cuddled under a protecting hollow of the hills ; to the
south, Costebelle's snowy church-tower arose above a
forest, and beyond it the Golden Islands lay, like sleep-
ing clouds upon the sea's blue heart.
" Natalie," said Denis, " it is now a year."
He took a cigar from his pocket and bit off the end.
" PIERROTIN " FROM PARIS 277
" A year since when ? " she asked.
He lighted the cigar.
"Since you ordered me to let you have twelve
months to think about things."
" I have decided, dear Denis."
" How ? Will you marry me, Natalie ? Please do.
It is so proper and convenient. Then, when our dear
old women go away to God, you will have the basket
shop and the great bank of arundo canes by the river,
and I shall go on with the vines, and we can live just
where you please."
" It seems to promise very well for us, Denis."
"Yes, it does. And I will try and be a good
husband and make my girl the happiest girl in the
She smiled and blinked a little through tears. He
put down his cigar carefully and spread his great
arms round her, and kissed her lips and eyes and ears
and shiny hair. She rested well content in his
" I should think Ascensiontide would be a very
good time to marry, Natalie," he said, after he had let
her go again and picked up his cigar.
" I will consider about that, Denis," she answered.
They talked a long time, and he made many
sensible propositions, lacking emotion or imagination.
Even the glorious happiness of the hour did not render
him excited. Sometimes he stopped talking and kissed
her and hugged her with slow, powerful embraces that
made her gasp, but his cigar did not go out until he
had finished it. Then he lighted another.
" What will your mother think ? " asked Natalie,
" She will be very much pleased ; but her mind is
278 THE FOLK AFIELD
too full of brother Jacques to spare many thoughts for
me just now."
" What of him ? I do not remember him at all."
" He is coming home. He has a very bad cough,
and intends to spend some months here until the
summer has come. We call him ' Pierrotin,' you know.
He is an odd man and makes people laugh, like a
comedian. I never thought much of him, because he
has no religion worth mentioning."
" But your mother } "
"She liked him best. A mother always likes the
queer cubs best, whether she is a dog, or a pig, or a
Presently the engaged couple returned to Aunt
" Now we will go down the hill and drink tea with
my mother, and Natalie shall have the family brooch
that is waiting for her," said Denis. " I am in great
joy," he continued, without exhibiting the emotion.
"Come, Aunt Ursule, we will go down on to that
green grass just below here and dance a little."
But she refused.
" I have made my dinner," she ansM^ered. " One
owes respect to such a dinner. To dance would be
very disrespectful. But my heart dances, I am glad
about this. Now give me your arm, and we will go
down, and I shall talk to Mama Moreau, and we can
cry with joy into our tea together."
A SPIRIT of great restlessness brooded upon Natalie
after her promise to Denis. The match pleased
everybody, and her friends said that the girl was
fortunate to win such a solid and honest man. She
knew it ; she told herself a thousand times a day that
marriage with the vine-grower must mean content,
prosperity, and lasting peace. Yet the thought of
lasting peace at eighteen has no special charm. In her
young heart was a vague longing for something a little
different from Denis. She wished that he had a few
more ideas. " He is a good, nourishing pudding, made
with rice or bread," she told herself. " When we are
sick, we like it ; when we are well and happy, we want
something with more plums." This was her way of
describing the natural feminine emotions. She desired
a ray of romance upon her full-blooded, healthy, young
existence. And now it came.
Natalie worked when she pleased at plaiting of the
daintier wicker wares at her aunt's establishment. The
bulk of the labour was in male hands, and the men
turned out countless flower-baskets, woven from the
split stems of the great arundo reed. But she was not
fond of any sort of toil, and often took her midday
meal into the woods, or went picking flowers with
friends, if she could get other girls to play truant.
A day came when Natalie returned to the crest of
Fenouillet alone. She desired to sit under the cross
where she had accepted Denis, and see the world out-
280 THE FOLK AFIELD
spread at her feet, and dream of the future. None
knew her determination. Once she thought of bidding
her lover meet her there ; but she changed her mind.
Natalie climbed up by the familiar path and
breathed deep of the lavender and myrtle and sweet
wild thyme that clothe those sunny slopes. Then she
tramped upward and was just about to approach the
cross when she observed a man kneeling beside it. He
appeared to be much moved by his thoughts. She
turned to retreat, but the man's eye, long trained to the
twinkle of a petticoat, had caught sight of her. He
saw her sunny hair above the bushes and jumped off his
knees and cried out :
" Do not turn, mademoiselle. It is only a poor
sinner who was saying his prayers. I have done."
