so far out
of the world that much escapes you, and the journals are full of lies.
It is certain, however, that the Emperor has abdicated."

Marcelle turned an appealing look on the speaker, as if beseeching him
to be silent, for she feared some outburst on the part of the
Corporal. Derval, however, was very quiet; he sat still, with lips set
tight together, and eyes fixed on the ground. At last he said grimly,
fixing his hawk-like eye on Arfoll--

"Yes, there are great changes; and you...do you too wear the white
cockade?"

Master Arfoll shook his head.

"I am no Royalist," he replied; "I have seen too much of Kings for
that. The return of the Bourbon will be the return of all the reptiles
whom the Goddess of Liberty drove out of France; we shall be the sport
of parvenus and the prey of priests; there will be peace, but it will
be ignominious, and we shall still ask in vain for the Rights of Man."

The Corporal's eye kindled, his whole look expressed astonishment.
After all, then, Master Arfoll was not such a fool as had been
supposed; if he could not appreciate the Emperor, he could at least
despise King Louis. Without expressing surprise in any direct way,
Derval said, as if wishing to change the subject--

"You have been a great stranger, Master Arfoll. It is many months
since you dropped in."

"I have been far away," returned the itinerant, seating himself by the
Corporal's side. "You will wonder when I tell you that I have been to
the great City itself."

"To Paris!" ejaculated the Corporal, while Marcelle looked as
astonished as if Master Arfoll had said that he had visited the next
world.

"I have a kinsman at Meaux, and I was sent for to close his eyes; he
had no other friend on earth. While I was there, the Allies marched on
Paris, and I beheld all the horrors of the war. My Corporal, it was a
war of devils; both sides fought like fiends, and between them both
the country was laid waste. The poor peasants fled to the woods, and
hid themselves in caves, and the churches were full of women and
children. You could see the fires of towns and villages burning day
and night. No man had any pity for his neighbour, and the French
conscripts were as cruel to their own countrymen as if they themselves
were Cossacks or Croats. Fields and farms, the abodes of man and
beast, all were laid waste, and in the night great troops of hungry
wolves came out and fed on the dead."

"That is war," said the Corporal, nodding his head phlegmatically, for
he was well used to such little incidents.

"At last, with many thousands more, I found my way into the great
City, and there I remained throughout the siege. Those were days of
horror! While the defenders were busy fighting, the outcasts of the
earth came out of their dark dens and filled the streets, shrieking
for bread; they were as thick and loathsome as vermin crawling on a
corpse; and when they were denied, murder was often done. Ah, God!
they were mad! I have seen a mother, maniacal with starvation, dash
out her babe's brains on the pavement of the street! Well, it was soon
over, and I saw the great allied armies march in. Our people cheered
and embraced them as they entered--many fell upon their knees and
blessed them--and some strewed flowers."

"Canaille!" hissed the Corporal between his teeth, which he ground
together viciously.

"Poor wretches, they knew no better, and if they were wrong, God will
not blame them. But all this is not what I wished to tell you; it is
something which will interest you more. I saw the Emperor--at
Fontainebleau."

"The Emperor!" repeated Derval in a low voice, not lifting his eyes.
His face was very pale, and during the description of the siege he had
with difficulty suppressed his agitation. For all this sorrow and
desolation meant only one thing to him--his Idol was overthrown. The
entry of the Allies into Paris, and their welcome by the excited
populace, was only a final proof of human perfidy--of national
treachery to the greatest and noblest of beings. All had fallen away
from the "Little Corporal;" all but those who, like Derval, were
impotent to help him. Yet the sun still shone. Yet the heavens were
still blue, the earth still green! And there--ah, God of Battles!--
they were upraising the White Lily, the abominable Fleur de lys!

By this time Marcelle, too, was seated on the sward close to her
uncle's feet, and her eyes were raised half eagerly, half imploringly,
to Master Arfoll's face. Very beautiful indeed she looked that day,
though paler and somewhat thinner than on the day, about a year
before, when she had first heard Rohan Gwenfern's confession of love.
She, too, was eager to hear what an eye-witness had to say of him whom
she still passionately adored.

"It was a memorable day," said Master Arfoll; "the day of his adieu to
the Old Guard."

He paused a moment, gazing sadly and thoughtfully out seaward, while
the Corporal's heart began to beat violently as at the roll-call of
drums. The very name of the Imperial Guard touched the fountain of
tears deep hidden in his breast. His bronzed cheek flushed, his lips
trembled. Quietly, almost unconsciously, Marcelle slipped her hand
into his, and he held it softly as he listened on.

"I will tell you the truth, my Corporal. When I saw the Guard called
out, I was grieved, for they were a sorry show; many were quite
ragged, and others were sick and ill. They were drawn up in a line
close to the Palace, and they waited a long time before he appeared.
At last he came, on horseback, with the brave Macdonald by his side,
and other generals following; and at his appearance there was so great
a shout it seemed bringing down the skies. He came up slowly, and
dismounted; then he held up his hand; and there was dead silence. You
could have heard a pin drop. He wore his old overcoat and cocked hat;
I should have known him anywhere, from the pictures."

"How did he look?" asked the Corporal. "Ill? Pale?--but there, he was
always that!"

"I was very close, and I could see his face; it was quite yellow, and
the cheeks hung heavily, and the eyes were leaden-coloured and sad.
But when he approached the ranks he smiled, and you would have thought
his face made of sunshine! I never saw such a smile before--it was
godlike! I say this, though he was never god of mine. Then he began to
speak, and his voice was broken, and the tears rolled down his
cheeks."

"And he said?--he said?" gasped the Corporal, his voice choked with
emotion.

"What he said you have perhaps read in the journals, but words cannot
convey the look, the tone. He said that France had chosen another
ruler, and that he was content, since his only prayer was for France;
that some day perhaps, he would write down the story of his battles
for the world to read. Then he embraced Macdonald, and called aloud
for the Imperial Eagle; and when the standard was brought he kissed it
a hundred times...Corporal, my heart was changed at that moment, and I
felt that I could have died to serve him. He is a great man!...A wail
rose from the throats of the Guard, and every face was drowned in
tears; old men wept like little children; many cast themselves upon
their knees imploring him not to forsake them. The ranks broke like
waves of the sea. Marshal Macdonald hid his face in his hands and
almost sobbed aloud, and several generals drew their swords and
shouted like men possessed, Vive l'Empereur! This lasted only for a
little; then it was all over. He mounted his horse, and rode slowly
and silently away."

Master Arfoll added in a solemn voice--

"That night he left his palace, never to return."

Silence ensued; then suddenly Marcelle, who had been sitting spell-
bound listening, uttered a wild cry, with her eyes fixed in terror on
her uncle. As she did so, the Corporal, without a word or a sign,
dropped his chin upon his breast, and fell forward upon his face.

"He is dead! he is dead!" cried Marcelle, as Master Arfoll raised the
insensible form in his arms. And indeed the hue of death was on the
Corporal's cheeks, and his features were drawn and fixed as if after
the last agony. Casting herself on her knees, and chafing his hand in
hers. Marcelle called upon him passionately and in despair. Many
minutes elapsed, however, before there came any change. At last, he
stirred, moaned feebly, and opened his eyes. When he did so his look
was vacant, and he seemed like one who talks in sleep.

"It is an epilepsy," said Master Arfoll gently; "we must try to get
him home."

"Who's there?" murmured the old man, speaking articulately for the
first time. "Is it thou, Jacques?" Then he muttered as if to himself,
"It is the Emperor's orders--tomorrow we march."

Gradually, however, recognition came back, and he attempted in vain to
struggle up to his feet. Looking round him wildly, he saw Marcelle's
face full of tender solicitude.

"Is it thou, Marcelle?" he asked. "What is wrong?"

"Nothing is wrong," she answered, "but you have not been well. Ah God,
but you are better now. Master Arfoll, help him to rise."

With some difficulty the Corporal was assisted to his feet; even then
he would have staggered and fallen but for Master Arfoll's help. Dazed
and confused, he was led slowly down the hill towards his own house,
which was fortunately not far away. As he went, the sound of firing
and cheering again rose on his ear. He drew himself up suddenly and
listened.

"What's that?" he said sharply.

"It is nothing," answered Arfoll.

"It is the enemy beginning the attack," said the Corporal in a low
voice. "Hark again!"

"Uncle! uncle!" cried Marcelle.

"His thoughts are far away," observed Master Arfoll, "and perhaps it
is better so."

They walked on without interruption till they reached the cottage;
entering which, they placed the Corporal in the great wooden arm-
chair, where he sat like one in a dream. While the widow brought
vinegar to wet his hands and forehead, Marcelle turned eagerly to
Arfoll, and sought his advice as to the course next to be taken.

"If something is not done soon, he will surely die."

"There is but one way," said the schoolmaster; "he must be bled at
once."

Ten minutes later Plout, the village barber, who added to his other
avocations that of village surgeon and leech, came briskly up the
street with lance and basin, and having procured clean linen from the
widow, proceeded dexterously to open a vein. Plout, a little weazel-
like man of fifty, was an old crony of the Corporal, and attended to
the case con amore.

"I have said always," he explained, as the blood was flowing gently
into his basin, "that the Corporal was too full-blooded; besides, he
is a man of passion, look you, and passion is dangerous, for it mounts
to the brain. But see, he stirs already." . . And, indeed, before an
ounce of the vital stream had been taken away, the Corporal drew a
great breath, and looked around him with quite a different expression,
recognising everybody and understanding the situation. With the
assistance of Plout, he was got to bed; and when there he soon sank
into a heavy slumber.

"Let him not be disturbed," said the phlebotomist, as he washed his
hands. "The sounder he sleeps the better, and I will look round and
see him in the morning."

"His heart is broken!" cried Marcelle, weeping on her mother's bosom.
"He will die!"

"He thinks too much of the Emperor," said Gildas, "but the Emperor
would not fret for him, let me tell you. Emperor or King, it is one to
me; but I knew it was all up when he lost Marshal Ney."

They were alone in the kitchen, talking in whispers. Night had come,
and beyond the village were burning large bonfires, the signals for
general rejoicing. They had no lamp, for the Corporal lay in the lit
clos in the corner, and they were afraid of dazzling his eyes and
disturbing his rest. Ever and anon they heard the sound of footsteps
hastening up or down the street, sometimes accompanied with shouting
and singing; and it was clear that the village was full of excitement.

"They are keeping it up," said Gildas; and, after fidgeting uneasily
for some time, he took his hat and sauntered forth. He knew one or two
choice spirits who might be disposed to be convivial, and he had no
objection to join them.

An hour passed on. The sounds continued, but still the Corporal slept
peacefully. At last Marcelle rose with a weary sigh.

"I cannot rest," she said. "You will not want me, mother, and I will
go and see what they are doing."

So saying, after one last loving look at her uncle, to see that he was
quite at rest, she drew her cloak round her, and softly opening the
door, slipped out into the night.



Chapter 50. THE HERO OF THE HOUR



The Chapel was illuminated; all along the hillsides bonfires were
burning, and at the mastheads of many of the fishing boats in the bay
swung coloured lamps. The cabaret was crammed full of those thirsty
souls who find in any public event, glad or sad, an excuse for
moistening their throats and muddling their brains, The white flag
still waved on the Chapel, and the crimson rays issuing from the
windows lit up its golden fleur de lys.

The street was quite deserted as Marcelle stepped forth. The night
wind blew coldly, and a fresh scent swept in from the sea. For some
minutes she stood outside the door, gazing out towards the dark ocean;
then, with a soft sigh, she walked up the street. Her heart was very
heavy that night, for all things seemed against her. The great good
Emperor had fallen from his throne, and fickle men, forgetful of all
his greatness, were already proclaiming a new King; while here at
Kromlaix, on her own hearth, the shadow of doom had also fallen, and
her uncle had been stricken down. God seemed against her and her
house! It was like the Day of Judgment; only the wicked were not being
judged, and the good were being punished instead of the bad.

