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in her head; had been a good daughter, sister, and wife; was helpful to those in trouble, and joyful with those who rejoiced; but things were going badly with Marie, since the birth of her fatherless child, and there* was no hope of peace, and these coquins de Prussicns were eating up the land."
When I entered Marie's room, she was lying on her bed, white and still, with a little swaddled bundle beside her. "This is my baby," she whispered, setting upright the little stiff image. The baby opened its dark eyes, and looked at me with that entire want of speculation in its gaze common to its kind. Marie said no more, but her face was as speaking in interest as her child's was vacant; she took my hand, and held it in both of hers. There was not silence in the room, however, for beside the bed stood the voluble little mother-inlaw, telling me all the symptoms; how there was no milk for the' little one, how feverish the mother was, what sleepless nights, what exhausting days. "The doctor says it is because there is trouble on the mind. Of course there is trouble, with the husband dead, shot down before the eyes of his brother, on the heights above Sedan, on that fatal day of August 31st; of course there is trouble, with nothing to eat, and all the little savings going; is it not all true, ma mere?" And the little old woman turned for corroboration to a bent figure sitting at the farther corner of the room, stretching out lean long fingers towards the glow from the little stove. "Yes, yes," murmured this other, "it is the war, famine, and fever that have done it all. I have just this and that," taking up the hem of her dress and petticoat, "just this and that, all gone; and then the smell of powder and blood!"
"Never mind her," said the other to me apologetically; "her mind is gone, but she is Marie's mother, and in her day was the belle of the village: she married well, and had a farm of her own, plenty of linen, and three great tits monies. Marie was not the only child; there was another, a boy, humpbacked, and of weak intellect, who showed no love for any one but Marie, and her whole life was devoted to him until he died. My son never laughed at him as the other village lads did, but would spend long hours in amusing him, and the boy was never stubborn or wilful with Jacques. And then Marie married
my son, and all the village said she might have done better, but a man who is gentle with children is sure to be gentle with women, and a son who is thoughtful for his mother is likely to make a good husband; and so I told Marie: and to Jacques I said, 'Never leave off asking her until you get her;' and in the end he did win her. And now he has died fighting for his country, and I am proud and satisfied, though I am not happy." The brave little woman paused here to lift the corner of her apron to the dim old eyes.
All this time Marie lay back upon her pillow, tearless and still. She was not a strikingly pretty woman, but there was a supplicating sadness in her large, dark eyes, softly veiled by black lashes, and there was a wealth of sweetness and tenderness about the full, slightly compressed lips, that lent to her whole face a strange fascinating interest.
Had this sweet, silent woman, I wonder, drifted unknowingly into matrimony—was it "juxtaposition in fine?" or was it that deep, sensitive gratitude that grows so near akin to love in a woman's heart?
Jacques had not ridiculed the idiot boy, and she, so loving to her brother, and too young to sound the depths of such a sacrifice, had given herself to Jacques for recompense. And now trouble had come, and she had been near to death, and, as the woman said, all the little savings had gone. The case was bad, but Marie was not so downcast as I had expected; perhaps she had at this moment forgotten much that she had suffered; perhaps, also, she was experiencing a great and undefined relief. What if there should dawn a new life for her, with health, and her child ?—a life without dreads, or suppressed wearinesses, or smothered incompatibilities. "If only I could live !" said the speaking eyes. So, at least, 1 read her story. Otherwise it might almost seem strange that she should wish for life, with nothing to look forward to but widowed loneliness. She and I had hardly uttered a word together, but, as she held my hand in hers, I felt arising between us a sudden sympathy that springs up between two people, recognizing a spontaneous trust that needs no outward expression.
The door was now opened softly to admit a German soldier, one of those coquins de Prussiens, carrying an armful of small cut logs of wood. I had noticed him, as I came in, chopping them up in front of the door. He gave me a military salute as he passed on tiptoe to the little stove, where he began to replenish the dying flame, moving about silently and softly. There stood a little saucepan of milk on the hearth, which the women were neglecting; he moved it to a little distance from the fire, and, stirring it, saved it from being burnt. He then opened a cupboard, and drew out a little packet of corn-flour which I had sent to Marie the previous day. "Ah! I had forgotten," cried la belle mere, quickly drying her eyes; '* she ought to have had that an hour ago. * Go and get some water from the well, Heinrich, while I mix some in a cup." Heinrich reached her a cup and spoon from a shelf, and passed out as quickly as he had come in. He was a powerfully built man, with a great head, set rather clumsily on square upright shoulders; there was a gentle dignity in his manners, and a good resolute expression in his deep, grey eyes. One felt he was the reposeful element in that little household; the women had taken the part of requisitioning the enemy, and making full use of his kindly helpfulness, while he, the strong one, was being bullied, because of his strength, by the weak ones.
