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living as he lived; better sooner than later, let
me tell you; and you ought to thank your
patron saint for having drawn you away from
the wasp's nest in time. What would become
of you at this time if by bad luck you were
the wife of this unfortunate fellow? .And
though I said the galleys, who knows? It is
perhaps the scaffold that awaits him!"

"Ah!" said Fe'lise with an outburst, "it is
.useless for you to speak; you will not make
me deny my poor Jack. He was going to
make me his wife, and I shall remain his
whatever happen!"

"Oh yes, of course. And he is an honest
ifellow; who says anything to the contrary?
After all, we do not know anything about the
^affair, except what Fifteen Ounces tells us,
and perhaps il is not so bad as he says. Tell
us a little of your story again, boy, did Jack
.really kill two gendarmes.

In spite of the influence that the old man
had over him, Fifteen Ounces recoiled with
repugnance from the falsehood that he was
urged to tell, and went over his story again,
recounting the facts without too much exag-

" What was it, now, that I said a little ago?
You see very well, daughter, that people are
always in too great a hurry to weep. If
Jack has not killed anybody there is no fear
of his coming to the scaffold. Dry your
tears. I know very well that he mast go to
the galleys, but we are not so far as that yet.
It will be time enough to make ourselves
miserable after the assizes. Don't you think
so, Lisette?"

Old Martin had a way of consoling people,
than which nothing could be better calculated
for making their sorrow more bitter, their
grief more poignant. Without appearing to
intend it, he excelled in turning the knife in
the wound, and would dwell with atrocious
complacency on every fact that could irritate

and envenom it. Fe'lise was almost driven
wild by his remarks; and unable to endure
them any longer, took refuge in her chamber,
where she could weep at her ease and without

What a night that was! She had thrown
herself on the bed with all her clothes on, and
her tears fell silently on the pillow. She
thought of her youth, now worthless; of this
great love, which she had never before felt in
all its fulness; of all her projects for the future,
so fondly cherished, but now crushed for ever.
And Jack ! was he not more unfortunate a
hundred times than herself] How could he
ever, with his indomitable nature, support this
life of shame, of toil, of discipline, and of pri-
vation. He would succumb to it, that was
certain; but if Jack were dead, then was not
the world empty for Fe'lise? Her father was
welcome to say to her, "Dry your tears; no use
being in a hurry to make one's self miserable."
"Heaven," she prayed, sobbing, "grant that
I may die; take me, take me away, or send me
back him I love so well."

Oh, wonderful! whence comes that sound?
Can she believe her ears 1 Is she not the sport
of hallucination? No, no; it is certainly he
this time it is indeed his whistle it is his
signal it is Jack! Jack, who has returned,
Jack who is calling her!

Fe'lise, bewildered, runs to the window and
throws it wide open. Jack is there indeed,
alone, at liberty, his arms held out towards
her, more handsome and proud-looking than

"Oh Jack," said Felise in a tone of ineffable
tenderness, "I was weeping for you as if you
were dead oh my dear Jack! "

"Fe'lise," said Jack in a grave voice, "do
you continue to think me, as formerly, a man
upright and sincere !"


"And are you still willing to be my wife?"

"Oh yes; more than ever, Jack!"

" I am going to leave the country for a long
time perhaps, Lise; the wife follows her husband,
will you follow me?"

" I am yours, Jack; do with me what yon

"Very well, then; make up your bundle
quickly and come down; we have no time to

Fe'lise without hesitation opened her trunk,
took out some linen, a dress, and some spare
stockings, and boldly descended by the ladder
which Jack had just placed against her window.
Day was now breaking, the two lovers gained
the mountain at a rapid pace, and disappeared



in the direction of Les GrSgories. As they
reached the first houses of the hamlet they met
Jean Cendrous going to yoke his oxen for the
last labour of the season. " Hullo," said he
merrily, " I thought I was the first up in all
the combe, but it seems you are still earlier
than I am, my friend."

" Jean Cendrous," said Felise resolutely, ad-
vancing towards the farmer, " I take you to
witness that I am carrying off Jack here, and
I beg you will proclaim it to my father this
very day."