Curiosity drew her towards the Chapel, in the neighbourhood of which
there seemed most noise and bustle. As she approached she found
straggling groups of men and women upon the road, but it was too dark
for any one to recognise her. Most were talking and laughing merrily,
and from time to time she heard cries of "Vive le Roi!" Each cry went
through her heart like the stab of a knife. She had never felt so
deserted and forlorn. Ever since she could remember well, the Emperor
had been as the sun in heaven, gradually arising higher and higher
until he reached the Imperial zenith; and though his glory had been
far away, some of it had always reached her uncle's house, with a sort
of reflected splendour which grew with years. Ever since she could
remember, her uncle had been an authority in the place, honoured as
well as feared; though a poor man, he had seemed "clothed on" with a
glory surpassing riches. And now all was changed. The sun had set in
blood, and night had come indeed; and the old veteran, forlornly
clinging to an old faith, was ignominiously and miserably cast down.

If she had only been born a man-child, as Uncle Ewen often said she
should have been! If, as it was, she could only do something, however
little, to help the good Emperor and to heal her uncle's heart! Ah,
God! that she had a man's hand to tear that white abomination down!

She could dimly see the flag lying against the dark blue heaven, and
her heart heaved with a fierce passion inherited from her father.

Creeping along from group to group she came to the graveyard of the
Chapel, and to her astonishment found it filled with an excited crowd.
Great streams of light flowed from the Chapel windows, but many men
held torches which threw a lurid glare on the upturned faces.
Something particular was taking place, and some one was addressing the
people in a loud voice. As she stood at the gate Marcelle beheld,
standing on a high green mound in the centre of the crowd, a group of
men, chief of whom was the Sieur Marmont.

Marmont was the speaker, and his face flashed wildly in the light of
the torches. Some gentlemen surrounding him, who looked like officers,
had drawn their swords, and were waving them in the air, applauding
his words; and among them were several Priests.

In the eyes of Marcelle, this Marmont seemed a wretch unfit to live;
for she remembered his terrible rencontre with her uncle, and his
wicked seditious words. As for the Priests, surely God had cast them
out, and filled them with a devilish ingratitude, otherwise they would
remember how good the Emperor had been to them, and how he had called
them back to France, like the holy man he was, when the atheists would
have banished them for ever.

Entering the graveyard, and advancing nearer, she saw standing near to
Marmont, but on the lower ground, so that his head only reached to the
other's outstretched hands, the figure of a man. His back was turned
to Marcelle, and he was looking up at the speaker.

"Listen, then!" she heard Marmont saying in a ringing voice. "Listen,
all you who fear God and love the King; and if there be one among you
who blames the man, let him stand forward and give me the lie. I say
the man was justified. He refused to draw sword for the Usurper: for
this alone he was hunted down, even as the wolves of the woods are
hunted; and if in the despair of his heart he shed blood, I say he was
again justified. Look at the man! God above, who sees all things,
could tell you what he has suffered, since God only has preserved him
as a testimony and a sign against the dynasty which has fallen for
ever. Look at him--his famished cheeks, his wasted form, his eyes
still wild with hunger and despair. You tell me he has slain a man; I
tell you the Emperor who made him what he is has slain thousands upon
thousands. You tell me he is a deserter and a revolter; I tell you
that he is a hero and a martyr." He added with an eager cry, "Embrace
him, my brothers!"

The figure so referred to did not stir; and could Marcelle have seen
the expression of his face, she would have noticed only a strange and
vacant indifference. But suddenly, with a common impulse, the crowd
began to cheer, hysterical women began to sob, and the man was
surrounded by a surging mass of living beings, all stretching out arms
to reach him. As if to avoid their touch, he stepped up on the mound
beside Marmont, and turned his face towards Marcelle.

"Rohan Gwenfern! Rohan Gwenfern!" they cried.

It was Rohan, little less wretched and ragged than when Marcelle last
beheld him on the night of the flood. He gazed out on the crowd like
one in a dream; and when the Sieur Marmont and the Priests flocked
around him and grasped his hands, he did not seem to respond to their
enthusiasm. Perhaps he estimated that enthusiasm at its worth, and
knew that Marmont and his friends were only too glad to avail
themselves of any circumstance which would cast discredit on the
fallen Empire. Perhaps he knew also that the crowd was merely yielding
to an excited impulse, and would have been as ready to tear him to
pieces if Marmont's speech had pointed in that direction.

He did not utter a word, but, after gazing down in silence, he
descended the mound, and made his way straight to the spot where
Marcelle stood. The crowd parted to make way for him, but continued to
cheer and call his name. Almost immediately he was face to face with
Marcelle, and his eyes were fixed on hers.

"Come, Marcelle!" he said quietly, with no other word of greeting, and
exhibiting no surprise at her presence. Stretching out his hand he
took hers.

Seeing this, and recognising Marcelle, several began to groan.

"It is the Corporal's niece! A bas le Caporal!"

"Silence!" cried the voice of the Sieur Marmont. "Let the man depart
in peace."

Trembling and stupefied Marcelle suffered herself to be led out of the
churchyard. The apparition of Rohan, under those circumstances, had
been painful beyond measure; for, although her first impulse had been
one of joy at seeing him alive and strong, she had almost immediately
shrunk shuddering away. In the lurid light of that scene she beheld,
not the playmate of her childhood and the lover of her youth, but the
murderer of Pipriac and the enemy of the Emperor. Honoured by those
who hated her idol, welcomed and applauded by those who had broken her
uncle's heart, he could not have come back under circumstances less
auspicious and sympathetic. Despite all that he had suffered, her
heart hardened against him. She almost forgot for the moment that she
had loved him, and that she owed him her life, in the horror of seeing
him again in the ranks of the abominable.

Nevertheless, in a sort of stupor, she walked on by his side down the
dark road, until they were quite alone. He did not say a word, and the
silence at last became so painful to her that she trembled through and
through. Then she drew away her hand, and he did not attempt to detain
it. It was not often that Marcelle felt hysterical--she was woven of
too soldier-like a stuff, but she certainly did so on the present
occasion. Her feelings had been strung up so terribly before the
meeting, that they threatened now to overcome her.

It was a dim starlight night, and she could just see the glimmer of
her companion's face. At last, when the silence had become unbearable,
he broke it suddenly with a laugh, so wild and unearthly that it made
her frightened heart leap within her; a laugh with no joy in it, but
full of an unnatural excitement. Then, turning his eyes upon her, and
putting his hand upon her arm, he said in a hoarse voice--

"Well, it is all over, and I have come home. But where is your
welcome, Marcelle?"

His voice sounded so strangely that she looked at him in terror; then,
clinging to his arm and yielding to the tremor of her heart, she cried
wildly--

"Oh, Rohan, Rohan, do not think I am not glad! We scarcely thought to
see you alive again, and I have prayed for you every night as if your
soul was with God, and I have sat with your mother and talked about
you when all the others thought I was asleep. But all is changed, and
the Emperor is taken prisoner, and Uncle Ewen's heart is broken, and
we are all miserable, miserable, and all this night I have prayed to
die, to die!"

Entirely losing her self-command, she hid her face upon his arm and
sobbed aloud. Strange to say, Rohan showed no agitation whatever, but
watched her quietly till the storm of her pain was over, when he said
in the same peculiar tones--

"Why do you weep, Marcelle? Because the Emperor is hunted down?"

She did not answer, but sobbed on. With the sharp fierce laugh that
had startled her before, Rohan continued--

"When I found that Christ would not help me, I went to Notre Dame de
la Haine, and for a long time I thought she was deaf too. But I
prayed, and my prayers have come to pass--she heard me!--within a
year, within a year!"

Recalled to herself either by the violence of his tones or the
strangeness of his words, Marcelle drew back and looked aghast in the
speaker's face, which seemed wild and excited in the dim light.

"Almighty God!" she murmured, "what are you saying, Rohan?"

Rohan continued in a lower voice, as if talking to himself--

"I did not expect it so soon, but I knew it must come at last; old
Pipriac told me that in a dream. It has been a long chase, but at last
we have hunted him down, and now Our Lady of Hate will gnaw his heart,
and I . . I shall go home and rest, for I am tired."

"Rohan!"

"Yes, Marcelle."

"Why do you talk like that? Why are you so strange?"

He bent down his head and looked at her quietly.

"Am I strange?" he said.

"Yes; and I am afraid of you when you wander so."

Rohan drew his hand across his forehead, and knitted his

"I believe you are right, Marcelle," he said, slowly, and with a very
different manner. "Sometimes I think that I am not in my right mind. I
have had great troubles to bear, and I have had so long to wait that
no wonder I am wearied out. Do not be angry with me; I shall be well
soon."

Something in his tone awoke the tears within her again, but she
conquered herself, and took his hand. By this time they had reached
the main street of the village and were not far from her uncle's door.
Rohan, however, seemed almost unconscious where he was, so wearily was
he following his own thoughts.

"There is sickness in the house, or I would ask you in. Oh, Rohan,
Uncle Ewen is very ill, and I fear that he will die. He is heart-
broken because the Emperor is cast down."

Rohan echoed, in a hollow voice--

"Because the Emperor is cast down?"

"I know you do not love the Emperor, because you think he has made you
suffer; but you are wrong--he could not know everything, and he would
pity you if he really knew. Rohan, once more, do not think I am not
glad! You are safe now."

"Yes; they say so," answered Rohan.

"Your mother will be full of joy--it is a happy night for her. Good-
bye, good-bye!"

She stretched out both her hands and he took them in his; then he
quietly drew her to his breast, and kissed her gently on the brow.

"You are prettier than ever, Marcelle!"

He could feel the heaving of her gentle bosom, the trembling of her
warm form; he drew her closer, and she looked up into his face.

"Rohan, do you ever pray?"

He smiled strangely.

"Sometimes. Why do you ask?"

Her voice trembled as she replied, softly releasing herself from his
embrace--

"Pray for Uncle Ewen, that the good God may make him well!"

Then they parted, Marcelle entering the cottage, and Rohan moving
slowly away in the direction of his own home.



Chapter 51. BREATHING-SPACE



Rohan Gwenfern was right--he was quite safe at last, and had no cause
for fear; on the contrary, his wild story, spreading over the
province, raised him up many friends and sympathisers. Even those who
had been bitterest against him dared not say a word. The Mayor of St
Gurlott, who had been among the fiercest of his persecutors, openly
proclaimed that he was a martyr, and that something ought to be done
for him by his countrymen: a change of opinion which becomes
intelligible when we observe that the Mayor, like so many others of
his chameleonic species, had changed from tricoloured to dazzling
white directly Bonaparte's cause became utterly hopeless. As for
Pipriac's death, it was simply "justifiable homicide;" the savage old
"burn-powder" had only met with his deserts.

So Rohan sat again by his own hearth, a free man, and his mother's
eyes brightened with joy because God had restored to her the child of
her womb. Her happiness, however, was destined to be of brief
duration. She soon perceived that Rohan was fearfully and wonderfully
changed. His frame was bent and weakened, his face had lost its old
look of brightness and health, his eyes were dim, and, alas! his hair
had in parts grown quite grey. But this was not all. The physical
change was nothing compared to the moral and mental transformation. It
was quite obvious that his intellect was to a certain degree affected
by what he had undergone. He was subject to strange trances, when
reason absolutely fled and his speech became positively maniacal; and
on coming out of these--they were fortunately very brief, often merely
momentary--he was like a man who emerges from the shadow of the grave.
At night his sleep was troubled with frightful dreams, and his soul
was constantly travelling back to the time of the siege in the Cave
and of Pipriac's death. No smile lit his once happy face. He drooped
and sickened, and would sit whole days looking into the fire.

During the long winter he had remained in hiding among the lonely huts
of St. Lok, the inhabitants of which were systematic wreckers, but he
was not betrayed. His brain, however, was kept in a constant state of
tension, as he was liable to capture at any moment, and he had
undergone great privations. But the circumstance which had left most
mark upon him was Pipriac's death; the rest he might have forgotten,
but this he could not shake away;--for he was conscience-stricken. The
world might justify him, but he could not justify himself. To have
blood upon his hands was terrible, and the blood of his father's
friend! Better to have died!

The whole burthen of events was too much for his delicate
organisation. He was overshadowed with darkness as of a dead and a
living world, and the peace of his life was poisoned for ever. Mental
horror and physical pain combined had stupefied him. He seemed still
paralysed with the terror and the despair of those ghastly nights in
the Cave.

He saw too, but dimly as in a dream, that a moral shadow had arisen
between his soul and that of Marcelle. His salvation had been her
sorrow. His hope was her despair. What had lifted him up again into
the light of day had stricken down her Uncle as into the darkness of
the grave. She was still the same to him when they met--gentle,
honest, truthful, and kind; but her looks were without passion, her
manners shrinking and subdued. She seemed of another religion, of a
sadder, intenser faith. He had still a portion of her heart, but the
shadow of Bonaparte had estranged her soul.

