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This Novel was typed by a Chancery Lane Firm in 1893.

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IN the Province of Champagne, mid-way, or there-
abouts, between Fumay and Mezieres, the sinuous
course of the river Meuse described a wider and more
pronounced curve. On the right bank it was bounded
by silvery osiers, rich meadows and corn land ; on the
left towered a rocky height, which, after frowning for
a brief distance, melted into a well-wooded hill. In the
space which separated the grim rock and the leafy
recesses of the wooded hill from the bold encroach-
ments of the river, nestled a village ; a few red roofs,
a thin and quaintly-shaped church-spire, a grey-walled
chateau, starting up from amidst smiling gardens
and blossoming orchards. Conceive that, and you
have the French village of La Jonquieres before you.

A woman stood in the doorway of one of the red-
roofed cottages, and, shading her eyes from the glare
of the sunlight, gazed up the street in the direction of
the chateau.

" Lisette, Lisette ! " she called excitedly. " Do you
not hear me ? How deaf you are ! "

" What is it, mother ? " replied a voice from within.

" The new cure", Father Bernard, is coming down
the street."

" And what of that ? I shall see him time enough."

" Do as I tell you ; come and look. Ah ! he has

8 <Smi Jflesb

stopped to talk to the Widow Lemaitre ; she always
has her nose poking out of her door."

"Then take yours in, mother, and you won't see
it," laughed Lisette.

" Give me no sauce, child. Mon Dieu ! there's
more of that in you than anything else. As for the
Widow Lemaitre, she's a busy-body you know
that and I never liked her. Now, he has left her,
and is coming this way," she continued, still shading
her eyes, and staring intently at the approaching

" Now for a sight of the good Father," said Lisette,
who had come to the door, " though, as I said, I shall
see him time enough."

" How young he is ! " said the elder woman.

" Ma foil too young to hear all the ills we shall
have to tell him. How I should laugh to myself,
were I in his place, if only for once, to hear old
Brunot whine through his sins, and say how much
he'd envied, robbed, and made love. And then the
Count himself, what fun it would be to hear him
confess. He should tell me everything, but I should
never be able to keep it to myself. I've often
wondered how priests can."

" Hush, child, you are impious," said Mere Chotard

"Why, mother, there's no harm in wondering,"
retorted Lisette, a shadow of temper crossing her
face, as she deftly arranged a bright-coloured bow
which ornamented her bodice.

" I tell you there is. Holy men are holy men, and
to talk of them, ignorant as we are, won't help us.
Besides, you were laughing. How pale he is. That's
from study. A young life given to pouring over
books, and fasting, and trying to understand le bon

" If he's pale, he's beautiful," said Lisette, her eyes


sparkling, and her voice betraying the admiration
which, as a young girl, she entertained for good looks.
Then lowering her voice, for Father Bernard was
nearly opposite, she added, " Shall I tell you what his
face reminds me of, mother ? "

" What, child ? "

" The little ivory Christ in the petit sanctuaire


Both women curtsied profoundly, as with a bow, a
kindly smile, and a " bon-jour, mesdames," Louis
Bernard passed them. M&re Chotard looked after
him, whilst an ugly cloud settled upon her face.

" Well, there," she said, " I'd like to know why he
can find time to talk to Madame Lemaitre, and yet
sees fit to pass me by."

" Perhaps he's tired," suggested Lisette " and then
his parents."

" Tired bah ! His parents ! Is he a child ? "

" He has gone into his house, anyhow, mother, and
I'm sure he might easily be tired on a day like this.
Why, the sun just scorches one."

" Well, well, child, you may be right, we shall see ;
but I never liked the Widow Lemaitre."

Lisette allowed her full red lips to part sufficiently
to show two rows of perfectly sound white teeth.
She could not help smiling thus, for she knew why
her mother disliked the Widow Lemaitre. They had
been girl rivals, and that fact, to her mind, supplied a
reason for hatred infinitely deep and durable.

" And now, since there's nothing more to be seen,"
observed Lisette, after a brief pause, " if you don't
want me I'll go upstairs again. I feel so terribly hot.
These stockings are too thick, and for that matter, so
is this bodice. I was just going to change them when
you called me down. Have you found your knitting?"

Mere Chotard nodded, and, without saying any-

10 (Smis Jflesb ant> Block

thing more Lisette ascended the little wooden stair-
case, and shut herself up in her bedroom.

