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cherry spot in her life from that moment forth.
Trouble could never lessen its warmth. Cruelty, neg-
lect, insult nothing might ever still its voice. Even
after death its yearning would not cease.

Hermance understood. Her eyes wandered to
the open window, and she looked far out over the
budding hills, and wondered. The while she thought
she was conscious of a little hand clutching at her
heart, and she heard an even, measured breathing
at her side. She gazed into the blue of the heavens
and tried to read beyond the vale. She turned and
looked into the little eyes and there read plainly all
she wished to know-

At the close of the third day, when the candles
were lighted to chase away the first shades of night,


Dr. Joumonville bustled abruptly into the room.
He carried a basket which creaked against his
crutch. In the other hand he held a barbarous-look-
ing knife, which gleamed threateningly as he said :

"Good evening, Madame I have come !"

"But why that fearful knife, Doctor? and the

"Murder, my dear woman have you forgotten?
give him to me at once."

Horror overspread Hermance's face, and she
drew her baby to her with both arms.

"Sacre! women always change their minds!" said
Dr. Joumonville, pretending disgust, as he stalked
out of the room.



ABOUT the time of the birth of the invader's son,
the French Army General Staff required special in-
formation regarding the strength and position of the
Germans north of the Aisne on to the Belgian boun-
dary. Commanders of army corps who had been
opposing and investing the enemy in that region,
and particularly around Compiegne, Soissons, Eper-
nay, Chalons, and Reims, were called upon to sub-
mit the names of volunteers for the dangerous role
of spy to the Prussian camps. Out of the ten men
who came forward, one would be selected. The
choice fell upon Raoul Beauvais. His native wit
and intimate knowledge of the country, and initia-
tive and bravery, had already won him promotion
in the ranks. These qualifications made him by far
the best man for the undertaking.

Therefore, disguised as a poor deaf and dumb
peasant, suffering from a peculiar hacking cough,
Raoul set out in the middle of April, 1915, to wan-
der through the enemy's lines, and over the country
at the peril of his life. He left the French army
in the neighborhood of Rethel, on the Aisne, and
after undergoing many hardships, made his way
through the German hosts, beyond the battle front
to Liart, west of Mezieres on the Meuse. Five



times he was arrested and examined, but turned
loose as a harmless fool. Several times sentries
shot at him because he did not stop. At Liart, he
was arrested for the sixth time, and taken before
the commanding officer of the Germans in that

"What is your name?" asked the interpreter.

No reply. The guard next to him struck him a
heavy blow on the shoulder, and to Raoul's sur-
prised, inquiring look, made frantic signs for him
to tell his name. They then tried several tricks to
get him to show that he feigned deafness, as they
believed. Guns were fired suddenly behind him.
While a prearranged silence reigned, one of the of-
ficers said to another, without looking in Raoul's
direction: "That peasant idiot has blood on the
back of his left hand. He may be a murderer."
Whereas, Raoul had not flinched at the firing of
guns, he now very nearly dropped his eyes to his
hand. It was just what anyone would have done.
But, finally, the Germans, failing in everything they
had tried, decided to put the prisoner to the final
test, and the military court went through the for-
mality of ordering him to be shot. The mock sen-
tence was solemnly repeated to Raoul in German,
French, English and Russian. Through it all he
was unconcerned, and just as they commanded that
he be led out and executed at once, he fumbled in
his pocket for a match, and from another quarter
of his ragged attire, brought out a half-burned


"It's no use!" cried the general. "Push him out
the door he's harmless."

On and on he wandered, getting an occasional
flogging, and sometimes being shut up in prison for
a day or two, but his antics and quaint music on the
piccolo, and his silly facial expressions which he
practiced, as well as the funny cough, passed him
on safely from place to place, until one morning he
walked over the high stone bridge into Ste. Gene-
vieve. A number of German soldiers idled in front
of Caddo Felon's shoe shop, and these Raoul es-
sayed to entertain with his shrill music.

A crowd soon collected. Scattered about among
the soldiers were several of Raoul's former friends
the old, lame, or incapacitated for war. But they
did not recognize him. And that fact convinced
Raoul of the effectiveness of his disguise.