During these days, indeed, Marcelle seemed wholly wrapped up in her
uncle. Uncle Ewen came out of his illness bravely, only keeping his
bed a few days, for he could not bear to lie there like a useless log;
but ever after that he was only the ghost of his old self--a shattered
man, liable to frequent attacks of the same complaint, sometimes
violent, but generally having merely the character of what French
physicians term the petit mal. Excitement of any kind now shook him to
pieces, and the household carefully endeavoured to conceal from him
any news which was likely to cause agitation. They could not, however,
keep him from examining the journals--from following in his mind's eye
the journey of Bonaparte from France and his arrival on the island of
Elba, the pageant of the King's entry into the capital of France, the
changes which were everywhere announcing the arrival of the old
rgime. Indeed, the Corporal had only to stand at his own door looking
forth, in order to see that the spirit of things was marvellously
transformed. The Chapel bells were ever ringing, religious processions
were ever passing, solemn ceremonies were ever being performed; for
the King was a holy King, and his family were a holy family, and
Heaven could not be sufficiently propitiated for having overthrown the
Usurper.

"The locusts are overrunning the land!" said Master Arfoll; and the
Corporal--who was beginning to think Master Arfoll a good fellow--
nodded approval of the metaphor.

By the "locusts," Master Arfoll meant the priests. Where during the
Emperor's time the eye had fallen upon a military coat, it now fell
upon a soutane. All the swarms who had left France with the emigrs
came buzzing back, and it became a question how to fill their mouths.
The air rang with the names of a thousand Saints--there was one for
every day in the week, and several for Sunday. "Te Deums" were said
from morning to night. Brittany recovered its old sacred glory--
chapels were repaired, forgotten shrines remembered and redecorated,
Calvaries rebuilt, graven images of the Virgin and the Saints erected
at every corner. Every old religious ceremonial that had fallen into
disuse since the Revolution came once more into observance. It was
astonishing how rapidly the dead ideas and customs sprang up again:
like flowers--or fungi--rising up in a night.

All these things brought no joy to the Corporal's household. The
widow, who was nothing if not religious, of course took part in most
of the ceremonials, but her conduct had no political meaning. She had
adored God and the Saints under Napoleon, and she adored them under
King Louis. She had a new source of uneasiness in the continued
absence of her son Hol, who had made few signs for several months,
and who ought long ago to have returned home.

Since the changes that had taken place Marcelle disliked the Chapel
where Father Rolland officiated, and went thither as seldom as
possible. She could not forgive the little cur for being friendly
with the Sieur Marmont and the other Royalists; for, although she knew
he had no strong opinions of his own, she felt that he was certainly
no friend to the Emperor. Instead of hearing public mass, she got into
the habit of paying quiet visits to Notre Dame de la Garde, the little
lonely chapel on the summit of the cliffs. Here she could pray in
peace, for the place was seldom visited by any other living creature.

Summer came, and the White Lily was golden indeed, shaking its glory
over France, and filling all hearts with the hope of prosperity and
peace. The great sea-wall of Brittany was white with happy birds, and
in the green slopes above the grass grew and the furze shone with
yellow stars; while inland, across the valleys, the wheat waved, and
among the wheat burnt the poppies like "clear bright bubbles of
blood;" and on the great marshes the salt crystals lay and sparkled in
the sun, and the rivers sank low among the reeds, dwindling often to
silvern threads. It was a glorious summer, and the world was turned
into a garden. People forgot all their troubles in the rapture of
living and the certainty of a good harvest; only the soldiers
grumbled, for their trade seemed done.

One bright day Marcelle, as she issued from the little chapel, saw
Rohan standing close by as if waiting for her to appear. She
approached him with her old bright smile, and lifted up her face for
his salute. He looked very pale and sad, but his face was quite calm
and his manner gentle in the extreme.

After a few words of greeting, they walked along side by side close to
the edge of the cliffs--following the very path which they trod
together little more than a year before. Far below them they saw the
waters crawling, with a cream-white edge of foam; and the colours of
the bottom, golden with sand, or red with rock and weed, or black with
mud, were clearly visible through the transparent shallows of the
crystal sea. At last Marcelle paused, for they were walking away from
the village.

"I must go home," she said; "I promised not to stay."

Rohan turned too, and they walked slowly back towards the chapel. No
word of love was spoken between them, but presently Rohan said,
pointing out seaward--

"I often wonder what he is doing and thinking--now."

She looked at him in surprise.

"He? of whom do you speak?"

"Of the Emperor. They have put him on one side, and he is far away
from all help or hope. They call him King of Elba, but that is only in
jest, I suppose, for all his power is gone for ever."

As Rohan spoke, his eyes were fixed as if in a trance, and his face
grew strangely agitated. Marcelle, alarmed, walked on more rapidly,
while he continued--

"After all, Master Arfoll was wrong when he said that the Emperor was
only flesh and blood like ourselves. Sometimes I have thought he is a
spirit, a shadow like the shadow of God; for it is hard to think of a
man bearing all that upon his soul! Thousands upon thousands of dead
gathering round his pillow every night, and crying out his name. No
man's heart could bear it without breaking."

Marcelle did not quite catch the drift of the words, but she knew that
they referred to him she deemed immaculate, and her heart heaved in
anger; but when she looked into her companion's face, which was
blanched and worn as if the light of reason had flown, her thoughts
were all pity and pain. So she said gently, to change the subject--

"Uncle Ewen often asks for you--he thinks it unkind that you do not
come to the house."

Without replying, Rohan gave that strange low laugh which she had
first noticed and feared on the night when they had met in the
churchyard. As she heard it, she remembered with a thrill a cruel
whisper that was already going about the village, to the effect that
Rohan Gwenfern was no longer in his right senses, and that at certain
times he was dangerously violent.

Passing the Chapel, and descending the grassy slopes, they soon
reached the village. To Marcelle's astonishment Rohan remained with
her until they were close to her uncle's cottage, and when she paused
and put out her hand to say good-bye, he quietly said--"I shall go in
with you to see uncle Ewen."

She started, for she had not exactly expected this, and when she had
introduced her uncle's name, it was merely with a view to distract
Rohan's wandering attention. In her secret heart she had a dread of a
meeting between the two men, lest by a stray word, a passing opinion,
they might come again into open opposition. Thus pressed, however, she
could hardly make an objection; so she merely said, with a pleading
look--

"Promise me, first, not to speak of the Emperor."

Rohan, who now seemed quite calm and collected, promised without
hesitation, and in another minute they crossed the threshold of the
cottage. They found the Corporal sitting in his arm-chair alone by the
fireside, busily reading, with the aid of his spectacles, an old
newspaper.

Marcelle tripped first into the chamber, and, leaning over her uncle's
chair, said, smiling--

"I have brought you a visitor, Uncle Ewen! See!" The Corporal looked
and saw Rohan standing before him, so worn, so grey, so strange and
old, that he scarcely knew him. He rubbed his eyes, then blinked them
in amaze. When recognition came he exclaimed, rising from his chair--

"Is it thou, mon garz! Soul of a crow! how thou art changed! I did not
know thee!"

"Yes, Uncle Ewen, it is I!" said Rohan calmly; and the two men shook
hands, with considerable emotion on the part of the Corporal.

"I will tell thee this, Marcelle--he is brave--he has the heart of a
lion, but there is something wrong here!"

The Corporal as he spoke tapped his forehead significantly. It was
some weeks after that little reconciliation, and Rohan had since been
a frequent visitor to his uncle's house. Strange to say, he and his
uncle got on singularly well together, and even when the name of
Bonaparte came up they had no disputes. The Corporal was not so
dogmatic as he used to be, while Rohan on his part was very reticent;
so they promised to be excellent friends.

The Corporal proceeded:

"We might have guessed it when he first refused to take up arms.
Master Arfoll is cracked, look you, and Rohan has caught it of him--it
is as bad as the fever. Well, I freely forgive him all, for he is not
at present in his right mind."

Of course, the Corporal, an undoubted monomaniac himself, had the most
implicit belief possible in his own personal sanity.



Chapter 52. RESURGAM!



So the summer passed, and once again the sun moved on to the equinox.
France was at rest, lulled into a drowsy doze by the sounds of hymns
and prayers. Sceptics shook their heads; revolutionists burrowed like
moles, and threw up little mounds of conspiracy; the Imperial Guard
frowned with "red brows of storm;" but the new dynasty lay comfortably
on its padded pillow, amid a little rosy cloud of incense, counting
its beads. As for the prisoned Lion, he made no sign. Restlessly and
fretfully he was pacing up and down his narrow cage. One heard from
time to time of his doings--his mimicry in miniature of his old glory,
his old ambition; but the Kings of Europe only nodded merrily at one
another--he was safely caught, and there, on his island, might roar
himself hoarse.

As the months rolled on, Corporal Derval resigned himself to the
situation, and began to speak of the Emperor with a solemn sorrow, as
of some dead Saint who could never rise again. Falling into this
humour, instead of crossing it, Rohan Gwenfern greatly rose in the
estimation of the Corporal. "He is a brave man," Uncle Ewen would say,
"and the more brave because he knows how to respect a losing cause! I
did him wrong!"

And gradually, under the softening influences which now surrounded
him, Rohan brightened into something dimly resembling his old self.
His cheeks were still sunken, his hair still sown with grey, but his
frame recovered much of its former vigour. He began again to wander
about the crags and upon the shore, and in these rambles Marcelle
often accompanied him--as when they were younger and happier. The
Corporal approved, saying to the widow: "He saved her life, and it is
his, little woman. Why should they not wed?" And Mother Derval, whose
heart was burthened with the new loss of her son Hol, who never
returned from the war, saw no reason to dissent. If the truth were
told, the poor woman was going more and more over to the enemy. In her
secret heart she believed not only in the Pope, and the Saints, and
the Bishops, but in the King. Bonaparte had taken her children, and
the priest told her he was a Monster; so she prayed God that he would
never rule France more.

Only Marcelle Derval, perhaps, besides the mother who bore him, knew
how it really stood with Rohan Gwenfern. The shock of those terrible
days had struck at the very roots of his life, and the bloom of his
spiritual nature was taken off for ever. Time might heal him more and
more, but the process would be very sad and slow. His nervous system
was deeply shaken, and his reason still trembled and tottered at
times.

Although he showed by countless signs that he loved his cousin
tenderly and deeply, his affection for her seldom now rose into actual
passion, such as had carried him away when he made his first half-
involuntary confession. There was something almost brotherly sometimes
in his manner and in his tone. Yet once or twice he caught her to his
breast and wildly kissed her, in a rush of feeling that changed him
for the moment into a happy man.

"She will never marry Gwenfern," said gossips at the Fountain; "for he
is mad."

They little knew the nature of Marcelle. The very shadow which lay at
times upon Rohan's mind made her more eager to fulfil her plight.
Moreover, she had strong passions, though these had been lulled to
sleep by solemn thoughts and fears; and the strongest passion in her
soul was her love for her cousin.

Mikel Grallon now seldom crossed her path; he knew better than to
provoke the wrath of the man he had persecuted. A zealous adherent of
the new rgime, he carefully avoided the Corporal's house, and cast
his eyes elsewhere in search of a fitting helpmate.

When winter came in good earnest there was many a quiet gathering by
the Corporal's fireside. Uncle Ewen, whom ill-health confined a good
deal within doors, presided, and now and then told his memorable story
of Cismone, while Gildas was eloquent about the exploits of Marshal
Ney. Rohan, who was constantly present, coldly held his tongue when
the name of Bonaparte came up, but the widow would quietly cross
herself in the corner. After all, Uncle Ewen seemed only talking of a
dead man: of one whose very existence had faded into a dream; who was
calendared, for the Corporal and for Marcelle, among the other
departed Saints.

One day, when the snow was on the ground, and all was peaceful and
white and still, Rohan said to Marcelle:

"Do you remember what you told me, long ago, that morning when I
carried you out of the Cathedral of St. Gildas? That you loved me, and
that you would marry me."

"I remember."

"And will you keep your word?"

She hesitated for a moment; then looking at him quietly with her grey
truthful eyes, she answered--

"Yes, Rohan--if Uncle Ewen is willing."