It was furnished much like most humble cottage
chambers, with merely a bed, a chest of drawers, a
table, and a couple of chairs ; but the wood of which
these necessaries were made, though old and worn,
was polished till it shone like a mirror, and like the
white window-curtains and coarse counterpane, as
spotlessly clean as hands could achieve.

To free herself of the offending bodice, or more
properly speaking blouse, and the equally obnoxious
stockings, was only momentary employment for
Lisette's nimble fingers ; but as though not content
with the freedom and coolness she had thus acquired,
she hastily removed the pins which confined her hair,
and let it fall about her shoulders in thick, silky
masses. At that instant, Lisette presented the most
perfect picture of health and shapeliness possible to
conceive a type of French peasant beauty. True,
to some she might not have been altogether attrac-
tive, for her hair and eyes were as black as a gipsy's ;
but the rich bloom in her cheeks, and the whiteness
of her skin, must have awakened admiration, whilst
the most hypercritical could scarcely have failed to be
struck by the compactness of her frame, the roundness
of her well-turned limbs and bosom.

" There," she said, with an irritable exclamation of
annoyance at the closeness of the room, " if I don't
feel cooler now, I don't know what I shall do, for I've
got to finish my sewing. That must be done, and
then then for a walk with Andre. AndreY' she re-
peated softly to herself; "well, if Andr6 could have a
peep at me now, he would be in love with me. Lucky
he can't, though, at least for him," and with a glance
at her white shoulders in a small painted looking-glass
which stood on the chest of drawers, Lisette gave vent
to a wicked little laugh of conceit and contentment at

<S>nl jflesb ant>

the reflection she saw, and sat herself down to her

Her needle sped with the regularity of a machine,
and there was not a sound to be heard but that which
was made by piercing the material she was at work
upon. The glare of the sunlight disappeared, and
Lisette rose and drew up the blind. Then she re-
turned to her work and laboured on, unconscious of
the soft cool wind which came to her through the
open casement, sweet with the scent of the roses which
clustered about it. What did she care for roses and
their fragrance ? Just then she only wanted to feel
cool and to finish her task. The completion of it meant
Andr^ and a couple of hours' freedom, which was a
sufficient inducement to cause her to work her hardest.
Curiosity got the better of her at length, however, and
she laid it aside to see what was going on in the
street below. She glanced to the right towards the
chateau. There was not a soul to be seen, so she
turned her head, and her eyes encountered the figure
of a man with a gun over his shoulder and a brace of
spaniels trotting soberly at his heels.

" Monsieur le Comte ! " she exclaimed, craning her
head to see to greater advantage. " What can have
brought him back ? Love of Madame la Comtesse ?
I think not. But yet she is very beautiful. Ah, if he
were my husband, I'd make him love me."

Lisette supported herself upon her elbows, resting
her face upon her hands in such a position that the
symmetry of her arms could be seen to advantage,
and in that way, her black hair falling about her, she
peeped from amidst the clustering roses, never taking
her eyes off the advancing figure of the man with the
gun and the dogs. She was right when she had ex-
claimed " Monsieur le Comte," for Rudolph, Comte de
la Jonquieres, owner of the land for miles round, was
the personage upon whom she had fixed her eyes,

12 nl^ Iflesb an&

and fixed them so pertinaciously that it seemed as
though she meant to compel him to look at her. If
such was her object, it was attained with ease, for
when within a few yards, the Count raised his eyes
and encountered her gaze, slackened his pace, and
ceased humming to himself the strains of a song which
just then happened to be the rage in Paris. That he
had all his wits about him, and was by no means
blind to such charms as Lisette displayed, was soon
manifested by his conduct, for when exactly under the
window he stopped, whistled to one of the spaniels
which had lagged behind, and, twirling his moustache
with one hand whilst he bestowed a glance of uncon-
cealed admiration upon her, he said :

" The roses don't equal your cheeks, mademoiselle,
but next to your cheeks come the roses. Will you
give me one ? "

He looked swiftly about him, as much as to say,
" Be quick, I don't want to be noticed."