"Do you think there is danger," whispered la belle mere, as she accompanied me to the door, "having that great Prussian in the house, with Marie so young?"
"What do you mean?" I asked astonished.
"I don't say that he is not all that is convenable, and Marie is entirely engrossed with her baby; mais apres? How long is it to last? I ask myself. When are these Germans to be sent away? Marie is a good woman, and he a good man, notwithstanding that he is our enemy. He has, too, such a way of doing things for me before I ask him, seeming to divine all we want. My Jacques was always willing, but not forethoughtful as this one is. I have nothing to complain of in Marie's conduct; she scolds him, and he never answers her back, and she sends him about and he always goes. Mais apres I In my day it was an impossible thing for a young man and woman to live together without falling in love, but the young are more reasonable now—at least, Marie, I know, is reasonable; she and Jacques were very different from me and my man.
Whoever would have thought that I should grow to be an old woman, living on ai alone?"
"I don't think you need anticipate aov thing," I said; "Marie's baby is ha great interest"
"If only he were like the rest of thou, cruel and exacting, I should feel easiet. and could complain," she muttered to herself, as she re-entered the cottage.
On the following day I journeyed to i neighboring town, to pay a visit to an ambulance in which I had nursed during tk troubled times that followed the capitvSation of Sedan, and I almost forgot Marclittle household, in the interest of rene«iri old acquaintances. As I arrived a! tb door of the well-known sombre-locfc house, a young man hobbled up to nst and, seizing-my hand, shook it heartily.
"Don't you know me ?" he asked; "I am the one out of the five amputated that survived in that crowded little room Look here; what a splendid support I have got." He went on displaying a cka: wooden stump, strapped on to his shanaed limb. "And this, too," pointing to a decoration on his breast—"yes. 1 on hold up my head proudly among all these Prussian dogs, for I fought wildly fa France, but to what use is it? What hi; come of it? We are betrayed first by ou: Emperor, then by our generals ; and ev« our women cringe and snigger to the* loafing barbarians. Few Frenchmen ai like me, hold up their heads, and fe satisfied they have done their utmost fc their country." And off stumped my qu^ dam patient, followed by a little troop« gamin admirers.
"The wind is tempered to the sho" lamb," thought I, as I watched the pea maimed lad limping about so gaily.
I found things in a progressive staa inside the walls; the French came up:me, voluble and hearty, recognizing in w a friend whose pocket might possibly be filled with tobacco and cigars, if not & bearer of important news from the outa world. The Germans were silently dignified, and gloomily hopeless about thei own recovery. "Could I write a b«j poem to a distant lady love?" "No. "Well, would I ask the doctor to prevt upon the cook to make some strong soup?" "Yes, I would do that." "Had! by chance a cold sausage in my pocket?" "No; could I do anything else?" I inquired. "Yes, Madame might make
Some weeks after my return home from my visit, I went again to see Mane; 1 had heard she had been getting on well, and I found her up, and much better, with a new and brighter expression on her face. Her mother had just been discussing the advisability of retiring to bed; she had tired of her coffee roasting, and knitting, and the afternoon was gloomy and cold. I helped the tottering old woman into an inner room, where, in a sort of berth hollowed into the wall, she lay down and soon fell asleep. While 1 was with her, the German Heinrich came in, and went straight up to Marie. "Why don't you tell her? You can trust her, and she might help us." I knew he meant me. "Speak, Marie," he went on, bending over her his great head, with the strong, short-cropped hair. He was all-powerful; Marie would have done anything for him, and he knew it, and she knew that he knew it; and yet he was pleading and tender, and gentler than she was. Her eyes had fallen under his gaze, and her lips pressed themselves together ; she had struck pettishly the great big hand that enclosed hers. It is only the strong and the great who are gentle; it is the weak who strike out cruelly and recklessly to save themselves from falling. I came out from the inner room, and sat down in the old mother's chair, on the other side of the fire. Heinrich came and stood before me, erect and resolute. "Madame," he began, "I love this Frenchwoman, Marie, of Villefranche, and I wish to marry her; but if we made our intentions known in the village, either she or I would be torn in pieces by the people, for at this hour there is no love lost between the despoiled and the despoilers. In loving Marie I do not forget my country, nor does she renounce hers. I only find that love, when it comes, triumphs over all other feelings and considerations. Could you not speak to the cure for us, and get him to marry us privately?" "But," I interrupted, "surely it is too short a time since the death of Marie's husband." "I have been in the house for months, and have to-day received marching orders," he put in. "And he has been everything to me, and done everything for me, and I cannot bear it New Series.—Vol. XIV., No. 4.
any longer," added Marie, in her low, passionate voice. Then the big man knelt down, and kissed and stroked the pale hands that held with effort her baby's weight.