ā -.i She hesitated, and in a moment the man stood by
" Allow me," he said. " The rocks are a little
slippery with the blazing sun. I will hold your basket
and your hand."
Natalie stared in amazement.
The stranger resembled Denis in a manner quite
bewildering ; but he was smaller of limb and far more
vivacious of countenance. He spoke more quickly and
more gracefully. He bowed, took off his hat, and used
his hands with a delicate turn from the wrist. There
was an atmosphere of distinction about him.
"You are amazed to see a great grown man with
tears in his eyes," he said. " But you are a provincial.
You must make allowance for a young fellow whose life
is spent in Paris. I come here from the sleet and rain,
from the horrid, biting cold and sulky skies ; and I
climb this hill and see what God can do when He likes.
" PIERROTIN " FROM PARIS 281
And I stand under this great cross ; and I look down
and observe this wonderful red lichen on the rocks
underneath. It is like golden blood spilled there.
And I think of the Blood of God poured out for us all ;
and even for a poor wheelwright like me. Then I fall
on my knees and the humble tears come into my eyes,
She nodded and took his word for the tears. None
" You had better put on your hat again," she said.
"The sun is very fierce for a man's head."
" How kind to think of that ! "
He looked admiringly at her own rich locks rolled
in abundance over an amber-coloured tortoiseshell comb.
" But the great sun loves your curls, mademoiselle !
Yet I think he is jealous of them. They are brighter
than his gold. I swear they are ! "
Now this was the sort of thing that Denis did not
say, and could not have said, since the art was denied
Natalie had a frank spirit, and she feared no man.
"Who are you.?" she asked. "Yet I think I
" Impossible. I am merely one Jacques Moreau,
at your service. I lived in Paris, but the vile winter
has given me a great cough, so I come here to my
mother's house for the present. They call me ' Pier-
rotin.' It is a nickname that I have had ever since I
was a little boy."
" You are Denis Moreau's brother .? "
" You know him, perhaps } "
She nodded, but kept her secret.
"Yes, I know him, and his poor mother too."
282 THE FOLK AFIELD
" I love her with the love of ten sons. She is a
saint under her physical misfortunes. I would cut off
my hands if I could make her walk about again ; but
that can never be."
She looked into his eyes. They were dark and
large, like those of Denis ; but their expression was
different. Her lover's shone steady and solemn ; those
of " Pierrotin " played and flashed as lightning flashes.
They never kept upon her face. They peeped and
twinkled, darted glances, then turned away ; now rose
to heaven in connection with some pious ejaculation,
now drooped modestly to earth ; now for an instant
blazed straight into hers and then shot off again.
" You are very like your brother. Monsieur Jacques,"
But there is deep-rooted prejudice in the human
mind against the imputation of a likeness. Nature's
self seems to implant it. She abhors a facsimile as
much as a vacuum.
" Pierrotin " v/as not pleased. He smiled faintly.
" I have been told so before," he said. " I cannot
see it myself, I am glad to say. Nor can my mother."
" Surely Denis is handsome enough ? " she asked,
" In his way. I love him. He is my brother.
But ā well ā how shall I say it ? Denis is of the earth.
He is slow ā stolid ; his eyes look at the world like a
cow's eyes. One can almost see him chewing the cud.
I have ideas ā I sing ā I can cry when I see this scene
from Fenouillet. They are blessed tears. I am not
ashamed of them. They mean that God has given me
a soul. Denis could not cry."
" Your expression is different from his. I grant that/'
" PIERROTIN " FROM PARIS 283
" He has no expression. His face only brightens a
little when he shoots something with his gun. I hate
to kill things. Let them all sup their fill of life and
sunshine and love. Death lasts such a long time."
" He is going to be married, Monsieur Jacques."
" Yes ā what courage she must have ! I long to see
her. Do you know her .-' Perhaps you do, Natalie
Chaperon. She must be very nice if Denis is a judge.
But is he .? "
" I don't know ā not much of a judge perhaps."
" Pierrotin " rattled on and gave the girl no time to
answer a shower of questions. Then he asked again if
Natalie knew his brother's betrothed.