After playing all the local pieces, he danced the
Champenois Wine Fete. Then he fell on the ground
, in a fit of his extraordinary coughing. Recovering
with apparent difficulty, he proceeded to pass around
his cap. Many centimes were dropped, and the sol-
diers contributed pfenning. Raoul thanked them,
bowing very low, and smiling, made signs to his
audience that he could neither speak nor hear.

Many children followed him down the street to
the cafe, and stood about the door while he ate.
He heard some of the little fellows trying to imitate
his cough, and Raoul smiled, because he knew every
one of them by name. There was tiny Jacqueline,


who wore a pair of sabots he had given her. Over
by the well were Helene and Edouard Trellier, both
of whom he had carried many times on his back.

The lunch finished, Raoul came out and played
and danced for the children especially, for that was
what the}- were waiting for all the while. In the
midst of a heel-and-toe jog, a favorite dance in the
Guise district, the deaf and dumb spy was aston-
ished at seeing Hermance pass by, in working
clothes, carrying a young baby. He quickly made
his bow to the children and walked off abruptly to
a place of vantage, so that he could look at Her-
mance again.

"It is a shame that poor Hermance must take her
baby with her when she works and the child so
young," Roger the Joker was saying to Picard, the
wine merchant.

Again Raoul came near forgetting that he was
playing deaf and dumb. Gradually he turned about
so that he could catch every word the men were
saying. What were they talking about anyway?
Hermance' s baby !

"Yes, she's right," said old Picard. "It's not safe
to leave him in the chateau they say Madame Mo-
restier would kill him. And Hermance is so fond
of little Paul."

"Fond of little Paul!" ran on through Raoul's
mind, repeating itself so often that he tried to com-
prehend the strange thing that had happened. A
choky feeling came into his throat. What! had


Hermance so soon after his departure been made
to believe him dead killed in battle, perhaps, and
induced to marry Paul Hilot, the one-eyed chemist?
It was impossible! And yet there was the baby
Hermance's baby! "Madame Morestier would kill
him." The baby must be a boy. Why, of course!
"Fond of little Paul !" certainly it was a boy. And
undoubtedly, smooth-tongued Paul Hilot had told
the lie, or else why was Madame Morestier so bit-
ter? She had always detested Paul Hilot, the liar
and deceiver! So ran the tirade of questions and
exclamations, as Raoul hesitated, amazed, wonder-
ing what he should do. Yes, he would overtake her
beyond the village and demand an explanation.

But as Raoul hurried along, three determined
German soldiers barred the way and arrested him.
They dragged him into a narrow alley, and hustled
him forward in spite of his cough, which he affected
with great zeal.

"You claim to be deaf and dumb," one of them
said to him in very broken French. "Ah, oui, you
lie ! If you be deaf, how is it you play music? How
could you know some new pieces ? Auch so ! mein
Heber Gott! You are one spy!"

Raoul maintained his presence of mind and acted
his part, but the point of the music was well taken,
and it troubled him. It almost caused him to forget
the discovery he had made regarding Hermance.
And he set himself the task of working out this knot
holding so fast in his rope if he failed, the noose


would quickly form and hang him. "How very
strange," he kept repeating mentally, "that I should
have overlooked a point so important." Then he
wondered how it had happened that other Germans
had not picked him up on his playing their new tunes
as he went along.

"You had better make a clean confession this
time," derisively continued the talkative captor, "or
put up a tale that will stand all tests. I tell you,
friend, you've made the fatal error this time."

The idee fixe in Raoul's mind, namely, that a fool
is always safe, was drawn upon for whatever it
could provide. He put on his silliest look and pre-
tended that he enjoyed being cuffed about. He be-
came natural to a fault of his pretending and occa-
sionally went into spasms of queer coughing. This
cough finally aroused the risibility of the soldiers,
and eventually they gave way to roars of laughter.

"He is a silly ass !" said one of the soldiers who
had been silent so far except for his laughing. A
third one added, "Poor devil ! eight German bullets
out of a platoon would be an act of mercy to him."

Raoul's captors spoke exclusively in bad French,
because they intended that he should hear. This
much he surmised, and concluded that he had fallen
into the hands of spy experts probably they had
followed him from Liart.