They were standing down by the Fountain, looking at the sea. As
Marcelle replied, her heart was touched with pity more than love; for
her lover's face wore a sad far-away look full of strange suggestions
of past suffering. After a space he said again--

"I am changed, Marcelle, and I think I shall never be quite myself.
Think again! There are many others who would love you well."

She put her hand gently in his.

"But I love you, Rohan," she replied.

That very day they told the Corporal, and he cheerfully gave them his
blessing. Father Rolland was spoken to by the widow, and readily
undertook to procure the assent of the Bishop, which was necessary to
complete a marriage between cousins. When the affair was bruited about
the village many shook their heads--Mikel Grallon particularly. "The
Bishop should interfere," said honest Mikel; "for, look you, the man
is dangerous."

The Bishop, however made no obstacle, and it was arranged that the
marriage should take place in the spring.

Early in March, 1815, Rohan Gwenfern entered the cottage and found
Marcelle alone in the kitchen. She was dressed in a white gown, and
was busy at some household work. As he entered, she walked up to him
confidently and held up her lips to receive his kiss.

"Spring is come indeed," he said, looking quite radiant "Look,
Marcelle, I have brought this for a sign."

In Brittany they measure the seasons by flowers and birds and other
natural signs, as much as by Saints' days and holidays; and it had
been arranged that these two should be married in spring, when "the
violet came." Marcelle blushed deep crimson, but took the flower
gently and put it in her breast. Then, as Rohan folded his arms around
her, she leant her head upon his shoulder, and looked up, radiant,
into his face.

Suddenly, as they stood there full of happiness, the door was dashed
open, and Uncle Ewen tottered in, reeling like a drunken man. He held
a newspaper in his hand and his face was white as death.

"Marcelle! Rohan!" he gasped. "Here is news?"

"What is the matter?" cried Marcelle, releasing herself from Rohan's
arms.

Uncle Ewen waved the newspaper ecstatically round his head.

"A bas les Bourbons!" he cried, with something of his old vigour. "On
the 1st of March the Emperor landed at Cannes, and he is now marching
on Paris. VIVE L'EMPEREUR!"

As the Corporal spoke the words, Rohan threw his arms up into the air,
and shrieked like a man shot through the heart!



Chapter 53. "IBI OMNIS EFFUSIS LABOR!"



The news of the Emperor's escape was, as all the world knows, only too
true. After months of cunning preparation, during which he had
affected all the virtues of a Cincinnatus harmlessly contemplating his
own acres, Bonaparte had at last slipped out of his cage (the captors
had taken care to leave the door very wide open), and was again on
French soil at the head of a thousand men. To use the expressive
language of the French pulpit, "The Devil had again broken loose."
White-stoled priests might thunder from a thousand shrines, but what
did Satanus care?

On Rohan Gwenfern the news came like a thunderbolt, and literally
smote him down. As a man scorched by lightning, but still breathing,
gazes panting at the black wrack whence the fiery levin has fallen, he
lay in horror looking upward. To him this resurrection of the
Execrable meant outlawry, misery, despair, and death. What was God
doing that He suffered such a thing to be? With the passing away of
the Imperial pest, quiet and rest had come to France, bringing a space
of holy calm, when men might breathe in peace; and to Rohan, among
others, the calm had looked as if it might last for ever. Slowly and
quietly the man's tortured mind had composed itself, until the dark
marks of suffering were obscured if not obliterated; every happy day
seemed furthering the cure of that spiritual disease to which the man
was a martyr; and at last he had had courage enough to reach out his
hands to touch once more the sacramental cup of love. At that very
moment, when God seemed to be making atonement to him for his long and
weary pains, Heaven was obscured again, and the cruel bolt struck him
down.

While Europe was shaken as by earthquake, while Thrones tottered
again, and Kings looked aghast at one another, Rohan trembled like a
dead leaf ready to fall. He was instantly transformed; before the sun
could set again upon his horror, he seemed to have grown very old.

Our Lady of Hate had answered his prayer indeed, but in how mocking a
measure. She had struck the Avatar down, only to uplift him again to
his old seat. "Within a year!" It seemed as if she had given the world
a brief glimpse of rest, only that its torture might be more terrible
when the clouds closed again.

At first, indeed, there was little hope. The priests thundered and
prayed, the Royalists swaggered and shrugged their shoulders, as much
as to say, "This little business will soon be settled!" But every
bulletin brought fresh confirmation of the true state of affairs.
Bonaparte had not only risen again, but the waves of the old Storm
were rising with him.

On one figure Rohan gazed with horror as great as filled him when he
thought of the Emperor. This was the figure of Corporal Derval. It
seemed as if the news of the uprising had filled the Corporal with new
life. Colossus-like, he again bestrode his own hearth; assumed the
Imperial pose; cocked his hat jauntily; looked the world in the face.
His cheeks were alike sunken and yellow, his eyes dim, but this only
made more prominent the fiery and natural redness of nose and brows.
He was weak upon his legs, but his right arm performed the old sweep
when he took snuff,  l'Empereur. No looking down now, as he hied down
to little Plout's to read the journals. His Master had arisen, and he
himself had arisen. Oh, to march at the double, and to join the little
Corporal in the open field!

As the smallest village pond becomes during the storms and rains of
equinox, a miniature of the Ocean--overflows its banks, breaks into
strong waves, darkens, brightens, trembles to its depth, even so did
the Corporal's breast reflect in miniature the Storm which was just
seen sweeping over France. A very poor affair indeed might his
commotion seem in the eye of the great political leaders of the hour,
just as their commotion, in their eyes oceanic, might seem a mere
pond-business from the point of view of God or a philosopher. The
microcosm, however, potentially includes the macrocosm; and the spirit
of Bonaparte was only the spirit of Corporal Derval indefinitely
magnified.

Kromlaix was Royalist still, and indeed it had been so from time
immemorial. The movements of the Corporal were regarded with no
sympathy and little favour. There was a general disposition to knock
the old fellow on the head--a deed which would have been done, if he
had not reserved his more violent ebullitions of enthusiasm for his
own fireside. Here, legs astride, snuff-box in hand, he thundered at
Gildas, who wanted the Emperor to win, but thought his case hopeless,
owing to the fact that Marshal Ney was for the King! But when the
great news came that Ney had gone over with his whole army, and had
flung himself into the arms of his old master, uncle and nephew
embraced with tears, avowing that the Imperial cause was as good as
won!

Coming and going like a shadow, Rohan listened for a word, a whisper,
to show him that there was still a chance. But every day darkened his
hopes. Wherever the feet of Bonaparte fell, armies seemed to spring up
from the solid earth; and from vale to vale ran the sound of his
voice, summoning up a hidden harvest of swords.

In this time of terrible epidemic the contagion spread even to
Marcelle; and this was the hardest of all to bear. A new fire burnt in
her eyes, a new flush dwelt upon her cheek. When the old man delivered
his joyful harangues she listened eagerly to every word, and her whole
nature seemed transformed. Rohan watched her in terror, dreading to
meet her eyes. Had she then forgotten all the horror and suffering
through which he had passed, and did she forget that this thing which
caused her such joy was his own signal of doom?...

...Out there among the silent crags, Rohan Gwenfern waited and
listened. He did not wholly despair yet, though day by day the woeful
news had been carried to his ear. He could not rest at home, nor at
the fireside where the Corporal declaimed; his only place of peace was
in the heart of the earth which sheltered him before in the period of
his peril. Since the tidings of the collusion between Ney and
Bonaparte, he had scarcely spoken to Marcelle, but had avoided her in
a weary dread. As yet no attempt had been made to lay a finger upon
him, or to remind him of his old revolt against the Emperor; men
indeed were as yet too busy watching the progress of the great game in
which Bonaparte was again trying to outwit his adversaries. But the
call might come at any moment, as he knew. So he wandered on the
shore, shivering, expectant, and afraid.

One day a wild impulse seized him to revisit the scenes of his old
struggle. It was calm and sunny weather, and entering the great
Cathedral, he found it alive with legions of birds, who had flocked
back from the south to build their nests and rear their young. He
climbed up to the Trou, still full of the traces of his old struggle,
and thence, through the dark winding passages, to the arial chamber
in the face of the crag. Gazing out through the window of the Cave, he
saw again the calm Ocean crawling far beneath him, softly stained with
red reefs and shallows of yellow sands; the fishing-boats were
becalmed far out on the glassy mirror, and the sun was shining in the
heavens, like the smile of God. He saw the gentle scene, and thought
of him--of that red Shadow who was again rising on the peaceful world;
and he wondered if God would suffer him still to be. As he stood a
frightful thought passed through his brain, and his face was
convulsed. He thought of Pipriac, and how he struck him cruelly down.

Oh, to strike that other down, to crush and kill him underneath the
rock of his mortal hate!

Later on in the day, he crawled down the dark passages which led to
the gigantic Water-cave, and ere long he was hanging over the deep
green pools, which showed no traces now of that terrible flood which
transformed the Cave into a boiling cauldron. All was still and
peaceful, full of the pulsations of the neighbouring sea, and a great
grey seal swam slowly out towards the narrow passage of exit known as
"Hell's Mouth." He passed along the narrow shelf communicating with
the top of the Cave, and, leaping down upon the shingle, faced the
black mouth of the Aqueduct. Here the storm had left its ravages
indeed. The shingle was strewn with great fragments of earth and
stone, and the rock all round was blackened and torn as by tooth and
claw, with the fury of the flood.

Advancing a little distance into the passage, he soon found further
progress impossible, for the passage was choked now by all sorts of
dbris, which it would take many years to wash away. Retracing his
steps, he stumbled over a dark mass lying upon the slippery floor. It
was the Statue of black marble which he discovered formerly in the
inner chamber of the Aqueduct.

Washed from its pedestal by the unexampled fury of the waves, and
driven like a straw downward by the force of the torrents, it had at
last paused here, wedged in between the narrow walls. Black and silent
it lay, still green and slimy with the moisture of centuries, still
hideous and deformed. Ave Csar Imperator! As he fell in whose
likeness thou wast fashioned, so didst thou too fall at last. Sooner
or later the great waters would have thee, would tear thee from thy
place, and wash thee away towards the great sea. Even so they destroy
Man and all his works. Sooner or later all shall vanish like
footprints on the shore of that Ocean of Eternity where wander for
ever shadows that seem to live!

As Rohan bent over the cast-down image, did he think for a moment of
that other Image whom men were endeavouring to uplift to its old
Imperial pedestal? Did he see in the black bull-like head of the
fallen Statue any far-off likeness of one who was rising out yonder in
the world, crowned with horrible laurel, and shod with sandals of
blood! One might have thought so; for he bent over it in fascination,
dimly tracing its lineaments in the feeble green light that trembled
from the Water-cave. It was shapen like a colossal human thing, and
one might almost have regarded it as the corpse of what once was a
man--nay, an Emperor! But, thank God, the breath of life could never
fill those marble veins, the light of power could never gleam upon
that pitiless carven face!

When he came out into the open air, it was sunset, and the light
dazzled and blinded him. The cold and mildew and darkness of that dead
world still lay upon him, and he shivered from head to foot. Passing
out by the Cathedral, and ascending the stairs of St. Triffine, he
made his way slowly along the summit of the crags. The western sky was
purple-red and dashed with shadows of the bluff March wind that was to
blow next morrow; but now, all was still as a summer eve. A thick
carpet of gold and green was spread beneath his feet, the broom was
blazing golden on every side, and one early star, like a primrose, was
already blossoming in the still cool pastures of Heaven. He seemed to
have arisen from the tomb, and to be floating in divine air. That dead
world was, he knew; no less surely did he know that this living world
is too--

"A calm, a happy, and a holy world!"

If He who made the tiger makes the lamb, and the one strange Hand that
set that star up yonder, and wrote of the human breast, "Love one
another," moulded the iron hearts of a hundred Csars, and once more
liberated Bonaparte.



Chapter 54. THE LAST CHANCE



As he passed the door of the Chapel of Notre Dame de la Garde, a
figure emerged, and turned upon him a face full of horror and despair.
It was his mother; gaunt, white, terror-stricken, she looked fearfully
around her and clutched him by the arm. He saw her message in her face
before she spoke.

"Fly, Rohan," she cried; "they are out after thee again, and they are
searching from house to house. There is terrible news. The Emperor is
in Paris, and war is proclaimed."