" Yes, I know her," she answered.
" How interesting ! Now be frank. You under-
stand human nature ; I see that. You are very original.
You have a soul. Yes ā I say it. No girl without a
soul would climb up here to eat her dinner all alone for
love of the beautiful world. Well, what do you think
of her, honestly .-ā¢ "
" Not much," said Natalie,
" Ah ! but then you must make allowances. There
are few so lovely as you. Forgive my bluntness. We
men only lie to the plain girls. A beautiful girl makes
us speak the truth ā like God. Your looking-glass sets
you such a high standard. But she is a good girl, of
course .'' You can assure me that Natalie is a good
girl } "
" Not particularly ā much like other girls."
" Most girls are naturally good," he asserted. " And
they would make us good if we would only let them."
ā¢* Denis doesn't think so," she answered. " He says
that most girls are bad."
284 THE FOLK AFIELD
" I will never, never believe that."
Presently Natalie opened her basket and he begged
for a little food before she offered it. For some reason
his request pleased her exceedingly. Still, she kept her
secret from him ; but an hour later accident revealed it,
for, on reaching the valley, Denis met them and took
Natalie into his arms, much to Pierrotin's surprise.
" What is this ? What are you doing, Denis ? " he
"Kissing Natalie Chaperon, who is going to marry
me after Ascensiontide," answered the big man solemnly.
THE time was one of mighty grief and fierce unrest
in France, Peace had just been concluded with
Germany, and the heart of the nation throbbed and
mourned her wasted blood. The reorganisation of the
army became the burning question of the hour, and all
lesser considerations remained in abeyance. France set
forth to show her marvellous and elastic genius. She
began to raise up an army, like an enchanter, at the
wave of a wand. None was exempt from this trumpet-
call of a defeated nation. Only in the rarest cases
could any adult and vigorous youth evade the universal
demand. Denis Moreau, however, belonged to those
who might plead circumstances. He felt no objection
to join the army, but, since he was the sole support
of a widowed mother, his country did not call him.
" Pierrotin," on the contrary, could hardly escape. He
became uneasily conscious of this fact after spending a
fortnight at home among the vines. Much happened
during that fortnight, and the younger son, though he
brightened his mother's bedridden existence, did nothing
to make his brother more happy. He was evasive ; he
said little about his work in Paris and nothing concerning
his friends there. The wheelwright saw much of Natalie
and her aunt. Both found him exceedingly good com-
pany, and the old woman often invited the volatile youth
to Hyeres that he might make her laugh. He was
witty, and told a great many funny new stories to
please Aunt Ursule.
286 THE FOLK AFIELD
Denis happened to be unusually busy on the land at
this season. Great shining horses tramped between the
rows of the vines with a plough behind them. New
beds of artichokes had to be planted. The sun bred life
by magic, as France was breeding an army.
One day " Pierrotin " walked with Natalie along a
road in the valley and she chid him for melancholy.
" I grant I am sad. Who would not be .-' " he
answered. " What have I to do with shedding of blood
and swords and guns } I am a child of nature, and a
wheelwright by trade. Conscription is a damnable
thing. Why should I be taught how to kill people if I
don't want to learn } "
" France must be revenged. But revenge is not for
gentle spirits like yours, ' Pierrotin,' " she admitted.
" It is not. And yet ā I am better far away from
here. I wish I had stopped in Paris and coughed my-
self to death. Little did I dream ā "
He broke off and she did not answer. He had
drifted into this dangerous subject before, and Natalie
knew what was in his mind. Presently he spoke again.
" To meet your kindred soul ! I have sometimes
seen a butterfly meet its kindred soul ! It is a sublime
sight. But to meet too late ! The world has no more
Natalie knew all about this. She was in love with
" Pierrotin," and quite understood the tragedy too. She
was very sorry for herself, and very sorry for " Pierrotin,"
He stooped at the edge of a field and picked her a
bunch of purple anemones,
" Keep these, " he said, " He will surely not mind
that .'' When I am far away, or perhaps a shattered life-
less thing ā "
"PIERROTIN FROM PARIS 287
" ' Pierrotin ' ! I can't bear it ! "
" You see, we only live our lives once. Denis told
you I was irreligious. That was not true. I have my
own religion. Yes, and I obey my conscience. I go off
to shed my blood and fall before a German cannon, per-
haps. Who cares, except my mother } I shall never
see you again ā unless you wish it. Fate is a great
tyrant. If I had coughed last year, and come here and
seen you before you promised him ! " ā
" Fate is a tyrant, as you say."