"Some accident in childhood," said the presiding
officer Raoul knowing that dumbness is a direct
result of deafness in childhood, feared that they


would examine his tongue. "Well, ask him how
long he has been a fool. He printed one word
Dinant ask him to write more."

More Teutonic energy was expended on him than
it would have required to take one hundred kilo-
meters of trenches instead of the regulation five
hundred meters, but the most he could be induced to
do was to print the names of Dinant and other vil-
lages near the Belgian border.

The officer turned away in great disgust. "Fool !
fool !" he said, stamping and muttering to himself.

Raoul thought it time to have another laugh, and
began slowly at first, and then coughed by easy
stages until he had worked up to a marvelous volume
of variations. They opened the door of the old
house that served as headquarters, and pushed him
into the street.

For a minute he stood looking back at the laugh-
ing soldiers with the most injured expression he
could command, and after shaking his head and
shrugging his shoulders, walked aimlessly towards
the river. He knew that they still watched him,
and therefore betook himself to several houses, in
full view, where he made signs of begging for some-
thing to eat.

And in the meantime he coughed consistently.

There was now only one thing uppermost in
Raoul's thoughts Hermance and her baby. He
would go immediately to seek her in the fields.
Why was she working in the fields ? The lazy Paul


Hilot! But why was she not sewing? her mother
could always do fitting to please the women. Fi-
nally he thought it best to pretend to beg at the
chateau, and, if unobserved, make himself known
to Madame Morestier. Old Picard had as much
as said that she remained at home. And wandering
through the village greens, trying to imitate the
casual French beggar, he drew near the old chateau,
and made his way through the trellised entrance.
He presented himself at the front door, and since
no one had followed, ventured in and mounted to
the apartment on the third floor.

"Ah, Madame !" he exclaimed on meeting Her-
mance's mother. ''I intended to surprise you."

"Who are you?" asked Madame Morestier in a
strange voice.

"Why, I am Raoul. Ssh !" he whispered, by way
of caution. "I'm a spy."

"A spy!" she repeated, frightened. The mystery
appealed to her deranged mind, which he knew
nothing of, and she looked cunning. "I know what
you came for you want that baby. Don't blame
you. Take him and kill him. I would if I could.
I did try, but Hermance is such a fool she caught
me when I was about to drown him in the fountain
at the back, and took him away. She loves the baby
better than she loves me."

"Where is she now, Madame?"

"I don't know. Every day she takes the baby and
goes away. I suppose she goes to that German."


"What German ! Tell me, is he a German ?"

"Of course ! I tell you Hermance has a German
baby! think of it! My God! deliver me from
this world!"

Raoul felt himself growing dizzy. A grinding
noise smote his ears and he heard steps. Quickly
collecting his wits he forsook the wailing Madame
Morestier, and hurried down the stairs, coughing.

Germans again, of course, and they took him into
custody with a very determined flourish of author-
ity. This would certainly be his very last day on
earth. Madame Morestier would be questioned
she would either deny him, to protect him, not think-
ing to deny also that he spoke and heard, or she
might unguardedly admit his identity. In either
event he would be convicted of spying. Oh, well!
what did it matter, after all? Hermance devoted to
a German! Raoul heartily wished they would take
him immediately and shoot him. What was there
for him to live for his country's sake? Yes, he
had served his country well, but the light that
showed him the way was his love for Hermance.
Now, had she spurned him for another man ? "Fond
of little Paul, indeed!" and the world went round
in a dark maze.

One thought saved Raoul. If he broke down
and was shot as a spy, Hermance would triumph
over him. His memory would be held in derision
by her, even though she were a traitress, and dis-
grace to her country. No, he would not go back


on France! He would not give up. If they con-
victed him, it must be so, but in that case he would
die in the service of the Republic.

His captors were the same three soldiers who had
detained him a short time before. "Ha!" said the
talkative one, "we shall not let you go so soon.
We think we have you now, please. I think you
are the same man that worked in the gas plant at
Stuttgart. We shall see. You go there mit us,
and mit the men who worked there. You cannot
lie so cleverly, so !"