Lisette never hesitated an instant. The warm
blood mounted to her face, and she felt her pulse
quicken ; but with a steady hand she plucked one of
the roses, and, with all the meaning she could convey
lurking in the depths of her eyes, she flung it to him.
She did not attempt to speak, she might have been
overheard ; besides, there was no time, for the Count
caught it, fixed it in his buttonhole, and darting an
amorous glance that was without doubt meant to re-
pay Lisette's with interest, he strode away up the
street towards the chateau gates.

Lisette watched him with parted lips and an ex-
pression of undisguised satisfaction until he was no
longer to be seen, and then she gave vent to her

" Now, who would have thought that Monsieur le
Comte de la Jonquieres would have condescended to
notice me, would have deigned to ask me for a rose,

jflesb anfc Bloofc. 13

to say nothing of paying me a pretty compliment ?
Why, he must know that I'm only the daughter of
Pierre Chotard the ferryman. But there, if I've got
no place in the world, and not a franc besides what
mother gives me and I can earn by sewing, I've got
a face that even Monsieur le Comte, with all his
knowledge must pay some attention to, when I will
it so. I've got that, and a little foot and ankle that
no one would say are not shapely. It's all I possess,
but it is not to be despised, and I'm disposed to be
thankful for small mercies. Now, brother Pierre
would tell me over again that I'm wicked. I daresay
I am, but I can't help it. Let Madame la Comtesse
look after her husband herself. I shall not help her."
Lisette paused, pulled on the thinner stockings,
gartered them tightly to her liking, slipped on a loose
blue-striped blouse, and, with a few dexterous
touches got ready to go out, but at length added,
before opening the door, " I must be careful not to
let Andr6 suspect, for he's got such a diabolical
temper when he's roused, and he does love me, I
know. Ah ! I'm afraid Paris has changed me, as he
says, in more ways than one," and Lisette laughed.


THE Count had scarcely passed the house in which
Louis Bernard had come to live as Abbe" of La Jon-
quieres, and paused under Lisette's window as
described, than it so happened that Louis Bernard,
disturbed and restless in mind owing to the newness
of his surroundings, quitted his door, and bent his
steps in the direction pursued by the Count. Being
thus close at hand, he was a witness of what passed.
He had not made the Count's acquaintance, as his
arrival in La Jonquieres was a question of hours only;
still, the Count's dress and bearing caused him to
notice the circumstance more than he otherwise would
have done. When, following in the Count's footsteps,
he saw him enter the chateau gates, there no longer
remained a doubt in his mind, he felt sure that the
man who had walked before him, with his gun over
his shoulder, and his dogs at his heels, was the most
important personage in the place. Yet, so ignorant
was he of the world and its ways, that the little
episode which had been enacted before him was with-
out significance for him. With the resolve to call at
the chateau on the morrow, he dismissed the circum-
stance from his mind.

That he should be a prey to a sensation of restless-
ness entirely foreign to him, was not singular. From
the early age of thirteen his existence had been made
over, as it were, to those men whose age, piety, and
learning were such, as, in the eyes of the Church, fitted
them to mould the minds of those who were to go
forth and preach her doctrines. Before a man can

fflesb an& 3Bloot>, 15

do this, he must undergo long years of the most rigid
discipline. From this protracted and trying ordeal
Louis Bernard had just been released.

He had quitted le Grand Semmaire, and had be-
come Abbe of La Jonquieres. He had held scarcely
any intercourse with men. He had been suddenly set
to advise them. With the exception of his mother, it
might be said he had never spoken to a woman. Full
of the fire, the passion of youth, he had been suddenly
set to counsel, to admonish, to listen to, and to even
hear confessions of weaknesses and sins, of the exist-
ence of which no other mortal was aware. In such a
position were there not pitfalls cunningly concealed,
snares on all sides, grave dangers which Louis might
or might not elude ? He was young but little over
four-and-twenty. Lisette had poetically compared
his face to that of the ivory Christ in the petit
sanctuaire. If a casual glance could discover so much,
might not other women become aware of the existence
of much more, after a careful scrutiny ? Possessing
this knowledge, would they keep their feelings to
themselves? Would they do this, would they con-
sider him in the light of a holy man, and not as
mortal, or would they be carried away by some
strange power perhaps possessed by him, perhaps
imagined, and then would they wield their strength,
would they show themselves in witchery of word and
glance, would they display the charms which might
well tempt anything mortal ? Ah, there was danger
for Louis. Danger of the substance of which he was
as ignorant as is the newly-born child of the source
of its daily nourishment.