The world darkened--he staggered and held his hand upon his heart. He
had expected this, but it nevertheless came upon him as the lightning
from Heaven.

"Come into the Chapel!" he cried, suiting the action to the word.

Crossing the threshold they found the little building already full of
the evening shadows. All was as it had been not long ago, when the
lovers, after first plighting their happy troth, knelt before the
altar. The figure of the Virgin stood at the altar, and the votive
gifts still lay undisturbed at her feet; the sailors in the picture
still drifted upon their raft, kneeling and fixing eyes on the
luminous apparition that rose from the waters.

In a few rapid sentences, Mother Gwenfern gave further particulars of
the situation:--The village was in a state of disturbance, the news of
the Emperor's complete triumph not being yet accepted by the Royalists
in the neighbourhood; but a file of gendarmes from St. Gurlott had
already appeared hunting up deserters "in the name of the Emperor."
Yes, that was certain, for they had searched her own house. The death
of Pipriac was remembered, and was to be avenged.

In a few brief moments was undone the gentle work of months. The same
light which Marcelle saw and feared in Rohan's face that night when he
returned home, the same light which she had dreaded often since, when
her lover was under the influence of strong excitement, now appeared
there and shone with a lurid flame. The man's brain was burning; his
heart seemed bursting. He did not speak, but laughed strangely to
himself--hysterically, indeed, if we may apply the term to one of the
male sex; but in his laugh there was something more than hysteria,
than mere nervous tension: there was the sign of an incipient madness
which threatened to overthrow the reason and wreck the soul.

"Rohan! Rohan!" cried the terrified woman clinging to him, "speak! Do
not look like that! They shall not take you, my Rohan!"

He looked at her without replying, and laughed again. Terrified at the
expression in his face she burst into sobs and moans.

Late at night Corporal Derval sat at his own hearth and read the
journals to the widow and Marcelle. He was excited with the great news
that had just come from Paris--that Europe refused to treat on
amicable terms with the Usurper, and that the mighty hosts of the
Great Powers were again rising like great clouds on the frontier. The
Allied Congress sat at Frankfort, directing, as from the centre of a
web, the movements of a million men. The Emperors of Russia and
Austria with the King of Prussia had again taken the field. England
had given her characteristic help in the shape of thirty-six millions
of money, to say nothing of the small contingent of eighty thousand
men, under the Duke of Wellington.

"The cowards!" hissed the Corporal between his clenched teeth. "A
million of men against France and the Little Corporal; but you shall
see, he will make them skip. I have seen a little fellow of a drummer
thrash a great grenadier, and it will be like that!"

"There will be more war?" murmured the widow questioningly. And her
poor heart was beating to the tune of one sad word, her son's name,
"Hol! Hol!"

"It is a fight for life, little woman," said Uncle Ewen with
solemnity. "The Emperor must either kill these rascals, or himself be
killed. Soul of a crow! there will be no quarter! They are fortifying
Paris so that the enemy may never take it again by any stratagem. In a
few days the Emperor will take the field." He added, with a smack of
his lips, "It sounds like old times!"

Enter Gildas the one-armed, with his habitual military swagger. He had
been quenching his thirst down at the cabaret (it was wonderful how
thirsty a mortal he had become since his brief military experience),
and his eyes were rather bloodshot.

"Has any one seen Rohan?" he said, standing before the fireplace.
"They are after him out there!"

He jerked his thumb over his shoulder towards the door, which he had
left open. With an uneasy glance at Marcelle, who sat pale and
trembling, the Corporal replied--

"They called here, and I told them it would be all right. Rohan can
redeem his credit now and for ever, and save his skin at the same
time. There is but one plan, and he had better take it without delay."

Marcelle looks up eagerly.

"And what is that, Uncle Ewen?"

"Soul of a crow! it is simple. The Emperor is in need of men--all the
wolves of the world are against him---and who helps him now, in time
of need, will make amends for all the past. Let Rohan go to him, or,
what is the same thing, to the nearest station of the grand army,
saying--'I am ready now to fight against the enemies of France;' let
him take his place in the ranks like a brave man,--and all will be
forgiven."

"I am not so sure," observed Gildas. "I have been having a glass with
the gendarme Penvenn, old Pipriac's friend, and he says that Rohan
will be shot in spite of his teeth; if so, it is a shame."

Uncle Ewen shifted nervously in his chair, and scowled at his nephew.

"Penvenn is an ass for his pains; do you think I have no influence
with the Emperor? I tell you he will be pardoned if he will fight.
What sayest thou, little one?" he continued, turning to Marcelle who
seemed plunged in deep thought. "Or is thy lover still un lche?"

"Uncle!" she cried with trembling lips.

"You are right, Marcelle, and I did him wrong; I forgot myself, and he
is a brave man. But if he should fail us now! now when Providence
itself offers him a way to save himself, and to wipe the stain off the
name he bears!--now when the Little Corporal needs his help, and would
welcome him, like the Prodigal Son, into the ranks of the Brave!"

As Uncle Ewen ceased, Marcelle sprang to her feet with an exclamation;
for there, standing in the chamber and listening to the speech, was
Rohan himself--so changed already that he looked like an old man. It
seemed as if the sudden shock had had the power to transform him to
his former likeness of a famished hunted animal; to make his physical
appearance a direct image of his tortured moral being. Gaunt and wild,
with great hungry-looking eyes gazing from one to another of the
startled group, he stood in perfect silence.

"It is himself!" cried the Corporal gasping for breath. "Gildas, close
the door."

It was done, and, to make all secure, Gildas drew the bolt. The two
women were soon by the side of Rohan; the widow weeping, Marcelle
white and tearless. Uncle Ewen rose to his feet, and somewhat
tremulously approached his nephew.

"Do not be afraid, mon garz," he exclaimed; "they are after you, but I
will make it all right, never fear. You have been refractory, but they
will forgive all that when you step forward like a man. There is no
time to lose. Cross the great marsh, and you will be at St. Gurlott
before them. Go straight to the Rue Rose, and ask for the Capitaine
Figuier, and tell him from me--Mother of God!" cried the old man,
pausing in his hurried instructions, "is the man mad?"

Indeed the question seemed a very pertinent one, for Rohan, without
seeming to hear a word of what was being said, was gazing wildly at
the air and uttering that strange unearthly laugh which had more than
once before appalled Marcelle. Trembling with terror, the girl was
clinging to his arm, and looking into his face.

"Rohan! Do you not understand! they are looking for you, and if you do
not go in first, you will be killed!"

Turning his eyes upon her, he asked calmly enough, but in a strange
hard voice--

"If I surrender, what then?"

"Why then," broke in the Corporal, "it will be all forgotten. They
will just give you your gun and knapsack, and you will join the grand
army, and cover yourself with glory; and then, when the war is over--
which will be very soon--back you will come like a brave man, and find
my little Marcelle waiting for you, ready and willing to keep her
troth."

The old man spoke eagerly, and with a cheerfulness that he was far
from feeling, for the look upon the other's face positively appalled
him. Still with his eyes fixed on Marcelle, Rohan asked again--

"If I do not surrender, what then?"

"You will be shot," answered the Corporal, "like a dog; but there--God
knows you will not be so insane! You will give yourself up, like a
wise man and a brave."

"Is there no other way?" asked Rohan, still watching Marcelle.

"None! none! You waste time, mon garz!"

"Yes, there is another," said Rohan in the same hard voice, with the
same look. Then, when all eyes were questioningly turned towards him,
he continued--

"If the Emperor should himself die! If he should be killed!"

Uncle Ewen started back in terror.

"Saints of Heaven forbid! The very thought is treason!" he cried,
trembling and frowning.

Without heeding his uncle, Rohan, who had never withdrawn his eyes one
moment from Marcelle's, said in a whisper, as if addressing her
solely, and yet communicating mysteriously with himself, in a sort of
dream--

"If one were to find him sleeping in the darkness alone, it would be a
good deed! It would be one life instead of thousands, and then, look
you, the world would be at peace!"

"Rohan!" cried Marcelle. "For the love of God!"

Well might she shrink from him in horror and agony, for the light of
Murder was in his eyes. His face was distorted, and his hands clutched
as at an invisible knife. The Corporal gazed on stupefied. He heard
and dimly understood Rohan's words. They seemed too execrable and
awful to be the words of any one but a raving madman.

"Bones of St. Triffine!" murmured Gildas, "he is speaking of the
Emperor!"

"Come from his side," cried the Corporal to Marcelle; "he blasphemes--
he is dangerous!"

Rohan turned his white face on the speaker.

"That is true; but I shall not harm her, or any here. Good night,
Uncle Ewen--I am going." And he moved slowly towards the door.

"Stay, Rohan!" cried Marcelle, clutching his arm. "Whither are you
going?"

Without replying, he shook off her hold, and turned to the door, and
in another moment he was gone. The Corporal uttered a despairing
exclamation, and sank into his chair; Gildas gave out a prolonged
whistle, expressive of deep surprise; the widow threw her apron over
her head, and sobbed; and Marcelle stood panting with her lips
asunder, and her hand pressed hard upon her heart. So he left them,
passing like a ghost out of sight. And when dawn came, and the
emissaries of Bonaparte were searching high and low, no trace of him
was to be found.



Chapter 55. THE BEGINNING OF THE END



The scene changes for a moment. Instead of the arid cliffs and green
pastures of Kromlaix, scented with springtide and shining calmly by
the side of the summer sea, we behold a dim prospect far inland,
darkened with the drifting clouds of the rain. Through these clouds
glide moving lights and shadows, passing slowly along the great
highways: long processions that seem endless--columns of men that
tramp wearily afoot, bodies of cavalry that move more lightly along,
heavy masses of artillery, baggage-waggons, flotsam and jetsam of a
great host. The air is full of a deep, sea-like sound, broken at times
by a rapid word of command, or a heavy roll of drums. All day the
processions pass on, and when night comes they are still passing.
Somewhere in the midst of them hovers the Spirit of all, silent and
unseen as Death on his white steed.

The Grand Army is moving towards the frontier, and wherever it goes
the fields of growing grain are darkened, and no song of the birds of
spring is heard. The road is worn into deep ruts by the heavy wheels
of cannon. In the village streets halt the cavalry, picketing their
horses in the open square. The land is full of that deep murmur which
announces and accompanies war. Slowly, league by league, the gleaming
columns advance, obedient to the lifted finger that is pointing them
on. In their rear, when the main body has passed by, flock swarms of
human kites and crows--all those wretches who hover in the track of
armies, seeking what refuse they may find to devour.

Among those who linger here and there in the track of the advancing
columns, is a man who, to judge from his appearance, seems to have
emerged from the very dregs of human wretchedness; a gaunt, wild,
savage, neglected-looking creature, who seems to have neither home nor
kindred; and who, as a hooded crow follows huntsmen from hill to hill,
watching for any prey they may overlook or cast aside, follows the
dark procession moving forward to the seat of war. His hair hangs over
his shoulders, his beard is long and matted, his feet and arms are
bare, and the remainder of his body is wretchedly covered. Night after
night he sleeps out in the open air, or in the shelter of barns and
farm outbuildings, whence he is often driven by savage dogs and more
savage men. He speaks French at times, but for the most part he
mutters to himself in a sort of patois which few inhabitants of these
districts can understand; and ever for those whom he accosts he has
but one question: "Where is the Emperor? Will he pass this way?"

All who see him treat him as a maniac, and mad indeed he is, or seems.
Dazed by the vast swarms that surround him and ever pass him by; swept
this way and that by their violence as they flow like great rivers
through the heart of the land; ever perceiving with wild, anxious eyes
the living torrents of faces that rush by him on their headlong
course, he wanders stupefied from day to day. That he has some
distinct object is clear from the firm-set face and fixed determined
eyes; but wafted backward and forward by the stream of life, he
appears helpless and irresponsible. How he lives it is difficult to
tell. He never begs, but many out of pity give him bread, and
sometimes the officers throw him small coins as they ride by, radiant
and full of hope. He looks famished, but it is spiritual famine, not
physical, that is wearing him away.

More than once he is seized for theft, and then driven away with
blows. On one occasion he is taken as a spy, his hands are tied behind
him, and he is driven into the presence of a grizzly commander, who
stands smoking by a bivouac fire. Hastily condemned to be shot, he
gives so strange a laugh that the closer attention of his captors is
attracted to his condition, and finally, with scornful pity, he is set
at liberty to roam where he will.