"Certainly, my pretty girl; it will put me
about, to be sure, but one cannot refuse to pro-
claim a robbage. Heaven guide you, my chil-

The robbage is an old custom of the country
which has survived the invasion of French
manners. It is the girl that carries off (robbe)
her lover, and thus by her declaration frees
him from all pursuit. The robbaye is the last
resource of lovers whose patience is utterly
worn out. When consent to the marriage is
obstinately refused, the parties run away in
this fashion and the matter is ended. Mar-
riage is not long in following, and the paternal
authority receives from it perhaps less offence
than from the " respectful summons" 1 invented
by the legislator of the civil code.

Father Martin heard the proclamation carried
by Jean Cendrous without moving a muscle.
"Very good," said he; "the man who has a
daughter may expect anything; but I am afraid
a good deal of water will pass under the bridge
before we go to the wedding."

Jack and F61ise passed the day in the cave
of Maraval, ever on the outlook, as may readily
be supposed. After nightfall they came down
to the village, and arm in arm went and
knocked at the parsonage door.

" What brings -you here, you unlucky mor-
tal?" said the cure\ "Don't you know that
all the gendarmes of the department are after
you, and that they are determined to make
short work of you ? Save yourself as quick as
you can; and Heaven grant that there is yet
time! "

"Bah! don't trouble yourself about that,
sir; I have quite other cares in my head at
present, and shall turn my attention to the
blues by-and-by. Let us take what is most
important first, if you please. "

" And what can there be more important for
you than to escape?"

1 Formal documents addressed to their parents or
guardians by a young man and woman in order that
they may contract a legal marriage, when their parents
or guardians have refused their consent.

"You see Felise here," replied Jack, gravely;
"well, we have eloped this morning, and I do
not wish to take her to the mountain with me
without making her my lawful wife. Say our
marriage mass for us as soon as midnight
sounds, and pray to the good God for the poor
bride and bridegroom."

In the simplicity of his soul Jack thought
this proposal the most natural in the world;
and the worthy cure was really sorry to have
to inform him that both the civil and canon
law forbade unions of this sort, and that he
would render himself liable to punishment were
he to grant his wish.

" What is to be done then, sir?" said Jack,
with a look of discouragement at Felise, " what
is to be done?"

"Jack," said the priest, moved by the mute
eloquence of this glance, " I have known you
for a long time, and I know you to be a man
of honour and one who fears God. Now, hera
are FSlise and you all but man and wife, with-
out having received the sacrament, and Fe'lise's
good name must be restored by every means.
You are young and will not fear a little
fatigue, so you must be off to Savoy by the
shortest road. Over there the priests marry
people without the civil powers having any thing
to do with the matter. On your knees, my
children, and receive my blessing on your
journey! "

Jack and FtSlise knelt down and prayed
for a moment under the outstretched hand of
the pastor.

"Jack," added the cure", as he made them
rise, " I confide Felise to you and place her
under your charge; you will treat her as your
own sister by day and night till you come to
the end of your journey you promise?"

" Before Heaven I will!"

" I take your word; adieu, my children!"

As Jack was crossing the threshold the cure"
drew him back a little and said to him in a
low tone, " There are two louis-d'or, spend
them carefully, and if you should happen to
find any Spanish tobacco over there keep me
in mind."

While Jack and Fe"lise were trudging along
to obtain the nuptial benediction, choosing
paths steep and rugged enough to frighten a
goat, the corporal of Mormoiron, eager to
avenge his failure, was exploring Mount
Ventoux in all directions, and wearing out his
men in a vain pursuit. Everywhere, it is true,
he found traces of Jack: here a sleeping-place,
there an outlook station, farther on some large
slabs of stone still black with pounded charcoal,
but of Jack himself nothing was seen. This



fiend incarnate knew how to keep out of reach
as well as out of sight. One evening as the
corporal was returning down the mountain by
Combe-Obscure, after having pushed as far as
possible into the Black Cave, and to as little
purpose as before, he stopped for a moment at
Christol's farm to take a little refreshment.
Jack's dog had remained there since the even-
ing of the great battle, and waited philosophi-
cally till his master should come to take pos-
session of him again. At sight of the corporal,
perhaps also at the characteristic odour of the
gendarmes, the bold animal darted forward,
barking furiously, and made at them as if he
would bite.

" What dog's this you have got, Christol?"
said the corporal, standing on his guard; " he's
a very awkward customer."