On my way home that evening, I called at the cur€s house. I gave my name, and he came shuffling along the little garden walk, with sabots pulled over his shoes, so as to open the gate to me himself. We bowed and scraped to one another, and remarked on the depth of the snow as we made our way to his sanctum. In the centre of the room stood a writing-table, covered with greasy-looking volumes, thin letter-paper, ink, and sand; there was an open fire-place, filled with ashes, and two logs placed ready for lighting. The cure immediately stooped down and lit a match (though 1 protested), and the room was soon lighted with the sparkling flames. On the mantel-shelf stood small dusty images of the Madonna and the Crucifixion, balanced by a pipe and tobacco pouch ; a cup board happened to be half open, and on its shelves were ranged flasks of various sauces and syices, and mouldy old bpttles of sealed wines. He motioned me to a chair, and drew a little mat in front of it for my feet; and with his snuff-box in his hand, and his head meekly bowed down, he listened to my tale. It was a difficult story to tell, and I stuttered and stammered over it,. but the priest was all attention. "That is all very right," he said, in a reassuring way; "there are much more complicated cases than that in the village. And so. you think they should marry," he went on, lifting his sleepy eyes to mine.
"Yes, indeed 1 do, and any little expense Marie may incur I shall most gladly"
"Of course, I understand," he interrupted, waving his hand in a deprecating way. "Poor Jacques, he could neither read nor write, but as he said, that did not prevent him from serving his country. Well, we will try and arrange matters in a quiet way some time soon, and in the meanwhile Marie and this German must keep quiet and bide their time."
And then I rose, and he, bowing low, put on his sabots again, and accompanied me to the garden-gate.
On the following day I called again at Marie's cottage; she expected me, and had put the little coffee-pot on the stove,,
and had sent Heinrich out to get some new bread for me, talking of everything but the one subject nearest to her heart. She was looking charming, and was making a great effort to be energetic. I was being warmed by her hot coffee, and we were waiting for Heinrich and the bread, when the outer door opened, and a great gust of cold wind swept through the narrow passage. Marie was holding a saucepan over the fire ; the pan shook and trembled, and I feared for the fate of the milk as Marie turned her eyes, so full of lustrous light, to the door. I was feeling a little shut out, and aggrieved about the probable loss of the milk destined for my cup, as I noticed Marie's distraction, when—thud thud, came along the passage, and—thud thud, echoed through the room. As I looked at her, I saw that suddenly the love-lit eyes waned and paled, and from her clenched white Hps came an agonized shriek. She staggered forward, and fell into her husband's arms.
"Marie, mignonne, c'est moi, regardes ton Jacques," and he tried to lift up the blanched face to his. "Ah! it was you who saved me," he went on, turning and recognizing me. "How much I owe to you! Figure to yourself, my Marie, a party of five were brought from the field; all had to undergo amputation, and I alone survived the surgeon's knife. I thought it was all up with me, when I fell pierced by two balls, and with those riderless horses careering over me, and knew nothing more until I woke to find myself in an ambulance without my leg ; and now I walk with my head as high as any of those see/erats de Prussiens."
I looked round bewildered, and saw Heinrich in the doorway; he stood like one petrified, holding the loaf of bread listlessly in his hand; his face and form seemed to'shrink, and all strength appeared to have left him; he gave one despairing look at the bent head crowned with its glistening braids of black hair, and silently quitted the room.
I laid Marie upon her bed, and watched beside it for many miserable hours, while she passed out of one fainting fit into another. It was a totally different home■coming to what poor Jacques had anticipated; he had meant it to be a triumphal entry—an unexpected, unalloyed pleasure—instead of which it had only been a scene of consternation and dis
tress. He found, however, a hearty welcome from all his neighbors, who, when Marie got better, came flocking in to express their congratulations.
I returned home that evening with a very heavy heart: on the road I met Heinrich. "I am going to try and get other quarters inside the town," he said to me as I came up to him. We walked together side by side, sadly and silently. A party of Prussian officers came riding joyously along the road; they were returning from scouring the country, on the pretence of an alarm from Francs-Tireurs. All were noisy, ruddy, and full of life: they looked curiously at my companion as he returned their military salute. Why should a conquering German look so downcast? they seemed to say. A little further on came rattling at full speed the Feld-post, bristling with soldiers and bayonets, each cart driven by a sullen, scared-looking French peasant. As we passed them, the men called out friendly greetings to Heinrich, but he did not raise his bent head, as with long absent strides he waded through the snow. As we passed through the gates leading into the town, with all the bustle and confusion round us, he began abruptly to talk aloud his inmost thoughts.