As the armies advance, he advances, but lagging ever in the rear.
Still his face looks backward, and he whispers--"The Emperor--when
will he come?"

How golden waves the corn in these peaceful Belgian fields! How sweet
smells the hay down there in the flat meads through which the silvern
river runs, lined on each side by bright green pollard trees! How deep
and cool lie the woods on the hill-sides, overhung with lilac and the
wild rose, and carpeted with hyacinths and violets, blue as Heaven!
How quietly the wind-mills turn, with their long arms against the blue
sky!

But what is that gleaming in the distance there, under the village
spire! It seems like a pool shining in the sun, but it is the
clustered helmets of Prussian cuirassiers. And what is that dark mass
moving like a shadow between the fields of wheat? It is a body of
Prussian infantry, advancing slowly along the dusty way. And hark
now!--from the distance comes a murmur like the sound of an advancing
sea, and from the direction whence it comes, light cavalry trot up
constantly, and solitary messengers gallop at full speed. The allied
forces have already quietly occupied Belgium, and the French host at
last is coming up.

It approaches and spreads out upon the fertile earth with some portion
of its old strength. Sharp sounds of firing, and white wreaths of
smoke rising here and there in the hollows, show that skirmishing has
begun. The contending armies survey each other, like wild beasts
preparing to spring and grapple.

All round them hover the human birds of prey, watchful and expectant,
but the villages are deserted, the wind-mills cease to turn, and the
happy sounds of pastoral industry are heard no more. The crops grow
unwatched, and the cattle wander untended; only the chapel bell is
sometimes heard, sounding the Angelus over deserted valleys.

Hush! far away in the direction of Quatre Bras sounds the heavy boom
of cannon--thunder follows thunder deep as the roar of the sea. Part
of the armies have met, and a terrible struggle is beginning;
cuirassiers gallop hither and thither along the roads. Groups of
peasants gather here and there, preparing for flight and listening to
the terrific sounds.

At the top of a woody hill stands the same woeful figure that we have
seen before in the track of the Grand Army. Wild and haggard he seems
still, like some poor wretch whom the fatal fires have burned out of
house and home. He stands listening, and gazing at the road which
winds through the valley beneath him. The rain is falling heavily, but
he does not heed.

Suddenly, through the vaporous mist, appears the gleam of helms and
lances rapidly advancing; then the man discerns a solitary Figure on
horseback coming at full gallop, followed by a group of mounted
officers; behind these rolls a travelling carriage drawn by four
horses.

After pausing for a moment at the foot of the hill, the Figure gallops
upward, followed by the others.

Quietly and silently the man creeps back into the shadow of the wood.



Chapter 56. UNCLE EWEN GETS HIS FURLOUGH



"Uncle! uncle! look up, listen--there is brave news--there has been a
battle and the Emperor is victorious--look up! It is I--Marcelle!"

The corporal lay in his arm-chair as if asleep, but his eyes were wide
open and he was breathing heavily. Coming hastily in one afternoon
with the journal in her hand, Marcelle found him so, and, thinking at
first that he slept, shook him gently. Then she screamed, perceiving
that he was senseless and ill. The widow, hastily descending from
upstairs where she had been busy, came trembling to her assistance.
They chafed his palms, threw cold water on his face, moistened his
lips with brandy, but it was of no avail.

"He will die!" cried Marcelle, wringing her hands. "It is one of the
old attacks, but worse than ever. Mother, hasten down and bring
Plout--he must be bled at once--Master Arfoll said that was the only
way."

The widow hesitated: then she cried--

"Had I not better run for the Priest?"

Poor soul, her first fear was that her brother-in-law might be hurried
into the presence of his Maker before he could be properly blest and
"anointed." But Marcelle, more worldly and practical, insisted that
Plout should be first sent for; it would be time enough to prepare
for the next world when all hopes of preserving him for this one were
fled.

In a very short time the little barber appeared, armed with all the
implements of office, and performed, with his usual skill the solemn
mystery of bleeding. The operation over, he shook his head. "The blood
flows feebly," he said; "he is very weak, and it is doubtful if he
will recover."

Not until he was undressed and placed in bed, did the Corporal open
his eyes and look around him. He nodded to Plout, and tried to force
a smile, but it was sad work. When Marcelle knelt weeping by his
bedside, he put his hand gently on her head, while the tears rose in
his eyes and made them dim.

"Cheer up, neighbour!" said Plout. "How are we now? Better, eh!--
well, I will tell you something that will do you good. Our advanced
guard has met the Prussians at Charleroi, and has thrashed them within
an inch of their lives."

Uncle Ewen's eye kindled, and his lips uttered an inarticulate sound.

"It is true, Uncle Ewen!" sobbed Marcelle, looking fondly at him.

"That is good news," he murmured presently, in a faint voice; then he
sank back upon his pillow and closed his eyes, with a heavy sigh.

The excitement of the last few weeks had been too much for him. Day
after day he had overstrained his strength, stumping up and down the
village, and assuming to a certain extent his old sway. Do what he
might, he could not remain calm. His pulse kept throbbing like a roll
of drums, and his ears were pricked up as if to listen for trumpet
sounds in the distance. All the world was against the "Little
Corporal," and the "Little Corporal," God willing, was about to beat
all the world! His own pride and expectation were at stake in the
matter, for with the fortunes of the Emperor his own fortunes rose and
fell. When his master was a despised prisoner, he too was despised--
his occupation gone, his life a burthen to him, since he coveted
respect in his sphere and could not endure contradiction. It had
almost broken his heart. But when the Emperor re-emerged, like the sun
from a cloud, Uncle Ewen partook his glory, and recovered caste and
position; men were afraid then to give him the lie, and to deny those
things which he deemed holy. Proud and happy, he resumed his sceptre,
though with a feebler hand, and waved down all opposition both at home
and at the cabaret. Joy, however, is "dangerous" in more senses than
one, and the excess of his exultation had only heightened that
constitutional malady to which he was a martyr.

In the agony of this new sorrow, Marcelle almost forgot the anxiety
which had been weighing on her heart for many days. Nothing had been
heard of Rohan since his departure, and no man could tell whether he
was living or dead; so her mind was tortured on his account, and her
nights were broken, and her days were full of pain. All she could do
was to pray that the good God would guard her lover's person and bring
him back to his right mind.

From this last attack Uncle Ewen did not emerge as freely as on former
occasions. He kept his bed for days and seemed hovering on the brink
of death. He would not hear, however, of sending for Father Rolland,
whose Royalist proclivities had aroused his strongest indignation.
However much he had liked the little cur personally, he felt that he
was unfaithful to a great cause, and that in his heart he hated the
Emperor.

Even while in bed he persisted in having the journals read to him;
fortunately for him, they contained only "good news." When, about a
week after his first attack, he was able to be dressed and to sit by
the fireside, he still sent diligently to inquire after the latest
bulletins from the seat of war.

To him, as he sat thus, entered one day Master Arfoll. At first,
Marcelle, who sat by, trembled to see him, but Uncle Ewen seemed so
pleased at his appearance that her fears were speedily dispelled. She
watched him anxiously, however, ready to warn him should he touch on
forbidden topics. But Master Arfoll was not the man to cause any
fellow creature unnecessary pain, and he knew well how to humour the
fancies of the Corporal. When he went away that day Uncle Ewen said
quietly, as if speaking to himself--

"I was unjust: he is a sensible fellow."

Next day Master Arfoll came again, and sat for a long time chatting.
Presently the conversation turned on politics, and Uncle Ewen, feeble
as he was, began to mount his hobby. So far from contradicting him,
Master Arfoll assented to all his propositions. Only a great man, he
admitted, could win so much love and kindle so much enthusiasm. He
himself had seen the Emperor, and no longer wondered at the affection
men felt for him. Ah, yes, he was a great man!

Marcelle scarcely knew how it came to pass, but that day Master Arfoll
was reading aloud to Uncle Ewen out of the Bible which he used for
teaching purposes; and reading out of the New Testament, not the Old.
Uncle Ewen would doubtless have relished to hear the recital of some
of those martial episodes which fill the Old Books, but, nevertheless,
the quiet peaceful parables of Jesus pleased him well.

"After all," said Master Arfoll as he closed the Book, "War is a
terrible thing, and Peace is best."

"That is quite true," replied the Corporal; "but War, look you, is a
necessity."

"Not if men would love one another."

Uncle Ewen smiled grimly, the very ghost of his old smile.

"Soul of a crow! how can one love one's enemies?...Those Prussians!
those English!"

And he ground his teeth angrily, as if he would have liked to worry
and tear them. Master Arfoll sighed and quietly dropt the subject.

When he had said au revoir and passed across the threshold, he heard
Marcelle's voice close behind him.

"Master Arfoll," said the girl in a quick low voice, "do you think he
will die?"

"I cannot tell... He is very ill!"

"But will he recover?"

The schoolmaster paused in thought before he replied.

"He is not a young man, and such shocks are cruel. I do not think he
will live long." He added gently, "There is no word of your cousin?"

She answered in the negative, and sadly returned into the house.

That very night there was considerable excitement in the village;
groups of Bonapartist enthusiasts paced up and down the streets,
singing and shouting. News had come of the battle of Ligny, and the
triumph of the French arms now seemed certain.

"It is true, uncle," said Gildas, entering tipsily into the kitchen.
"The little one has thrashed those brutes of Prussians at last, and he
will next devour those accursed English."

"Where is the journal?" asked Uncle Ewen, trembling from head to foot
and reaching out his hands.

Gildas handed it over, and the Corporal, putting on his horn
spectacles, began to read it through. But the letters swam before his
eyes, and he was compelled to entrust the task to Marcelle, who in a
clear voice read the news aloud. When she had done, his eyes were dim
with joy and pride.

That night he could not sleep, and before dawn he began to wander.

It was clear that some great change for the worse had taken place. He
tossed upon his pillow, talked to himself mentioned the names of old
comrades, and spoke frequently of the Emperor. Suddenly he sprang up,
and began scrambling out of bed.

"It is the rveille!" he cried, gazing vacantly around him. The voice
of Marcelle, who was up and watching, seemed to recall him partially
to himself, and he sank back quietly upon his pillow. Ever and anon
after that he would start up nervously, as if at a sudden call.

Early in the morning Master Arfoll came and sat by his side, but he
did not recognise him. The schoolmaster, who had no little skill in
such cases, pronounced his condition to be critical, and, upon hearing
this, Mother Derval persisted in sending for the priest. When Father
Rolland arrived he found Uncle Ewen quite incapable of profiting by
any holy offices.

"I fear he is dying," said Master Arfoll.

"And without the last sacrament," moaned the widow.

"He shall have it," said Father Rolland, "if he will only understand.
Look up, my Corporal. It is I, Father Rolland!"

But Uncle Ewen's soul was far away--out on a great battlefield, in
sight of smoking villages and fiery towns, watching the great columns
of armies moving to and fro, while a familiar figure in cocked hat and
grey overcoat sat silent as stone on horseback, watching from an
eminence! Over and over again he repeated in his mind that wonderful
episode of Cismone. He talked of Jacques Monier, and, stretching out
his open hands over the coverlet, fancied he was warming them over the
bivouac fire. Sometimes his face flashed, as he fancied himself in the
grand mle of battle, and he cried out in a loud voice, "No quarter!"
The summer sun shone brightly in upon him, as he lay thus full of his
ruling passion.

Marcelle, quite heart-broken, sobbed at his bedside, while the widow
spent all her minutes in fervent prayer. Gildas stood on the hearth
quite subdued, and ready to blubber like a great boy. On one side of
the bed sat Master Arfoll; on the other, the little Priest.

"He has been a brave man," said Father Rolland, "but an enthusiast,
look you, and this affair of Ligny has got into his head. He has been
a good servant to the Emperor and to France!"

It seemed as if the very name of the Emperor had a spell to draw the
Corporal from his swoon, for all at once he opened his eyes, and
looked straight at the Priest. He did not seem quite to recognise him,
and turning his face towards Master Arfoll, he smiled--so faintly, so
sadly, that it tore Marcelle's heart to see him.

"Uncle Ewen! Uncle Ewen!" she sobbed, holding his hand.

"Is it thou, little one?" he murmured faintly. "What was it that thou
wast reading about a great Battle?"