" Oh, it's Maripan, Jack's dog ; he's not
very fond of the three-cornered hats, I must
admit. Here, Maripan, here ; won't you hold
your tongue and be hanged to you?" and the
farmer aimed a tremendous kick at the dog
and sent him rolling under the table. Poor
Maripan had no doubt been long used to this
kind of argument, for in spite of the pain and
disgrace he took the matter as settled and re-
mained quiet in his corner, his eyes sparkling
with anger and glaring menacingly.

"Oh, it's Jack's dog," said the corporal, "I
have a good mind to make him a prisoner of
war; what do you think, Berard?"

" What would you do with a nasty brute
like that, corporal?" replied the gendarme, who
was somewhat chary about pushing matters to
an extremity with a dog whose eyes sparkled
like live coals. " He can only give us trouble."

" I have an idea of my own," said the cor-
poral, majestically raising his finger to his
forehead; "let us take possession of him in-

This, however, was not so easy; Maripan
defended himself a long time before giving in;
but at last, thanks to Be'rard's adroitness and
notwithstanding some abrasions, the law pre-
vailed, and the vanquished enemy, duly muz-
zled, followed the conquerors with his ears
hanging and his tail between his legs.

The corporal's idea was not a bad one. By
means of Maripan's exquisite sense of smell it
would perhaps be possible to track his master
and come upon him unawares. For this pur-
pose it was necessary to conquer the inveterate
dislike of the animal and modify his temper
by good treatment. Maripan was accordingly
recommended to the particular care of the
corporal's wife, and soon experienced the seduc-
tive influence of savoury messes. It is sad to

relate, but why should we conceal it? after this
treatment had lasted some time Maripan was
scarcely recognizable. His horror of the French
gendarmes had so diminished that he found no
difficulty in allowing Berard to pat him on the
back. He was a dog lost to a life of freedom,
and the chain which kept him from leaving
the courtyard of the barracks was quite un-

On his return from Savoy Jack was very
soon informed by his friends of the unwearied
search after him which had been made, but he
appeared to give himself no further trouble
about it. He had installed Felise in a vast
grotto, almost inaccessible, and known only to
a few hunters, and had recommenced his old
life of poaching and smuggling. His habits
seemed to be in no ways changed, except that
he did not as formerly sleep here and there at
random, and had become infinitely less confi-
dent and much more suspicious. He felt the
loss of his dog very much, and had had an
open quarrel with Christol for being careless,
if not indeed faithless to his trust. He seldom
came down to the village, and heard hill-top
mass in preference to any other.

The corporal on his part seemed to have
accepted his defeat, and to have given up all
idea of revenge. The first snows had just
fallen, and Mount Yentoux was white to far
below the beech woods. Jack came down to
Maraval, fearing lest Felise, who was now
enceinte, would not be able to bear the rigour
of the cold and the violence of the winds.
Maraval was well sheltered, and only a little
more watchfulness would be necessary there.

Christmas eve arrived without anything
noteworthy having happened. Jack and Fe"lise
had remained sitting by the side of their pri-
mitive fireplace, waiting till the signal should
be given by the village bells in order to join
in intention the faithful, and celebrate as well
as they could the birth of the Saviour. Mean-
time they talked of various things.

" 1 can scarcely believe that Fifteen Ounces
was a traitor," said Felise; "for why should
he betray you? What could he get by that?"

"I don't know," replied Jack; "but I shall
find out some time or other, and he won't
have lost anything by waiting. Ah, the little
beggar! But for him you would be walking
to church on my arm at this moment, with
your head as high as any of them, and would
be getting ready for having your baby respec-
tably in your father's house."

"That is true," said Fe"lise sadly. "My
poor father! I wonder how he is getting on
alone down there without me!"



" Oh, he is wonderfully well; the cur<, whom
I saw this very evening, met him returning
from town, and he was quite in his usual health
and spirits. He is another whose conduct I shall
bring to light some fine day if it please Heaven !"

" You see traitors everywhere, Jack."

"That is because there are traitors every-
where, Lise. Christol, too, what right had he
to tell the gendarmes that Maripan was mine?
I call that treason, I do."

" Poor Maripan ! " said Lise; " he was a good
dog, and I am sorry about him."

"Oh, yes, he was a good dog; it would not
have been easy to find his equal. I cannot
believe that he is altogether lost, and I am al-
ways expecting to see him running in here
with a piece of his chain at his neck. What
can the cursed corporal have done to him!"