That was a new turn in events. Raoul was
hardly prepai-ed for such a change, but then, it
freed him from the danger likely to follow from
his having made himself kno^vn to Madame Mo-
restier. Of course, that possibility could follow
him, if she ever mentioned that he had been at the
chateau. Anyway, he seemed destined for a trip
into Germany. In their overzealousness, stupid
thoroughness, they would probably increase his
chances for observation. He must train his ear a
little more for the German the old schoolmaster had
tauglit him.

Very little time elapsed from his second arrest in
Ste. Genevieve until he was set down at the gas fac-
tory in Stuttgart, where they were filling shells with
the fearful product. They had planned ahead that
Raoul would be taken to the machine he was sup-
posed to have operated, without notify ing Dther em-
ployees. If they recognized him as Otto Biedmann,


he was to be taken out immediately and shot. There-
fore, he was ushered into the great factory. But
no one recognized him.

The manager said: "Take away that coughing

What were they to do with him? Not even a
German likes the idea of killing a fool. The au-
thorities did not want him left in Stuttgart. They
decided to send him to the Belgian frontier to work
digging ditches. Hence, away they whirled him
again, and in a few days he found himself working
along with English and French prisoners of war.

But neither would they have him his cough was
too much, even for the trenches. They shunted
him off to beg, or get on as best he could.

Raoul Beauvais, therefore, well-stocked with in-
formation, began to move forward cautiously. He
had managed to reach the neighborhood of Avesnes,
north of the Oise, but each step forward became
more difficult. The odd peculiarities he had so stu-
diously assumed, were telling on him fearfully. It
was even doubtful whether he could ever shake off
his cough. Besides, he was almost a nervous wreck.
A few more arrests would certainly bring about
complete collapse. But he must push on and on
must get back to the French lines somehow.

Having arrived in the country of his boyhood,
Raoul trusted no further to his luck in daylight.
He abandoned begging, and slipped through the
forests and plains by night, crawling past camps

6 7

of the enemy, running great risks. On a certain
midnight, he reached Guise, on the Oise.

''Is that you, Rene?" he asked from the roof of
a aed, as a shaggy head appeared in a window of
an adjoining cottage.


"Bicn! I am Raoul Beauvais."

"Mou Dicn! mon ami! crawl close to the wall
I will help you in this way."

Once within, Raoul explained : "Now, Rene, you
must give up that light canoe of yours to the cause
of France."


''Go by day early in the morning, to the cedars
and pine thickets on the point out from your place
below, and pretend to be clearing just on the edge
all day. Cut the small trees and let them be thrown
into the river to float down. Keep a stream of them
on the float all da)- work on into the night."

"But the Oise is almost yet in flood from the
rains, and will carry them on down to the Seine.
I shall get into trouble for littering the river."

"I know no law besides it is necessary for the
sake of France."

"As you like," replied old Rene Vincent. "What

"When you go in the morning, provision the
light canoe the one that has the rudder with
enough food to last one man a number of days.
Late in the evening, cut a very thick cedar, but a


short one, and tie it lengthwise over the boat, see-
ing that the latter is carefully covered. Weave in
false branches and make it look like a well-rounded
tree, a trifle more dense in growth."


"Then, Rene, I shall come to you just after dark,
and lie down in the boat. You will then push it out
towards the current. Put the oars inside the rest
I shall do when necessity demands."

"I understand. Then what shall I do?"

"Continue to cut cedars and pines, throwing them
into the river, until someone comes and tells you to

In this manner, Raoul Beauvais attempted to float
beyond the German boundary, into the lines of the

By the second day, a great outcry came up from
below. A long line of cedars and pines went trail-
ing on, about fifty yards apart. The Germans
thought they concealed mines but from where?
Men in boats were kept for half a day in mid stream
examining each one as it came along. Some one
was turning the whole forest into the river. Stop
him ! But the trees were left to go on to annoy the
French. The Germans thought they saw in it a
joke, and ordered the blockading cables lifted to let
the cedars pass.

Likewise much curiosity was aroused in the
French camps. After ten or twelve floated by,
they began to fire on the cedars to see what became


of it then, as the Germans had done, men went out

in boats to examine the trees. They looked innocent
enough, but the wary French said: "A joke, per-
haps, but the Germans know what they are about
we shall see !"