" You should do what the soul tells you, Natalie.
It is madness not to listen to the soul. But what must
be, must. I should like to go before it happens. I
don't think I could see you married to Denis. When I
am a soldier, I shall fire one shot, I expect ā only one.
That will be into my mouth."
"You would not kill yourself, * Pierrotin ' } "
" I do not think I can live if I am to lose you,
" Life is a terrible thing the moment you have grown
" Your aunt has been so good to me. Sometimes
I almost think she likes me."
" She does, indeed ā better than dear Denis ; because
you are livelier. She even wished that it had been you.
But what am I saying .'' "
"You love me, Natalie ! If I die to-morrow, I can
die content. You love me. That is enough."
" I can't help it. I suppose I am wicked. But I
love you with all my heart, ' Pierrotin.' "
"Then you ought not to marry Denis. It is a
dreadful thing to marry a man as a duty if you love
somebody else better."
288 THE FOLK AFIELD
" I must ! I must ! His mother."
" And mine, Natalie. I will not deceive you. I
have talked about this at my mother's bedside. My tears
have fallen on her poor thin hands. And her tears have
fallen too. She married a man she did not love, Natalie.
He was like dear Denis ā good and useful, but without
any soul. She might as well have married a cork-tree.
She understands me almost as well as you do. She
is desolated. She wanted to talk to Denis, but I would
not allow it."
Suddenly, in a frenzy of helpless grief at her fate,
Natalie burst into wild tears, and * Pierrotin,' fearing that
she would fling herself down by the way, like a child in
a passion, put his arms round her. He also kissed her
and she held him tightly, and, becoming very hysterical,
called rather loudly upon Heaven to tell her what she
ought to do.
At this embarrassing moment a man appeared from
a path that ran here through a hedge into the main road.
The man happened to be Denis Moreau.
" Thank God ! He it was who sent you ! " cried
" Pierrotin." " Hasten, hasten support her ! She weeps
ā alas ! for me. I have told Natalie that I must join
Denis regarded his brother with a slow but searching
glance, like a toad looks at a fly.
" Go ! " he said ; " I will talk to her."
Whereupon the younger man, who was very quick
to mark the meaning of a voice but lacked physical
courage, made all haste to depart.
THE fact that Denis was exceedingly angry with
" Pierrotin " did not alter the circumstance that
Natalie loved " Pierrotin," and that his mother also loved
" Pierrotin" and desired his welfare before anything else
in the world. Mama Moreau gloried in the return of
her favourite. Now she was ransacking her brains how
best to keep him by her. She had quite decided that if
he went to the army it would kill her.
" He is my sunshine," she said to her elder son.
" I love you both, but life is life, and we must be honest.
My health is better since your brother returned to us.
I do not feel the pain so much, and I am not in such a
hurry to die. Why should he go back to Paris } They
will never give him a share of the business where he
Denis considered in his slow and phlegmatic way.
" I am afraid that Jacques will hardly make a
husbandman," he said.
" Why not .-' He can be anything he likes. He
could learn all about the grapes in a season, if he turned
his mind to it. He has genius. But that is nothing.
There is this matter of Natalie Chaperon. I have felt
very sad for you, my son. The girl likes your brother
better than she likes you. It is terrible, but true."
" I am not quite sure yet," he said very calmly.
" If I thought it true ā well, I will talk it out with
Natalie. I want to do my duty. It is a very unfortun-
ate thing for me."
290 THE FOLK AFIELD
Two days later Denis walked and talked with Natalie.
She wept a great many tears, and explained that she
liked Denis as much as ever ; but confessed that her
regard for " Pierrotin " exceeded any emotion her young
heart had hitherto known. He preserved a marvellous
stolidity, and his sufferings were concealed from her
" We must do right," he said. " I have to think of
my mother and you. I do not consider my brother,
because he has not pleased me. I am, in fact, very
angry with him. He made you love him. I do not
think it was at all a proper thing."
" I love you next, dear Denis. I can only tell the
" To be next is not much good. But to tell the
truth is quite proper. Well, as I say, there is my
mother and there is you. She would like you to marry
Jacques Moreau and make him happy. Then you
would come to the farm, and there would not be room
" He must go to the army."
