on the security of her Government stock; the interest of six
years, Gerard calculated, should pay off the debt, capital and
interest. The loan was concluded in the course of the month
of March; and by that time Gerard, with Fresquin's assist-
ance, had finished all the preliminary operations, leveling,
boring, observations, and estimates. The news of the great
scheme had spread through the country and roused the poor
people; and the indefatigable Farrabesche, Colorat, Clousier,
Roubaud, and the Mayor of Montegnac, all those, in fact, who
were interested in the enterprise for its own sake or for Mme.
Graslin's, chose the workers or gave the names of the poor
who deserved to be employed.
Gerard bought partly for M. Grossetete, partly on his own
account, some thousand acres of land on the other side of the
THE COUNTRY PARSON 219
road through Montegnac. Fresquin, his foreman, also took
five hundred acres, and sent for his wife and children.
In the early days of April 1833, M. Grossetete came to
Montegnac to see the land purchased for him by Gerard ; but
the principal motive of his journey was the arrival of Cath-
erine Curieux. She had come by the diligence from Paris to
Limoges, and Mme. Graslin was expecting her. Grosse-
tete found Mme. Graslin about to start for the church. M.
Bonnet was to say a mass to ask the blessing of Heaven on the
work about to begin. All the men, women, and children
M. Grossetete brought forward a woman of thirty or
thereabouts, who looked weak and out of health. "Here is
your protegee'' he said, addressing Veronique.
"Are you Catherine Curieux?" Mme. Graslin asked.
For a moment Veronique looked at her; Catherine was
rather tall, shapely, and pale ; the exceeding sweetness of her
features was not belied by the beautiful soft gray eyes. In
the shape of her face and the outlines of her forehead there
was a nobleness, a sort of grave and simple majesty, some-
times seen in very young girls' faces in the country, a kind of
flower of beauty, which field work, and the constant wear
of household cares, and sunburn, and neglect of appearance,
wither with alarming rapidity. From her attitude as she
stood it was easy to discern that she would move with the
ease of a daughter of the fields and something of an added
grace, unconsciously learned in Paris. If Catherine had
never left the Correze, she would no doubt have been by this
time a wrinkled and withered woman, the bright tints in her
face would have grown hard; but Paris, which had toned
down the high color, had preserved her beauty ; and ill-health,
weariness, and sorrow had given to her the mysterious gifts
of melancholy and of that inner life of thought denied to poor
toilers in the field who lead an almost animal existence. Her
dress likewise marked a distinction between her and the
peasants ; for it abundantly displayed the Parisian taste which
220 THE COUNTRY PARSON
even the least coquettish women are so quick to acquire.
Catherine Curieux, not knowing what might await her, and
unable to judge the lady in whose presence she stood, seemed
"Do you still love Farrabesche ?" asked Mme. Graslin, when
Grossetete left the two women together for a moment.
"Yes, madame," she answered, flushing red.
"But if you sent him a thousand francs while he was in
prison, why did you not come to him when he came out ? Do
you feel any repugnance for him ? Speak to me as you would
to your own mother. Were you afraid that he had gone
utterly to the bad ? that he cared for you no longer ?"
"No, madame; but I can neither read nor write. I was
living with a very exacting old lady; she fell ill; we sat up
with her of a night, and I had to nurse her. I knew the time
was coming near when Jacques would be out of prison, but
I could not leave Paris until the lady died. She left me noth-
ing, after all my devotion to her and her interests. I had
made myself ill with sitting up with her and the hard work
of nursing, and I wanted to get well again before I came back.
I spent all my savings, and then I made up my mind to go
into the Hopital Saint-Louis, and have just been discharged
Mme. Graslin was touched by an explanation so simple.
"Well, but, my dear," she said, "tell me why you left your
people so suddenly; what made you leave your child? why
did you not send them news of yourself, or get some one to
wr ite ?"
For all answer, Catherine wept.
"Madame," she said at last, reassured by the pressure of
Veronique's hand, "I daresay I was wrong, but it was more
than I could do to stop in the place. It was not that I felt
that I had done wrong ; it was the rest of them ; I was afraid
of their gossip and talk. So long as Jacques was here in
danger, he could not do without me; but when he was gone,
I felt as if I could not stop. There was I, a girl with a child
THE COUNTRY PARSON 2^1
and no husband ! The lowest creature would have been better
than I. If I had heard them say the least word about Benja-
min or his father., I do not know what I should have done. I
should have killed myself perhaps, or gone out of my mind.