And involuntarily, so to speak, by the pure
force of habit, Jack uttered the shrill whistle
which used to recall Maripan even from his
farthest wanderings. In the calm silence of
the serene night the distant barking of a dog
arose from the plain in answer to the whistle,
as if it had only been waiting for this signal

Jack trembled from head to foot and rose
upright on his feet, almost breathless.

"Did you hear it, Lise?" said he.

"Yes, but there are plenty of dogs in the
plain, my poor Jack; especially to-night when
everybody is awake."

" It is he, I tell you; I knew his bark. Be-
sides, listen again."

He went to the mouth of the cave, and in
the deep silence of the night whistled loudly
three times at equal intervals. In a few seconds
a dog was heard to reply in the distance with
three distinct barks. There was no doubt this
time it was Maripan coming back.

"Ah, good dog; better than men! What a
feast there will be for you when you return!
He will not be long, I warrant: he is running
straight forward, without troubling himself
about roads or foot-paths. Ah, I couldn't have
wished for a better Christmas than this!"

Jack whistled again and again, but tohisgreat
astonishment the barking still continued farofF,
and the tone became more and more plaintive.

"By thunder!" cried Jack, gloom coming
over him all at once. " It is Maripan sure
enough, but he is not at liberty."

" What do you mean, Jack?"

" I mean that he should have been here
already. Yes, yes, it is he, he is running by
the scent, but he is held in leash. . . . We
must look out, Lise, it is us they are after, and
Maripan too is a traitor!"

It was only too true; the dog was following

on the track, and was acting as a guide to his
master's enemies. There was no time to lose,
they must take to flight at whatever cost.
F61ise quickly made up a bundle of her best
clothes, and Jack, lifting an enormous stone,
hid his implements for making gunpowder;
then having put two loaves into his game-bag,
and having looked to the priming of his gun,
he took Flise by the hand and marched straight
for the heights.

It was a keen frost, and the moon, now in
her last quarter, glittered on the hardened
snow. The barking of the dog reached them
more and more distinctly the farther up the
mountain he came, and by-and-by he uttered
a series of barks so peculiar in tone that Jack
stopped to listen. "They are at Maraval," he
said, "and the dog is yelping as he finds the
scent warm ; however we have a good start, Lise,
and unless the devil help them they won't over-
take us."

Judging only from the voice of the dog, the
pursuit never slackened, but continued with
untiring perseverance. Jack and Felise were
still marching along in silence long after day-
break, and fatigue began to gain visibly on
the young creature. Several times already
she had been obliged to stop and take breath ;
in spite of her courage the poor child felt that
her strength was exhausted. She hung more
and more heavily on Jack's arm, retarding his
progress, and at last she stopped altogether.
"Jack," she said, " I cannot go a step farther,
leave me here and save yourself. They will
not do me any harm, and you will easily find
me again. "

" What ! abandon you ? never, never. Let ua
see if you can't make one effort more, my girl. "

" It's no use, Jack, I have already done
more than I was able. Save yourself, save
yourself, I conjure you."

" No, a thousand times no ; we are hardly a
hundred yards from the hut of the Holy Cross,
come and rest yourself there, and never mind

Felise dragged herself painfully along to the
hut the entrance of which was half filled up
with snow and sank down, utterly worn out,
on the soft bed of lavender and wild thyme
which the shepherds always took care to have
in this rude abode.

" Remain there and wait for me without im-
patience; with Heaven's help I shall not be
away long."

Jack had just formed a great resolve. Turn-
ing on his steps he quickly re-descended the
mountain in the direction of Maraval, and
hastily posted himself behind a rock which



barred the narrow pathway and forced it to
take a sharp turn. He had not long to wait.
Maripan, held in by a gendarme, soon made
his appearance, barking as he followed up the
scent, his tongue hanging out as if in the dog-
days ; the corporal and his men came behind
streaming with perspiration. Jack raised his
gun and slowly took aim, and the poor brute fell,
shot with a bullet right through the forehead.
"This way, boys, "cried the corporal, darting
forward, "after him, B6rard ; after him, Bassy;
look alive, my men ! " But Jack, more active
than a chamois, was already a long way off in
the direction of Curnier, leaving the hut of the
Holy Cross behind him intentionally; and the
corporal, perceiving that the game was lost,
gave his men the signal to retreat. The car-
cass of Maripan, already stiffened by the frost,
was left alone, with its feet in the air, to serve
as a feast for the first passing wolf.