With Louis Bernard just then, as he set forth for his
walk, dwelt no very deep thoughts. He was mainly
possessed with the desire to explore the recesses and
windings of the place, where he had good reason to
think much of his life would be spent.

1 6 nl jflesb ant>

The existence of La Jonquieres began, as it were,
with the chateau, and following the simple village
street until the houses ceased to be, ended in the
petit sanctuaire, a deep niche hewn out of the solid
rock, guarded with an iron grating, and within, the
little ivory figure of Christ, of which Lisette had

When he had arrived at the head of the street, he
struck to the left, skirting the chateau wall,and, leaving
it behind, penetrated a narrow gorge, which, when rain
was plentiful, was merely the channel for a small hill
torrent. Lessened by warmth it was reduced to the
dimensions of a streamlet, and by art'ficc it had been
diverted from its course, so that it entered the
chateau grounds, and flowed through them in a suc-
cession of cascades, thence dipped under the road,
which a few yards further became the main, the one
street, of La Jonqui&res, and blended with the Meuse
itself. On the left of this gorge was the rocky,
though partially verdure-clad, cliff, which formed a
background to the village ; on the right the wooded
height, which, further afield, melted away into plea-
sant slopes and waving plantations of fir, larch, and
oak. It was the summit of this hill that Louis set
himself to gain, his object being to see the ruins which
crowned it, which, he had been told, were the rem-
nants of the ancient and once magnificent chateau
of the old Counts of La Jonquieres.

The way he had chosen led him amidst the stems
of gnarled and twisted thorn trees of great age, yet
healthy and white with bloom, wild cherries, covered
with delicate falling blossoms, which whitened the
path, and detached specimens of larch and fir, whose
summits were yet gilded with the rays of the depart-
ing sunlight. The near recesses of shadow were
wondrously painted with softly-blending greens, and
when the eye dropped from the foliage to the ground,

tflesb an& Bloofc* 17

there, too, the Great Artist had done His work mag-
nificently. Mosses and lichens of all shapes and
fineness of texture were bedecked with wood ane-
mones, bright purple violets, hyacinths, and cowslips.
Wild strawberries gleamed in scarlet ripeness from
amidst the leaves, and even the dark stems of
the sloe bushes, to which he clung to prevent him-
self from slipping backwards, had put forth a
covering of blossoms which nearly hid their naked-

To a man of Louis' temperament sensitive in the
extreme, an intense lover of Nature in all her quiet
beauty such a scramble was a pleasure so great that
even while he breathed hard and scratched his hands
in clutching for support, a quiet, a peace, as soothing
as the sound of the wind rustling through the bright
green foliage of the larches, stole upon his mind. He
gained the ruin, and stood in what he conceived might
have been the banqueting hall. Some partridges rose
at his approach, and whirred into space like spectral
birds of bronze. A cherry tree of great size grew in
the very middle of what at least must have been a
stately apartment. The only roof now was the sky.
He climbed to the jagged edge of one of the windows.
It might have lighted the very chamber of some
lovely Countess of La Jonquieres. Here was food for
reflection ; but his thoughts were interrupted by some
distant sounds. Two other people had approached
and entered the ruin ; but since their presence was of
no interest to him, Louis speedily forgot their entrance,
and remained where he was at the window, hidden
from sight by some large blocks of fallen masonry,
being thus quite out of earshot of a little love-scene
between Andre* and Lisette.

" You accuse me of having changed towards you.
Nonsense, Lisette! You know better. You say it
to tease me, and why do it ? Come, don't spoil a


1 8 nig fflesb ant) Bloo&,

moment of our time together, it's short enough. If
there is a change at all, it is on your side."

" I suppose you mean since I went to Paris. You
are always saying that," broke forth a woman's voice
in answer to the remark made to her.

"Assuredly yes, and you know there is truth in
what I say ; but don't let us quarrel."

" My dear Andre", when I quarrel with you there'll
be no mistake about it"

" Then I hope you never will. But all this comes
of my telling you, as I could not help doing, that
there seems to me to have been a time when we
understood each other better. To get to you when
the work was done, and I could slip away, was the
joy of my life "

" And isn't it now ? Ah, Andre"."