My own father or mother might have said something hasty in
a moment of anger. Meek as I am, I am too irritable to bear
hasty words or insult. I have been well punished; I could
not see my child, and never a day passed but I thought of
him ! I wanted to be forgotten, and forgotten I am. No-
body has given me a thought. They thought I was dead, and
yet many and many a time I felt I would like to leave every-
thing to have one day here and see my little boy "
"Your little boy see, Catherine, here he is !"
Catherine looked up and saw Benjamin, and something like
a feverish shiver ran through her.
"Benjamin," said Mme. Graslin, "come and kiss your
"My mother?" cried Benjamin in amazement. He flung
his arms round Catherine's neck, and she clasped him to her
with wild energy. But the boy escaped, and ran away crying,
"I will find WTO /"
Mme. Graslin, seeing that Catherine's strength was failing,
made her sit down ; and as she did so her eyes met M. Bonnet's
look, her color rose, for in that keen glance her confessor read
her heart. She spoke tremulously.
"I hope, M. le Cure," she said, "that you will marry Cath-
erine and Farrabesche at once. Do you not remember M.
Bonnet, my child? He will tell you that Farrabesche has
behaved himself like an honest man since he came back.
Every one in the countryside respects him ; if there is a place
in the world where you may live happily with the good opinion
of every one about you, it is here in Montegnac. With God's
will, you will make your fortune here, for you shall be my
tenants. Farrabesche has all his citizen's rights again."
"This is all true, my daughter," said the cure.
As he spoke, Farrabesche came in, led by his eager son.
Face to face with Catherine in Mme. Graslin's presence, his
222 THE COUNTRY PARSON
face grew white, and he was mute. He saw how active the
kindness of the one had been for him, and guessed all that
the other had suffered in her enforced absence. Veronique
turned to go with M. Bonnet, and the cure for his part wished
to take Veronique aside. As soon as they were out of hearing,
Veronique's confessor looked full at her and saw her color
rise ; she lowered her eyes like a guilty creature.
"You are degrading charity," he said severely.
"And how ?" she asked, raising her head.
"Charity," said M. Bonnet, "is a passion as far greater than
love, as humanity, madame, is greater than one human
creature. All this is not the spontaneous work of disinter-
ested virtue. You are falling from the grandeur of the ser-
vice of man to the service of a single creature. In your kind-
ness to Catherine and Farrabesche there is an alloy of memo-
ries and after-thoughts which spoils it in the sight of God.
Pluck out the rest of the dart of the spirit of evil from your
heart. Do not spoil the value of your good deeds in this way.
Will you ever attain at last to that holy ignorance of the
good that you do, which is the supreme grace of man's ac-
Mme. Graslin turned away to dry her eyes. Her tears told
the cure that his words had reached and probed some un-
healed wound in her heart. Farrabesche, Catherine, and
Benjamin came to thank their benefactress, but she made a
sign to them to go away and leave her with M. Bonnet.
"You see how I have hurt them," she said, bidding him see
their disappointed faces. And the tender-hearted cure beck-
oned to them to come back.
"You must be completely happy," she said. "Here is the
patent which gives you back all your rights as a citizen, and
exempts you from the old humiliating formalities," she
added, holding out to Farrabesche a paper which she had kept.
Farrabesche kissed Veronique's hand. There was an expres-
sion of submissive affection and quiet devotion in his eyes,
the devotion which nothing could change, the fidelity of a dog
for his master.
THE COUNTRY PARSON 223
"If Jacques has suffered much, madame, I hope that it
be possible for me to make up to him in happiness for
the trouble he has been through," said Catherine; "for what-
ever he may have done, he is not bad."
Mme. Graslin turned away her head. The sight of their
happiness seemed to crush her. M. Bonnet left her to go to
the church, and she dragged herself thither on M. Grosse-
After breakfast, every one went to see the work begun.