Jack was not able to rejoin Fe'lise at the hut
until nightfall. He found her half-dead with
cold and terror, shivering with fever, and re-
peating disconnected and meaningless words,
such as people utter when in delirium. He
quickly lighted a great fire, and briskly chafed
the ice-cold limbs of his poor wife, calling her
by the tenderest names, but Fe'lise remained
insensible; her eyes were fixed in a vacant stare,
and she seemed only to answer the questions
of invisible interlocutors. To crown Jack's
misfortunes the wind had just risen, the wind
of Mount Ventoux, an icy wind that ground the
snow into powder, and blew it about in violent
eddies. To think of descending the mountain
again at such a time was impossible, and no-
thing remained but to stay there till morning.

Jack, with a heart full of anxiety and mis-
ery, arranged some armfuls of dry lavender in
the most sheltered corner, and there laid poor
F61ise, covering her up with some of his own
clothes and keeping a good fire burning all
night at the entrance of the miserable hovel.
Every moment the tempest shook the walls
with redoubled fury and seemed to draw from
them melancholy groans, while to these miseries
was added the danger of suffocation, the smoke
being driven violently back into the interior
of the hut. F61ise, who was tormented with a
raging thirst, was asking for water every mo-
ment, and poor Jack had nothing to give her
but lumps of frozen snow which he broke down
small with his knife.

At last this dreadful night came to an end,
and the unhappy man went outside for a

moment to look about him a little. The wind
had fallen as the sun rose, but his situation
was no less terrible. There he was, alone, on
the top of Mount Ventoux, his wife ill, deliri-
ous, unable to move, and he himself utterly
worn out and exhausted with the fatigues of
the preceding day and the anguish of such a
night, and no one to look to for assistance, no
one to save him but himself. For the first time
in his life Jack felt his heart fail, and large
tears trickled down his hollow cheeks. He
raised his eyes to heaven with a despairing
glance, and entering the hut again sat down
in utter misery beside Fe'lise, who for the hun-
dredth time called for water.

This excessive prostration lasted but a short
time; Jack was soon himself again, and looking
his cruel position in the face. Before all, it
was necessary to leave the hut at any tost, and
to do this he must recover sufficient strength.
Having eaten half a loaf and drunk two or
three mouthfuls of melted snow, he uttered a
short prayer, and lifting Fe'lise in his arms
placed her on his shoulders, then, using his
gun by way of staff, he slowly descended the
steep slope.

Strong and sure-footed as he was Jack was
obliged to stop from time to time to recover
breath. He then deposited his precious burden
on some adjacent rock and manfully resumed
it after a short rest. In this way he reached
the cave of Maraval, after a harassing march
of five mortal hours, and was glad to find that
the enemy in their passing visit had not greatly
disturbed his favourite abode. It was time;
Jack's strength was literally exhausted. Hav-
ing recovered a little from his first fatigue he
turned his attention exclusively to Fe'lise, whose
state inspired him with increasing anxiety.
A profound torpor had followed the violent
fever and delirium. Fe'lise seemed overpowered
with a lethargic drowsiness, and she lay with-
out sense or motion. Jack did all he possibly
could to reanimate his poor wife and exhausted
all the resources of a heart rendered ingenious
by necessity. But all in vain ; and his despair
soon equalled his fear. Day was declining;
was he then to pass a second night of anguish
and terror alone, abandoned by all, unable to
afford the dear sufferer any relief, a helpless
witness of all her pain. Jack rushed from the
cave and scanned with eager eye the whole
surrounding scene ; but, alas ! not a soul, not
a shepherd, not a flock, not a dog was to be
seen, nothing but silence and solitude !

Down below in the valley the evening an-
gelus was slowly tolled on the bell of the village
church, and for the first time in his life Jack



felt a bitter smile rise to his lips at the sacred
appeal. In his storm-tossed soul the evening
bells seemed a gratuitous irony, the tranquil
mockery of peaceful life, the inflexible protest
of established order triumphing in its selfish

"Away, vagabond! " said the little bell dis-
tinctly; "die like a dog on your mountain!
Our cares, our services, our assistance, our
doctors, our priests, are not for you! We owe

Online LibraryUnknownThe library of choice literature : poetry and prose selected from the most admired authors (Volume 4) → online text (page 47 of 75)