" You know. A woman does. But you in-
terrupted me. In those days you seemed to like to
meet me better. You never objected ; you would
come. You never failed, in the face of any obstacles,
and now "

" Now you want to find fault"

" I don't, Lisette. Man Dieu, I love you so much
that all I want is to make you care for me as de-
votedly, ah, as desperately as I do for you. Yonder
is the farm, and I want you in it as mistress. I am
honest towards you. The old people can't live long,
and what's to become of me if you change as all
things seem to ; if you pass away from me, as they
soon must, and I am left alone all alone ? "

There was a quiver of intense feeling in the
speaker's voice, but with a merry, thoughtless laugh,
Lisette replied :

" Don't get sentimental. Bah ! I can't bear it.
Wait a little, and perhaps I'll come to the farm."

" Why not now ? They won't interfere. You
shall be mistress."

fflesb an& Bloofc. 19

" No ; can't make up my mind. Kiss me, Andr6,
kiss me again, and don't talk stuff."

There were the sounds of an embrace and broken
expressions of affection accompanying it, then once
again the ruin was empty, save for Louis Bernard,
and the grey and green lizards that darted and lived
midst the stones that had once sheltered men.
Sobered by the silence, the loneliness for the thought
had come to him that he was very solitary Louis
descended the hill, and by a slightly different
path into which he had turned inadvertently, arrived
at the back of the chateau, within a few yards of a
summer arbour, fashioned and painted like a Turkish
kiosk. He paused, for he was out of breath. Two
squirrels were cracking nuts overhead. He dis-
covered them by the noise they made, and was
amused at the adroitness with which they extracted
the kernels. But for those squirrels, he would have
gone straight homewards, and would never have
heard the sound of voices in the kiosk, over the fence
in the grounds of the chateau. They were those of
a man and woman who were apparently in hot
altercation. Since their conversation was not audible
he did not trouble himself to move. He liked watch-
ing the squirrels. At length he shook the lower
branches of the tree they were in. A panic ensued,
a series of bounds of astonishing agility followed, and
the woodland acrobats had vanished.

Louis Bernard laughed at the antics he had wit-
nessed, remembered it was getting late, and set off
again. When immediately behind the kiosk he
stopped dead, for a woman's sobs were plainly
audible. Grieved, and wondering what misfortune
had occasioned such unhappiness, and whether he
could alleviate it, he stood still. The sounds ceased
at length, and, after some moments of profound
silence, a white dress gleamed, a woman's head and

20 <smis jflesb ant) Bloofc.

shoulders were outlined against the sky for an in-
stant, and then were lost amongst the leaves.

If he lacked knowledge of the world, of mental
suffering and the anguish of it, Louis Bernard was
not ignorant. He had witnessed it in its most
appalling form. He had seen young minds abso-
lutely unhinged by the persistency with which re-
ligious doctrines they could not grasp, and were in-
tellectually too sensitively strung to receive, were
thundered into their terror-stricken ears. Amidst
such scenes, where stern religious discipline was
prescribed for one temperament as for another,
he had been bred. The effect upon him had been
distinctly beneficial rather than the reverse, for the
existence of sorrow, in whatever shape it might
appear before him, was an ill to which it was im-
possible for him to be deaf.

When he reached his own door the sounds of
distress he had heard were still ringing in his ears.
Who could have given vent to them ? Somehow he
thought he should be able to recognise the head and
shoulders he had caught so fleeting a glimpse of,
should he come upon them again. Still musing,
and in an absent frame of mind, he hung up his hat
in the lobby. Had he been less preoccupied, he
would have remarked that there was a discussion
going on between his father and mother, that they
were talking rapidly, and with raised voices. He
turned the handle of the door where he knew he
should find them, gently, because of his mood.
These words, in his father's voice, struck upon his

"Ah, well, you have gained your ends, wife,
Louis is a priest ; our bread is assured now,

He was in the midst of them. A dead silence
ensued. He glanced fixedly and inquiringly at each

in turn, then sat down without a word, but full of
wonderment at the strangeness of what he had heard,
for to his quick wit, the brief sentence, cropped in its
expansion, teemed with a variety of meanings.


THE Chateau de la Jonquieres, architecturally, could
scarcely be said to belong to any distinct period.

Online LibraryA. N HomerOnly flesh and blood → online text (page 1 of 24)