" If he does, my mother will very likely die. It is
a curious thing, but I love my mother better than she
loves me. It is no doubt natural that she should like
my brother best."
She spoke earnestly.
" We are none of us worthy to black your boots,
"It isn't that," he answered. "You were always
too good for me ā and for any man. Still, this is now
merely a matter of business. There is a question ā the
vines. I must leave you to ' Pierrotin,' it seems, and to
my mother. But there are my vines. At least they
'PIERROTIN " FROM PARIS 291
will be my vines some day. I cannot give up my
" I wish I was dead," said Natalie. " I am not good
enough for either of you."
" Do not think that. You are not to blame for what
you cannot help. Say nothing until I speak to you again.
I will consider a little."
He took off his hat and left her solemnly.
The vine-grower was a slow thinker, and for three
days and three nights he pondered this problem. Then
he acted and spoke with his brother.
" The happiness of two women is more than that of
one man," he said. "You know what it is of which
I speak. You are the breath of our mother's life. I am
not necessary, except to the vines. Old Jules cannot go
to the army. He will watch over the vines. Do not
interfere with him or the land. Natalie loves you better
than she loves me ā so all is said."
" And you .'' " asked " Pierrotin." He was too much
astonished to speak more.
" I have already done what I believed to be right.
Yesterday evening I spoke to the authorities. There is
no difficulty. One of us must join the army. They
care not which. I am going to do so."
"You are a hero ; you are a god, Denis ! "
" Do not thank me, please. I am doing this for
Natalie and my mother. Now go away out of my sight,
Jacques Moreau. And do not speak to me more than
you can help during the next few days. I dislike you
very much. It is a pity, but I do not feel as a brother
should feel towards you. I cannot help believing that
you are a very poor thing."
DENIS MOREAU treated the sensation created by
his conduct with indifference. To the average
French mind his attitude was incomprehensible. Then,
learning the truth, his neighbours exalted the vine-grower
into a hero, and said unkind things of his mother, his
former sweetheart, and his brother. The recruit pro-
ceeded with his affairs and lost no time. A week after
his determination was formed he happened to be at
Toulon, for there was much business to transact in his
small world before he went out of it. To the station
presently he returned, and walked upon the platform
until the train for La Crau should arrive. Suddenly a
woman spoke to him, and, looking up, he saw a hand-
some, dark girl with a hungry face, from which blazed
a pair of very astonished eyes. The young woman
wore black, and Denis Moreau observed that she was
budding into motherhood.
" Who, in the name of the good God, are you ? "
He had never seen her before, but her amazement
and evident agitation excused the extraordinary nature
of her salute.
" I am called Denis Moreau, madame. You seem
" I was ; but I remember. There is still a Provi-
dence. You were sent to me. Will you be so kind as
to come into the waiting-room and read a letter ? It
"PIERROTIN" FROM PARIS 293
was written, four days ago, by Jacques Moreau to me.
He is your brother ; is it not so ? Your face tells
" He is my younger brother, I will read his letter
if you wish it."
A few moments later they sat in the third-class
waiting-room at Toulon railway station, and Denis per-
used the letter : ā
" My Adored Suzanne, ā How shall I tell you that Provi-
dence has thrown a great and glorious opportunity to me ? You
and I are not foolish. We take big views. We are poets. We
shall very soon be a father and a mother. Well, there is here a
little straw-coloured girl who loves me. You know what fools
women are about me ; and 1 laugh in my sleeve and say, 'They
are ghosts ; they are burlesques ; they are shadows of women.
There is only one woman, and she is my wife.' But this Natalie
Chaperon has a rich aunt, and the aunt makes much of me too.
Now here is a romance worth thinking about. I am a bachelor
still here, for you know that not even to my mother did 1 tell
the secret of our marriage, because you wished that secret kept
for the present. Now you see it was my good fairy that made
me obey you. Money ! Think of it. New dresses for you
and a white perambulator for the baby. And nobody any the
wiser. I stop here for a little while, marry Natalie in great
style, and send you a piece of wedding-cake ! It is drama !
Then, before you have eaten the cake almost, I come back to
Paris with a good many hundred-franc notes. All this is possible,
thanks to the position of affairs in my home. My dear mother
does not like me to be out of her sight. My brother thirsts for
military glory, and prays me to take his place and let him join