Poor Rene was roughly handled. The Germans
near Guise came down and caught him industriously
engaged in cutting and casting out, as though he had
gone crazy and imagined that he fed fodder to some
monster of the waters. "Foolish mad man!" they
exclaimed, and put him in prison for a week on
bread and water.

The tree under which Raoul reclined, drifted on
through the German outposts to within a quarter
of a mile of the French. In another half hour he
would have been safe, without incident, but for the
frolicking of some soldiers with a dog. They were
throwing a piece of dry wood into the river and
urging the dog, \vhich happened to be a savage one,
to swim out and bring it back to the bank, only to
be sent back after it again and again. Each time
the block would be thrown farther out, and finally,
it alighted in Raoul's tree and hung. The dog
came swimming after it as before. He held his
head and ears just above the water line until he
reached the concealed boat. On discovering Raoul,
lying at full-length on his back, the dog began to
bark furiously, and endeavored to climb over the
edge of the canoe.

By and by, the Germans concluded something


unusual must be lodged in the tree, and a boat was
put out to investigate.

It was getting dark, but Raoul could see this
threatening move. He saw that they would over-
take him before he could float to safety, although
it could not be very far to the haven he sought.
However, the long journey he had taken was now
about to end in failure, or at least in great excite-
ment. The German boat was gaining at every
pull of the double set of oars, and the dog was likely
to mount into the boat under the tree at any moment,
causing the craft to upset or fill with water. Some-
thing must be done.

Raoul clipped the cords that bound the tree and
branches to the canoe, and pushed them off into the
water. The dog became frantic. Raoul was then
quite out of patience with the animal, and dealt him
a heavy blow with the oar. That silenced the dog,
but overturned the boat !

A shout went up from the Germans in the dis-
tance, and immediately little flashes could be seen
spurting out in the gathering darkness. Jets of
water splashed up now and again, and Raoul, stiff
from lying in one position so long, fought with the
murky river in an effort to keep himself afloat. But
he began to swim after a little struggling, keeping
as much under water as possible often swimming
for a few seconds entirely beneath. The firing
ceased, and he saw the intention was to run him
down with the boat.


The erstwhile spy made for the left bank, where
there appeared to be a clump of willows. But the
enemy was gaining, and he began to feel his strength
giving way so that now and again he was forced
to tread water and rest.

Suddenly, a white pencil of a searchlight was
ranged on the river's surface, and in a minute, firing
began on the left bank! Raoul was soon grabbing
at twigs on a ball-shaped point. An instant later,
a soldier helped him to his feet ! He recognized his
rescuers as a part of the advanced lines of the
French. The poilus opened fire on the German
boat, and thus ended the pursuit.



ALTHOUGH Hermance's heart went out to her baby
in the fullness of Mother love, and she had put
forever from her the thought of permitting harm
to come to him, yet she was deeply troubled over
his presence in her humble home. What would
Raoul say? Would he not want to send the child
away? Undoubtedly he would want it disclosed
to annoying people that for one reason or another,
the baby had been placed in another's keeping. Or,
perhaps, Raoul would want secrecy maintained, lest
the village gossips might destroy the happiness of
their future lives.

With all these considerations running through
her mind, and perhaps from the inborn instinct of
a mother's protecting care, inspired by God himself
Hermance from the beginning, kept her suffer-
ings and her mother's within the walls of Chateau
Morestier, except to Father Pelletier, Dr. Joumon-
ville, and Grand'mdre Dauphin. These three were
pledged to absolute silence. Hermance did not
know how much the village people knew of the
affair, and was afraid to ask even Grand' m^re. As
a matter of fact, the neighbors knew nothing.

Nevertheless, as time went on, the village and
country matrons wondered. Hermance and Raoul



were favorites with all of them, and they felt dis-
inclined to say things aloud. Now and then one
would whisper over a garden wall. In that way,
the substrata of common knowledge became more
or less infected with suspicions.

Hermance knew such would be the case. After
deciding in those first days that she would not
suffer harm to come to the child, she began to plan
to keep him, notwithstanding the possibility that
Raoul might have different views. She set about
devising ways and means to remove all the stain

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Online LibraryWilliam Antony KennedyThe invader's son → online text (page 4 of 21)