All the old people of Montegnac were likewise present. Ve-
ronique stood between M. Grossetete and M. Bonnet on the
top of the steep slope which the new road ascended, whence
they could see the alignment of the four new roads, which
served as a deposit for the stones taken off the land. Five
navvies were clearing a space of eighteen feet (the width of
each road), and throwing up a sort of embankment of good
soil as they .worked. Four men on either side were engaged
in making a ditch, and these also made a bank of fertile
earth along the edge of the field. Behind them came two
men, who dug holes at intervals, and planted trees. In each
division, thirty laborers (chosen from among the poor),
twenty women, and forty girls and children, eighty-six
workers in all, were busy piling up the stones which the
workmen riddled out along the bank so as to measure the
quantity produced by each group. In this way all went
abreast, and with such picked and enthusiastic workers rapid
progress was being made. Grossetete promised to send some
trees, and to ask for more, among Mme. Graslin's friends.
It was evident that there would not be enough in the nursery
plantations at the chateau to supply such a demand.
Towards the end of the day, which was to finish with a
great dinner at the chateau, Farrabesche begged to speak
with Mme. Graslin for a moment. Catherine came with
"Madame," he said, "you were so kind as to promise me
the home farm. You meant to help me to a fortune when
you granted me such a favor, but I have come round to
224 THE COUNTRY PARSON
Catherine's ideas about our future. If I did well there,
there would be jealousy; a word is soon said; I might find
things unpleasant, I am afraid, and besides, Catherine would
never feel comfortable; it would be better for us to keep to
ourselves, in fact. So I have come just to ask you if you
will give us the land about the mouth of the Gabou, near
the common, to farm instead, and a little bit of the wood
yonder under the Living Rock. You will have a lot of work-
men thereabouts in July, and it would be easy then to build
a farmhouse on a knoll in a good situation. We should be
very happy. I would send for Guepin, poor fellow, when he
comes out of prison; he would work like a horse, and it is
likely I might find a wife for him. My man is no do-nothing.
No one will come up there to stare at us; we will colonize
thai bit of land, and it will be my great ambition to make a
famous farm for you there. Besides, I have come to suggest
a tenant for your great farm a cousin of Catherine's, who
has a little money of his own ; he will be better able than I
to look after such a big concern as that. In five years' time,
please God, you will have five or six thousand head of cattle
or horses down there in the plain that they are breaking up,
and it will really take a good head to look after it all."
Mme. Graslin recognized the good sense of Farrabesche's
request, and granted it.
As soon as the beginning was made in the plain, Mme.
Graslin fell into the even ways of a country life. She went
to mass in the morning, watched over the education of the
son whom she idolized, and went to see her workmen. After
dinner she was at home to her friends in the little drawing-
room on the first floor of the centre tower. She taught Rou-
baud. Clousier, and the cure whist Gerard knew the game
already and when the party broke up towards nine o'clock,
every one went home. The only events in the pleasant life
were the successes of the different parts of the great enter-
June came, the bed of the Gabou was dry, Gerard had
taken up his quarters in the old keeper's cottage ; for Farra-
THE COUNTRY PARSON 225
besche's farmhouse was finished by this time, and fifty masons,
returned from Paris, were building a wall across the valley
from side to side. The masonry was twenty feet thick at
the base, gradually sloping away to half that thickness at the
top, and the whole length of it was embedded in twelve feet
of solid concrete. On the side of the valley Gerard added a
course of concrete with a sloping surface twelve feet thick at
the base, and a similar support on the side nearest the com-
mons, covered with leaf-mould several feet deep, made a sub-
stantial barrier which the flood water could not break through.
In case of a very wet season, Gerard contrived a channel at a
suitable height for the overflow. Everywhere the masonry
was carried down on the solid rock (granite, or tufa), that
the water might not escape at the sides. By the middle of
August the dam was finished. Meanwhile, Gerard also pre-
pared three channels in the three principal valleys, and all of
the undertakings cost less than the estimate. In this way
the farm by the chateau could be put in working order.
The irrigation channels in the plain under Fresquin's su-
perintendence corresponded with the natural canal at the
base of the hills ; all the water-courses departed thence. The
great abundance of flints enabled him to pave all the chan-
nels, and sluices were constructed so that the water might be
kept at the required height in them.