She could not answer for sobs, and Father Rolland interposed, speaking
rapidly--

"It is no time to think of battles now, my Corporal, for you are very
ill and will soon be in the presence of your God. I have come to give
you the last sacrament to prepare your soul for the change that is
about to come upon it. There is no time to lose. Make your peace with
Heaven!"

Quietly all withdrew from the kitchen, leaving the little cur alone
with his sick charge. There was a long interval, during which the
hearts of the two women were sick with anxiety; then Father Rolland
called them all back into the chamber. Uncle Ewen was lying quietly on
his pillow with his eyes half closed, and on the bed beside him lay
the crucifix and the priest's breviary.

"It is finished," said the little cur; "he is not quite clear in his
head, and he did not recognise me, but God is good, and it will
suffice. His mind is now calm, and he is prepared to approach, in a
humble and peaceful spirit, the presence of his Maker!"

"Amen," cried the widow, with a great load off her mind. At that
moment, while they were approaching the bedside, the Corporal opened
his eyes and gazed around him. His look was no longer vacant, but
quite collected. Suddenly his eyes fell upon the face of Father
Rolland; now, for the first time, he recognised him, and a faint flush
came into his dying face--

"A bas le Bourbon!" he cried, "VIVE L'EMPEREUR!"

And with that war-cry upon his lips he drifted out to join the great
bivouac of the armies of the dead.



Chapter 57. BONAPARTE



Come back now to the golden valleys where the bloody struggle of
armies is beginning; to the verge of the dark wood into which crept
that pitiable outcast man. As the man retreats into hiding, the figure
on horseback reaches the hill summit, dismounts, and stands looking in
the direction of Ligny. The rain pours down upon him, but he too is
heedless of the rain. Spurred and booted, wrapt in an old grey
overcoat, and wearing a cocked hat from which the rain drips heavily,
he stands wrapt in thought, posed, with his hands clasped behind his
back, his head sunk deep between his shoulders. His staff follow, and
stand in groups behind him and close to him.

The heavy sound of cannon continues, rolling in the far distance.
Presently it ceases, and the Figure is still there, looking in the
direction whence it comes. He paces up and down impatiently, but his
eyes are fixed now on the rainy road. Suddenly on the road appears the
figure of a mounted officer, galloping bareheaded as if for dear life.
He sees the group on the height above him and gallops up. In a few
minutes he is in the presence of the Emperor.

Bonaparte sees good tidings in the officer's face, but he opens and
reads the despatch which he brings; then he smiles, and speaks rapidly
to those surrounding him; in another moment he is encircled by a flash
of swords, and there is a cry of Vive 1' Empereur! The Prussians are
in retreat from Ligny; the first blow of the war is victory!

Without attempting to mount again, the Emperor walks quietly down the
hill.

When all again is still, the man creeps out of the wood; he is
trembling now and shivering, and his eyes are more wild and hungry
than ever. He hastens along like an animal that keeps close to the
ground. He sees the bright group moving along the foot of the hill,
but he creeps along the summit. The rain pours down in torrents, and
the prospect is darkening towards fall of night.

Still following the line of the wooded hill-tops, the man runs, now
fleet as a deer, through the shadows of the deepening darkness. He
meets no human soul. At last he pauses, close to a large building
erected on the hill-side and looking down on long reaches of fertile
pasture and yellow corn. It is one of those antique farms so common in
Belgium--a quaintly gabled dwelling surrounded by barns, byres, and
fruit gardens. But no light burns in any of the windows, and it seems
temporarily deserted, save for a great starved dog that prowls around
it, and flies moaning at the man's approach.

The man pauses at the open doer and looks down the hill. Suddenly he
is startled by the sound of horses' feet rapidly approaching; there is
a flash, a gleam in the darkness, and a body of cavalry gallop up.
Before they reach the door, he has plunged across the threshold.

Within all is dark, but he gropes his way across the great kitchen and
into a large inner chamber dimly lit by two great window casements. In
the centre stands a ladder leading to a small dark hay-loft, but the
room is comfortably furnished with rude old-fashioned chairs and
table, and has in one corner a great fire-place of quaintly carved
oak. It is obvious that the place has been lately occupied, for on the
table is a portion of a loaf with some coarse cheese. Great black
rafters stretch overhead, and above them is the opening of the loft.

There is a tramp of feet and a sound of voices; the soldiers are
entering the house, and approaching the room. Swift as thought the man
runs up the ladder, and disappears in the darkness of the loft above.

An officer enters, followed by attendants bearing a lamp. He looks
round the empty room, takes up the fragment of bread, and laughs; then
he gives some orders rapidly, and in a few moments they bring in an
armful of wood and kindle a fire on the hearth. As they do so, their
soaking clothes steam. Suddenly there comes from without the sound of
more horses galloping, of voices rapidly giving the word of command.
The farm is surrounded on every side by troops, and the rooms within
begin to fill. The fire burns up on the hearth of the large inner
chamber, and the air becomes full of a comfortable glow. Meantime the
rain falls in torrents, with occasional gleams of summer lightning.

Entering bareheaded, attendants now place on the table a small silvern
lamp, and draw close the great moth-eaten curtains which cover the two
antique casements. They speak low, as if in awe of some superior
presence. All at once, through the open door, comes a familiar Figure,
who wears his cocked hat on his head, and has his grey overcoat still
wrapt around him. It is the Emperor of France.

He casts off the dripping overcoat and stands in simple general's
uniform, warming his hands at the fire. They bring in plain bread and
wine, which they set before him on the table. He breaks a little of
the bread and drinks some the wine; then he speaks rapidly in a clear
low voice, and, glancing round the chamber, motions his attendants to
withdraw. They do so deferentially, closing the door softly behind
them. He is left entirely alone.

Alone in the great chamber, with the black rafters stretching over his
head dimly illumed by the red glare of the fire and the faint gleam of
the lamp. All is so silent that he can hear the pattering of the rain-
drops on the great casements, and on the roof above. Although the
place is surrounded by troops their movements are very hushed and
still, and, save for a low murmur of voices from the outer rooms,
there is no human sound. But overhead, buried in the blackness, a wild
face watches and looks down.

Slowly, with chin drooping forward on his breast, and hands clasped
upon his back, he paces up and down. The sentinel pacing to and fro
beyond the window is not more methodical in his march than he. The
rain pours without, and the wind moans, but he hears nothing; he is
too attentively listening to the sound of his own thoughts. What sees
he?--what hears he? Before his soul's vision great armies pass in
black procession, moving like storm-clouds on to some bourne of the
inexorable will; burning cities rise in the distance, like the ever-
burning towers of Hell; and the roar of far-off cannon mingles with
the sound of the breakers of Eternity thundering on a starry shore.
For this night, look you, of all nights, the voice of God is with the
man, bringing dark prescience of some approaching doom. Mark how the
firelight plays upon his cheeks, which are livid as those of a corpse!
See how the eagle eye sheathes itself softly, as if to close upon the
sorrow pent within! It is night, and he is alone--alone with the
shadows of Sleep and Death. Though he knows his creatures are waking
in the chambers beyond, and that his armies are stretching all around
him on the rainy plain, he is nevertheless supremely solitary. The
darkness seems a cage, from which his fretful mind would willingly
escape; he paces up and down, eager for the darkness to uplift and
disclose the stormy dawn.

All his plans are matured, all his orders are given; he is but resting
for a few brief hours before he takes the victory for which his soul
so long has waited. Victory?--ah, yes, that is certain!--his lurid
star will not fail at last to dart blinding beams into the eyes of his
enemies!---like a destroying angle will arise, more mighty and
terrible than he ever yet has been!--they think they have him in a
net, but they shall see!

He walks to the window, and peers out into the night. Although it is
summer, all is dark and cold and chill. As he stands for a moment
gazing forth, he hears low sounds from the darkness around him; sounds
as of things stirring in sleep. The measured foot-falls of the
sentries, the tramp of horses' feet, the cry of voices giving and
receiving the password of the night, all come upon his ear like
murmurs in a dream. He draws the curtain, and comes forward again into
the firelight, which wraps him from head to foot like a robe of blood.
The great black rafters of the roof stretch overhead, and as something
stirs among them, his dead-white face looks up... A rat crawling from
its hole and running along the beam--that is all.

Again he begins his monotonous march up and down.

There is a knock at the door. "Enter," he says, in a low clear voice;
and an aide-de-camp enters, bareheaded, with a despatch. He tears it
open, runs his eye over it, and casts it aside without a word. As the
aide-de-camp is returning he calls him back. Unless important
despatches arrive let no one disturb him for the next two hours; for
he will sleep.

The door is gently dosed, and he is again alone in the chamber. He
stands upon the hearth, and for a long time seems plunged in deep
reflection--his lips firmly set, his brow knitted. Presently he
approaches the table, again takes up the despatch, looks it through,
then once more places it aside. Unloosening his neckerchief from his
throat he approaches the old arm-chair of oak, which is set before the
fire. And now--merciful God! what is this? He has sunk upon his knees.

To pray? He?

Yes; here, in the loneliness of the night, quite unconscious that he
is watched by any human eyes, he secretly kneels, covers his eyes, and
prays. Not for long; after a minute he rises, and his face is
wonderfully changed--softened and sweetened by the religious light
that has shone upon it for a little space. No little child rising from
saying "Our Father" by an innocent bedside, could look more calm yet
doubtless he prayed for "victory," that his enemies might be blotted
from the face of the earth, that God might once more cement his throne
with blood and forge his sceptre of fire. "The pity of it, Iago; oh!
the pity of it!" Wise was he who said that "the wicked are only poor
blind children, who know not what they do."

At last, throwing himself into the arm-chair, he lies back, and
quietly closes his eyes.

To sleep? Can he, on whose head rests the fate of empires, sleep this
night? As easily and as soundly as a little child! The constant habit
of seeking slumber under all sorts of conditions--out in the dark
rain, on the bare ground, in the saddle, in the travelling-carriage--
has made sleep his slave. Scarcely has he closed his eyes when the
blessed dew falls upon them. And yet, O God, at this very hour, how
many good men are praying for rest that will not come!

As he sits there with his chin drooping upon his breast, his jaw
falling heavily, and his eyes half open yet glazed and sightless, one
might fancy him a corpse--so livid is his cheek, so wan and wild his
look. All the dark passions of the man, his buried cares and sorrows,
which the waking will crushed down, now flow up to the surface and
tremble there in ghastly lights and shades. He seems to have cast off
his strength, like a raiment only worn by day. Great God, how old he
looks! how pitiably old and human! One sees now, or one might see,
that his hair is tinged with grey it falls in thin straggling lines
upon his forehead, which is marked deep with weary lines. This is he
who to half a weeping world has seemed like God; who has let loose the
angels of his wrath, swift as the four winds, to devastate the earth;
who has stood as a shadow between man's soul and the sun which God set
up in heaven in the beginning, and who has swept as lightning to
scorch up the realms of emperors and kings. God "giveth His beloved
sleep!" And to those He loves not?--Sleep too! This is Napoleon--a
weary man, grey-haired and very pale; he slumbers sound, and scarcely
seems to dream. All over the earth lie poor guilty wretches, wailing
miserably, conscience-stricken because they have taken life--in
passion, in cruelty, in wrath; the Eye is looking at them as it looked
at Cain, and they cannot sleep. This man has waded in blood up to his
armpits; yea, the blood he has shed is as a river rushing up to stain
the footstool of the Throne of God. Yet he slumbers like a child.

The fire burns low, but it still fills the room with a dim light,
which mingles with the rays of the lamp upon the table. Up among the
black rafters all is dark; but what is that stirring there and gazing
down? The black loft looms above, and the ladder rests against the
topmost beams. Something moves up there, a shadow among the shadows.
Swift as lightning, and as silent, something descends;--it is the
figure of a man.



Chapter 58. "SIC SEMPER TYRANNUS"



The Emperor moans in his sleep, which is easily disturbed, but he does
not quite waken. The figure crouches for a moment in the centre of the
floor; then crawling forward, and turning towards the sleeper, it
approaches him without a sound, for its feet are naked. It rises
erect, revealing a face so wild and strange as to seem scarcely human,
but rather to resemble the lineaments of an apparition. The hair,
thickly sown with white, streams down over half-naked shoulders; the
cheeks are sunken as with famine or disease; the lips lie apart, like
the mouth of some panting wild animal. The form seems gigantic,
looming in the dim light of the lamp--and it is wrapt from head to
foot in hideous rags.