"And how my mother will grieve for me!" he said. "I have written to her from time to time, telling her about my love for Marie, and she has so well understood—she has all, a man's chivalry for women. At first she wrote, 'Do not give your heart to a Frenchwoman, my son,' but in her last letter she said, 'When the war is over, and if your life is spared, bring Marie with her babe and the two old women to our valley of the Wisperthal; the house is roomy, and with us there will be peace and plenty, and we shall together forget all that has been,'— and now," he went on, flinging up his arms, "It is all like some wild dream that is passed. You are tired," he said, looking down at me with his kindly penetrating eyes, "but you will sleep to-night and get rest, while 1—I—my life now will be one long restless night, when waking I find her not."
"You are a soldier; you can fight," I said, feeling more pity for Marie.
"Yes, I can do that," he said, laughing hoarsely.
Some days afterwards I was in the doorway of a house opposite to that-of Jacques, when my attention was attracted to a little crowd collected round his open door.
Two Uhlans had come riding down the street, and stopped to join Heinrich, who was mounting his horse and bidding farewell to his hosts. Jacques held out his hand and gave Heinrich a kindly shake, for the wounded Frenchman could afford to be polite to his enemy; the old mother had come tottering into the light, and, while shading her eyes with her hand, was giving a long earnest look at the departing guest. The bustling little mother-in-law was calling out her last farewell to Heinrich, who, though he was one of the detested invaders, had proved himself a helpful and kindly inmate. Marie was standing with her baby in her arms at an upper window; she was full in the light, not partly hidden, as a girl might be, looking her last on the' man she loves. She was gazing clown with her Madonna face, full of a high purpose and a calm serenity: the war within her had been sharp and fierce, but the struggle was over, and she had accepted her fate as God had willed it. She had come forward into the window to bring peace and encouragement to Heinrich.
There was a divine tranquillity about her whole bearing that struck him as he glanced up with a sad disturbed face into the calm above him; he looked again, long and earnestly, and the shadow of a great grief seemed to pass away, and the drawn, hollow lines about his face softened into repose. She, out of the depths of her despair, had taught him that hard life lesson, "que la liberie est l obeissance vcloniaire." We are not sent into the world to rest in the haven of a great love, to seek and win our individual happiness; love comes, as spring comes, to renew all life, to cover the hard, cold earth with softness and sweetness, to bring the tender buds to blossoming perfection, to fill the clear air with fragrance and light. What if the spring passes? is there not the long summer of twilight and peace? Marie had loved, and her love had made her stronger and better: she had suffered, and the sufFering had raised and purified her whole nature; she was going to "live the life," not as she had planned it for herself, but as fate had decreed it. The beauty of renunciation shone out of her clear eyes, and in the majesty of her figure
there breathed the restful calm that follows upon the tumult of a storm subdued.
"They are not men, they are machines!" exclaimed a young girl scornfully, as she moved away from the little group at the door. She had threaded a red ribbon through her ebon hair, and had lifted up her bright eyes laughingly to look into Heinrich's face; he was adjusting his long, glittering lance in the stirrup at the time, and had either not noticed her glajice, or had gazed at her vacantly with his dim, grief-ful eyes.
I stood and looked after the three figures, sitting square and upright on their powerful horses. As they passed out from the village street on to the straight highway, bordered with stately trees, whose frozen branches, entwining with one another, formed a trellised arch in long perspective, one heard the clank of the horses' hoofs far up the road. The scene as I saw it, with the shadows of evening softening all harsh outlines, seemed like some dream-picture, bathed in the rose and amber light of a waning sun; there was no joyous rippling sound of running water, all the fountains were frozen dumb, thin clouds of vapory mist wreathed slowly up into the air from above the rough-hewn crosses that bordered the roadside, marking the resting place of those killed fighting for their fatherland. Heinrich turned to give one last look, and then the three horsemen passed out of sight.
Jacques crossed the street, and caught sight of Marie at the window. She smiled, and held up the laughing baby. Jacques' face became radiant, as he stood leaning on his crutches, watching the mother and child, and then limped quickly back again into the house. Then Marie leant out for a moment, her whole face involuntarily changing as she looked for the last time into the misty distance, beginning perhaps to realize with something like despair the level dulness of her future daily life—it was a passionate farewell look—a helpless, wistful gaze; she was young and eager, with throbbing pulses and an aching heart, that revolted against the woman's relentless will. The child looked up into the altered face, its gleeful crowing changed to a little weak scared cry; Marie started back, and, bending her head low over her baby, hushed its wailing sobs. And in the fading light I saw the indistinct outlines of Jacques good-humored, meaning