Every Sunday after mass Veronique went down through
the park with Gerard and the cure, the doctor, and the mayor,
to see how the system of water supply was working. The
winter of 1833-1834 was very wet. The water from the three
streams had been turned into the torrent, and the flood had
made the valley of the Gabou into three lakes, arranged of
set design one above the other, so as to form a. reserve for
times of great drought. In places where the valley widened
out, Gerard had taken advantage of one or two knolls to
make an island here and there, and to plant them with dif-
ferent trees. This vast engineering operation had completely
altered the appearance of the landscape, but it would still be
five or six years before it would take its true character.
226 THE COUNTRY PARSON
"The land was quite naked," Farrabesche .used to say, "and
now madame has clothed it." After all these great changes,
every one spoke of Veronique as "madame" in the country-
side. When the rains ceased in June 1834, trial was made of
the irrigation system in the part of the plain where seed had
been sown; and the green growth thus watered was of the
same fine quality as in an Italian marcita, or a Swiss meadow.
The method in use on farms in Lombardy had been em-
ployed ; the whole surface was kept evenly moist, and the plain
was as even as a carpet. The nitre in the snow, dissolved in
the water, doubtless contributed not a little to the fineness of
the grass. Gerard hoped that the produce would be some-
thing like that of Switzerland, where, as is well known, this
substance is an inexhaustible source of riches. The trees
planted along the roadsides, drawing water sufficient from
the ditches, made rapid progress. So it came to pass that in
1838, five years after Mme. Graslin came to Montegnac, the
waste land, condemned as sterile by twenty generations, was
a green and fertile plain, the whole of it under cultivation.
Gerard had built houses for five farms, besides the large
one at the chateau ; Gerard's farm, like Grossetete's and Fres-
quin's, received the overflow from Mme. Graslin's estate ; they
were conducted on the same methods, and laid out on the same
lines. Gerard built a charming lodge on his own property.
When all was finished, the township of Montegnac acted
on the suggestion of its mayor, who was delighted to resign
his office to Gerard, and the surveyor became mayor in his
In 1840 the departure of the first herd of fat cattle sent
from Montegnac to the Paris markets was an occasion for a
rural fete. . Cattle and horses were raised on the farms ITT
the plain; for when the ground was cleared, seven inches of
mould were usually found, which were manured by pasturing
cattle on them, and continually enriched by the leaves that
fell every autumn from the trees, and, first and foremost, by
the melted snow-water from the reservoirs in the Gabou.
It was in this year that Mme. Graslin decided that a tutor
THE COUNTRY PARSON 227
must be found for her son, now eleven years old. She was
unwilling to part with him, and yet desired to make a well-
educated man of her boy. M. Bonnet wrote to the seminary.
Mme. Graslin, on her side, let fall a few words concerning
her wishes and her difficulty to Monseigneur Dutheil, recently
appointed to an archbishopric. It was a great and serious
matter to make choice of a man who must spend at least nine
months out of twelve at the chateau. Gerard had offered
already to ground his friend Francis in mathematics, but it
was impossible to do without a tutor ; and this choice that she
must make was the more formidable to Mme. Graslin, because
she knew that her health" was giving way. As the value of
the land in her beloved Montegnac increased, she redoubled
the secret austerities of her life.
Monseigneur Dutheil, with whom Mme. Graslin still cor-
responded, found her the man for whom she wished. He
sent a schoolmaster named Kuffin from his own diocese. Kuf-
fin was a young man of five-and-twenty with genius for pri-
vate teaching; he was widely read; in spite of an excessive
sensibility, could, when necessary, show himself sufficiently
severe for the education of a child, nor was his piety in any
way prejudicial to his knowledge ; finally, he was patient and
"This is a real gift which I am sending you, my dear
daughter," so the Archbishop wrote; "the young man is
worthy to be the tutor of a prince, so I count upon you to se-
cure his future, for he will be your son's spiritual father."
M. Euffin was so much liked by Mme. Graslin's little,
circle of faithful friends, that his coming made no change
in the various intimacies of those who, grouped about their
idol, seized with a sort of jealousy on the hours and moments
spent with her.
The year 1843 saw the prosperity of Montegnac increasing
beyond all hopes. The farm on the Gabou rivaled the farms
on the plain, and the chateau led the way in all improve-
228 THE COUNTRY PARSON
raents. The five other farms, which by the terms of the lease
paid an increasing rent, and would each bring in the sum of
thirty thousand francs in twelve years' time, then brought in
sixty thousand francs a year all told. The farmers were just
beginning to reap the benefits of their self-denial and Mme.