As the creature crawls towards the sleeping Emperor, something gleams
in his hands; it is a long bayonet-like knife, such as hunters use in
the Forest of Ardennes. His eyes burn with strange light, fixing
themselves upon the sleeper. If this is an assassin, then surely that
sleeper's time is come.

And now, knife in hand, he stands close to the Emperor, looking upon
his face, and reading it line by line; as he does so, his own gleams
spectre-like and wild and mad. His gaze is full of spiritual famine;
he seems as he looks to satisfy some passionate hunger. His eyes come
closer and closer, charmed towards the object on which they gaze,
until his breath could almost be felt upon the cold white cheek.
Simultaneously the knife is raised, as if to strike home to the
sleeper's heart.

At this moment the sleeper stirs, but still does not waken, for he is
thoroughly exhausted with many hours of vigil, and his sleep is
unusually heavy. If he but knew how near his sleep is to death! He has
climbed to the summit of earthly glory; he has chained to the
footstool of his throne all the kings of the earth; and is this to be
the end? To be slaughtered miserably at midnight by an assassin's
steel.

There is a movement as of feet in the outer chamber; then the voice of
the sentry is heard crying "Qui vive?" and all is still again. The
wild figure pauses, listening, still with large eyes fixed upon the
sleeper's face...

Still stars of eternity, gleaming overhead in the azure arch of
heaven, look down this night through the mundane mist and rain, and
behold, face to face, these two creatures whom God made. Spirit of
Life, that movest upon the air and upon the deep, enwrap them with the
mystery of Thy breath; for out of Thee each came, and unto Thee each
shall return! Which is Imperial now? The gigantic creature towering
there with wild face in all the power of maniac strength, or the
feeble form that lies open to the fatal blow that is to come? Behold
these two children of primval Adam, each with the flesh, blood,
heart, and soul of a man; each miraculously made, breathing the same
air, feeding on the same earthly food; and say, which is Abel? which
is Cain? The look of Cain is on the face of him who stands erect and
grips the knife--the look of Cain when he overthrew the altar and
prepared to strike down his lamb-like brother in God's sight... Yet so
surely as those stars shine in heaven, it is the wretched Abel who
hath arisen, snatching, mad with despair, the fratricidal knife!

Feature by feature, line by line, he reads the Emperor's face. His
gaze is fixed and awful, his face still preserves its ashen pallor.
His maniacal abstraction is no less startling than his frightful
physical strength. He hears a sentry approach the window and pause for
a moment, and the knife is lifted mechanically as if to strike; but
the sentry passes by, and the knife is dropped. Then he again catches
a movement from the antechamber. Perhaps they have heard sounds, and
are approaching. No; all again is still.

How soundly the Emperor sleeps! The lamplight illumes his fate and
marks its weary lines, while the firelight casts a red glow round his
reclining form. There is no Imperial grandeur here--only a weary
wight, tired, like any peasant dozing by the hearth; only a weak,
sallow, sickly creature, whom a strong man could crush down with a
blow of the hand. One hand lies on the arm of the chair--it is white
and small like a woman's or a child's; yet is it not the hand that has
struck down Christ and the Saints, and cast blood upon the shrines of
God? Is it not the hand of Cain, who slew his brother?

And now, O assassin, since such thou art, strike home! it is thy turn
now. Thou hast waited and watched on wearily for this--thou hast
prayed madly to God and to Our Lady of Hate that this moment might
come--and lo! the Lord has put thine enemy, the enemy of thee and of
thy kind, into thy hand. Kill, kill, kill! This is Napoleon, whose
spirit has gone forth, like Cain's, to blight and make bloody the
happy homes of earth, who has wandered from east to west knee-deep in
blood, who has set on every land his seal of flame, who has cast on
every field, where once the white wheat grew, the bones of Famine and
the ashes of Fire. Remember D'Enghien, Pichegru, Palm; and kill!
Remember Jena, Eylau; and kill! Dost thou hesitate? Then, remember
Moscow! Remember the Beresina, choked up with its forty thousand dead!
Remember the thousands upon thousands sleeping in the great snows!--
and kill, kill, kill!

Dost thou doubt that this is he, that thou hesitatest so long? Thy
face is tortured, and thy hand trembles, and thy soul is faint. Thou
camest hither to behold a Shadow, an Image, a thing like that Form of
black marble set up as a symbol in the dark earth. Far away the
Emperor seemed colossal, unreal, inhuman: a portent with the likeness
of a fiend. To that thou didst creep, thinking to grapple with the
Execrable. And now thou art disarmed, because thou seest only a poor
pale weary Man!

Think of thy weary nights and famished days; and kill! Think of the
darkness that has come upon thy life, of the sorrow that has separated
thee from all thou lovest best--think too of the millions who have
cried even as sheep driven to the slaughter; and kill! He had no pity;
do thou have none. Remember, it is this one life against the peace and
happiness of Earth. Obliterate this creature, and Man perhaps is
saved. If he awakens again, war will awaken!--Fire, Famine, and
Slaughter, will awaken too! Kill, kill!...

...The sleeper stirs once more, his glazed eyes half open, and his
head rolls to one side. His face preserves a marble pallor, but is lit
by a strange sad smile. He murmurs to himself, and his small hand
opens and shuts--like the child's little hand that clutches at the
butterfly in sleep, when--

"One little wandering arm is thrown

At random on the counterpane.

And oft the fingers close in haste

As if their childish owner chased

The butterfly again."

A crown or a butterfly--is not all one? And in God's eyes, perchance,
he who sleeps here is only a poor foolish child!

Be that as it may, God has drawn round the sleeper's form a circle
which thou canst not pass. Thine indeed is not the stuff of which
savage assassins are made, and though there is madness in thy brain,
there is still love in thine heart. Kill thou canst not now, though
thou camest to kill. Lost as thou art, thou feelest no hate even for
thine enemy, now; thou knowest indeed how poor and frail a creature
thou hast been fearing and hating so long. God made him and God sent
him; bloody as he is, he too is God's child.

Perhaps if he had not prayed before he slept it might have been
easier; but he did pray, and his face became beautiful for the moment,
and fearlessly as a child he sank to rest. Wilt thou kill what God has
sanctified with His sleep? Because this creature has broken the
sacraments of Nature, wilt thou become as he? No; thou hast seen him
and thou knowest him--that is enough--thou wilt leave him in the hands
of God.

Amen! Safely and justly mayest thou so leave him, for the vengeance of
God is sure as the mercy of God is deep. One spectre of a slain man
comes to thee nightly in dream; how many come to him? Perhaps not one,
though at his bidding thousands upon thousands have been miserably
slain. Yet be thou assured, though no ghosts rise, the Spirit of Life
will demand an account. Look again at the closed Imperial eyes! See
the cold light sleeping deep and pitiless on that face that ruled a
world! To those dead eyes, cold as a statue's stony orbs, thou, poor
wretch, hast been offered up by a world grown mad like thee. As an
Idol on a pedestal, as an Idol of stone with dull dumb stare surveying
its worshippers, this man has stood aloft supremely crowned. Not while
he stood up there, could the Spirit of Life find him; not till the
hands of man have cast him down, shall the Spirit of Love chasten him
and turn him back to flesh...When men go by the place where the Idol
is lying low, and murmur, beholding it broken upon the ground, "This
was Napoleon! the thing we wondered at and worshipped for a time!" and
smiling turn away, then perhaps in the cold breast the human heart
shall beat more freely, humbled and awe-stricken before its Maker. .

...Turn, poor wretch, ere thou goest, and look again. There sleeps on
that Imperial face no loving living light, but an inward eating fire--
a fire consuming and destroying and redeeming in its own despite the
soul on which it feeds. He who hath had no mercy for mankind shall
learn the bitter lesson of self-mercy, and, realising his own utter
loneliness and pain yearn outward to the woes of all the world. And in
that hour this cold light thou beholdest shall spread through all his
spirit, and become as that mad sorrow and despair which lights now
those wretched eyes of thine. Leave him then to God, and go thy way. .
.

...The man no longer holds the knife. On silent naked feet he has
withdrawn back towards the great inner casement of the chamber. For a
moment he pauses with one last look--trembling like one who, having
plunged into a raging sea, is suddenly uplifted by the hair, and
gazing with wild eyes and quivering lips on the pale Imperial face.
Then he draws back the heavy curtain, and, dashing open the great
window, leaps out into the darkness.

There is a loud cry in the distance, then the sound of shots, then a
tramp of feet,--and silence. The man has disappeared as he came, like
a ghost of the night.

Meanwhile, the sleeper, startled by the sounds, has sprung up in his
chair. As he stands trembling and looking round him, there lies in the
gloom at his feet a huge naked knife, such as hunters use; but he sees
it not, and little dreams that such a weapon only a few minutes since
was pointed at his own heart. His attendants enter anxiously and find
the window open, but no clue as to what hand threw it wide. The hero
of a hundred battles shivers, for he is superstitious, but he cannot
help them to an explanation.

But now--to horse! He has rested too long, and it will soon be dawn...
Drums beat and trumpets sound, as he rides on through the dark night,
his heavy travelling carriage, surrounded by lancers, lumbering
behind. Leave him still to God... Close before him, clouding the lurid
star of his destiny, rises the blood-red Shadow--WATERLOO

Epilogue.

A year has passed away. The yellow lamps of the broom are again
burning on the crags; the flocks of sea-birds have come from the south
to whiten the great sea-wall; the corn is growing golden inland, and
the lark, poised over the murmuring farms, is singing loud; while the
silvern harvest of the deep is growing too, and the fishermen creep
from calm to calm, gathering it up in their brown nets. The sea is
calm as glass, and every crag is mirrored in it from base to brow. It
is the anniversary of the great battle which decided fatally the
destinies of Bonaparte.

On the summit of the cliff immediately overlooking the Cathedral of
St. Gildas sit two figures, gazing downward. Far below them, over the
roofless Cathedral wall, hover flocks of gulls, and the still green
sea, faintly edged with foam that does not seem to stir, is
approaching the red granite Gate of St. Gildas. Away beyond, further
than eyes can see, stretches the Ocean, faintly shaded by the soft
grey mists of Heaven.

One figure, very gaunt and tall, sits like a statue, with large grey
eyes turned seaward; his hair is quite grey and flows on to his
shoulders, his face is marked with strange furrows, left by some
terrible sorrow or terror that has passed away. The other figure, that
of a beautiful young girl, sits just below him, holding his hand and
looking up into his face. She wears a dark dress and saffron coif,
both signs of mourning, and her face is very pale.

Day after day, in the golden summer weather, the two come here and sit
for hours in silence and in peace. Day by day the girl watches for the
passing away of the cloud which obscures the soul of her companion. He
seems--why, she knows not--to derive a strange solace from merely
sitting here, holding her hand, and contemplating the waters. His eyes
seem vacant, but strange spiritual light still survives in their
depths.

To-day, he speaks, not turning his gaze from the Sea.

"Marcelle!"

"Yes, Rohan!"

"If one could sail, and sail, and sail, out there, one would come to
the rock where he is sitting, with the waves all round him. Sometimes
I see him yonder, looking over the black waters. He is by himself; and
his face looks white as it did when I saw it, before the great battle
was fought!"

She gazes at him in troubled tenderness, her eyes dim with tears.

"Rohan, dear! of whom do you speak?"

He smiles but does not answer. His words are a mystery to her. Since
the day when, after long months of absence, he returned home a broken
man, he has often spoken of wondrous things--of battles, of the
Emperor, of strange meetings, but it has all seemed like witless
wandering. She has been waiting wearily till the cloud should lift and
all become dear; and there seems hope, for day by day he has grown
more peaceful and gentle, and now he can be guided like a child.

He is silent, still gazing seaward. Behind him rises the great Menhir,
with the village lying far beneath. The sunlight falls above him and
around him, clothing as with a white veil his figure and that of the
gentle girl. All is not lost, for with his desolation her love has
grown, and she herself remains to him, chastened, subdued, faithful
unto death...

...But he does not rave when he speaks of one who lingers in the waste
out yonder. Far away, under a solitary palm-tree, sits another Form,
waiting, watching, and dreaming, while the waters of the deep, sad and
strange as the waters of Eternity, stretch measureless around, and
break with weary murmurs at his feet.

So sit those twain, thousands of miles apart.

Each cheek, on hand, gazing upon the Sea!



THE END



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