Graslin's sacrifices, and could afford to manure the meadows
in the plain where the finest crops grew without fear of dry
seasons. The Gabou farm paid its first rent of four thou-
sand francs joyously.
It was in this year that a man in Montegnac started a
diligence between the chief town in the arrondissement and
Limoges ; a coach ran either way daily. M. Clousier's nephew
sold his clerkship and obtained permission to practice as a
notary, and Fresquin was appointed to be tax-collector in the
canton. Then the new notary built himself a pretty house
in upper Montegnac, planted mulberry trees on his land, and
became Gerard's deputy. And Gerard himself, grown bold
with success, thought of a plan which was to bring Mme.
Graslin a colossal fortune ; for this year she paid off her loan,
and began to receive interest from her investment in the
funds. This was Gerard's scheme: He would turn the little
river into a canal, by diverting the abundant water of the
Gabon into it. This canal should effect a junction with the
Vienne, and in this way it would be possible to exploit twenty
thousand acres of the vast forest of Montegnac. The woods
were admirably superintended by Colorat, but hitherto had
brought in nothing on account of the difficulty of transport.
With this arrangement it would be possible to fell a thousand
acres every year (thus dividing the forest into twenty strips
for successive cuttings), and the valuable timber for build-
ing purposes could be sent by water to Limoges. This had
been Graslin's plan; he had scarcely listened to the cuiv's
projects for the plain, he was far more interested in the
scheme for making a canal of the little river.
THE COUNTRY PARSON 229
IS LAID IN THE TOMB
IN the beginning of the following year, in spite of Mme.
Graslin's bearing, her friends saw warning signs that death
was near. To all Boubaud's observations, as to the utmost
ingenuity of the keen-sighted questioners, Veronique gave but
one answer, "She felt wonderfully well." Yet that spring,
when she revisited forest and farms and her rich meadows,
it was with a childlike joy that plainly spoke of sad forebod-
Gerard had been obliged to make a low wall of concrete
from the dam across the Gabou to the park at Montegnac
along the base of the lower slope of the hill of the Correze;
this had suggested an idea to him. He would enclose the
whole forest of Montegnac, and throw the park into it. Mme.
Graslin put by thirty thousand .francs a year for this purpose.
It would take seven years to complete the wall; but when it
was finished, the splendid forest would be exempted from the
dues claimed by the Government over unenclosed woods and
lands, and the three ponds in the Gabou valley would lie
within the circuit of the park. Each of the ponds, proudly
dubbed "a lake," had its island. This year, too, Gerard, in
concert with Grossetete, prepared a surprise for Mme. Gras-
lin's birthday; he had built on the second and largest island
a little Chartreuse a summer-house, satisfactorily rustic
without, and perfectly elegant within. The old banker was
in the plot, so were Farrabesche, Fresquin, and Clousier's
nephew, and most of the well-to-do folk in Montegnac.
Grossetete sent the pretty furniture. The bell tower, copied
from the tower of Vevay, produced a charming effect in the
landscape. Six boats (two for each lake) had been secretly
built, rigged, and painted during the winter by Farrabesche
and Guepin, with some help from the village carpenter at
So one morning in the middle of May, after Mme. Graslin's
&0 THE COUNTRY PARSON
friends had breakfasted with her, they led her out into the
park, which Gerard had managed for the last five years as
architect and naturalist. It had been admirably laid out,
sloping down towards the pleasant meadows in the Gabou val-
ley, where below, on the first lake, two boats were in readiness
for them. The meadowland, watered by several clear streams,
had been taken in at the base of the great amphitheatre at
the head of the Gabou valley. The woods round about them
had been carefully thinned and disposed with a view to the
effect; here the shapeliest masses of trees, there a charming
inlet of meadow; there was an air of loneliness about the
forest-surrounded space which soothed the soul.
On a bit of rising ground by the lake Gerard had carefully
reproduced the chalet which all travelers see and admire on
the road to Brieg through the Rhone valley. This was to be
the chateau, dairy, and cowshed. From the balcony there
was a view over this landscape created by the engineer's art,
a view comparable, since the lakes had been made, to the love-
liest Swiss scenery.
It was a glorious day. Not a cloud in the blue sky, and