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A Beleaguered City by Mrs. Oliphant

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right to bear those signs which distinguish him from common men, which
show in what office, for what cause, he is ready to die.

Accordingly I paused, struggling against the pressure of the people, and
said in a loud voice, 'In the absence of M. Barbou, who has forsaken us,
I constitute the excellent M. Felix de Bois-Sombre my representative. In
my absence my fellow-citizens will respect and obey him as myself.'
There was a cry of assent. They would have given their assent to
anything that we might but go on. What was it to them? They took no
thought of the heaving of my bosom, the beating of my heart. They left
us on the edge of the darkness with our faces towards the gate. There we
stood one breathless moment. Then the little postern slowly opened
before us, and once more we stood within Semur.


M. le Maire having requested me, on his entrance into Semur, to lose no
time in drawing up an account of my residence in the town, to be placed
with his own narrative, I have promised to do so to the best of my
ability, feeling that my condition is a very precarious one, and my time
for explanation may be short. Many things, needless to enumerate, press
this upon my mind. It was a pleasure to me to see my neighbours when I
first came out of the city; but their voices, their touch, their
vehemence and eagerness wear me out. From my childhood up I have shrunk
from close contact with my fellow-men. My mind has been busy with other
thoughts; I have desired to investigate the mysterious and unseen. When
I have walked abroad I have heard whispers in the air; I have felt the
movement of wings, the gliding of unseen feet. To my comrades these have
been a source of alarm and disquiet, but not to me; is not God in the
unseen with all His angels? and not only so, but the best and wisest of
men. There was a time indeed, when life acquired for me a charm. There
was a smile which filled me with blessedness, and made the sunshine more
sweet. But when she died my earthly joys died with her. Since then I
have thought of little but the depths profound, into which she has
disappeared like the rest.

I was in the garden of my house on that night when all the others left
Semur. I was restless, my mind was disturbed. It seemed to me that I
approached the crisis of my life. Since the time when I led M. le Maire
beyond the walls, and we felt both of us the rush and pressure of that
crowd, a feeling of expectation had been in my mind. I knew not what I
looked for--but something I looked for that should change the world.
The 'Sommation' on the Cathedral doors did not surprise me. Why should
it be a matter of wonder that the dead should come back? the wonder is
that they do not. Ah! that is the wonder. How one can go away who loves
you, and never return, nor speak, nor send any message--that is the
miracle: not that the heavens should bend down and the gates of Paradise
roll back, and those who have left us return. All my life it has been a
marvel to me how they could be kept away. I could not stay in-doors on
this strange night. My mind was full of agitation. I came out into the
garden though it was dark. I sat down upon the bench under the
trellis--she loved it. Often had I spent half the night there thinking
of her.

It was very dark that night: the sky all veiled, no light anywhere a
night like November. One would have said there was snow in the air. I
think I must have slept toward morning (I have observed throughout that
the preliminaries of these occurrences have always been veiled in
sleep), and when I woke suddenly it was to find myself, if I may so
speak, the subject of a struggle. The struggle was within me, yet it was
not I. In my mind there was a desire to rise from where I sat and go
away, I could not tell where or why; but something in me said stay, and
my limbs were as heavy as lead. I could not move; I sat still against my
will; against one part of my will--but the other was obstinate and would
not let me go. Thus a combat took place within me of which I knew not
the meaning. While it went on I began to hear the sound of many feet,
the opening of doors, the people pouring out into the streets. This gave
me no surprise; it seemed to me that I understood why it was; only in my
own case, I knew nothing. I listened to the steps pouring past, going on
and on, faintly dying away in the distance, and there was a great
stillness. I then became convinced, though I cannot tell how, that I was
the only living man left in Semur; but neither did this trouble me. The
struggle within me came to an end, and I experienced a great calm.

I cannot tell how long it was till I perceived a change in the air, in
the darkness round me. It was like the movement of some one unseen. I
have felt such a sensation in the night, when all was still, before now.
I saw nothing. I heard nothing. Yet I was aware, I cannot tell how, that
there was a great coming and going, and the sensation as of a multitude
in the air. I then rose and went into my house, where Leocadie, my old
housekeeper, had shut all the doors so carefully when she went to bed.
They were now all open, even the door of my wife's room of which I kept
always the key, and where no one entered but myself; the windows also
were open. I looked out upon the Grande Rue, and all the other houses
were like mine. Everything was open, doors and windows, and the streets
were full. There was in them a flow and movement of the unseen, without
a sound, sensible only to the soul. I cannot describe it, for I neither
heard nor saw, but felt. I have often been in crowds; I have lived in
Paris, and once passed into England, and walked about the London
streets. But never, it seemed to me, never was I aware of so many, of so
great a multitude. I stood at my open window, and watched as in a dream.
M. le Maire is aware that his house is visible from mine. Towards that a
stream seemed to be always going, and at the windows and in the doorways
was a sensation of multitudes like that which I have already described.
Gazing out thus upon the revolution which was happening before my eyes,
I did not think of my own house or what was passing there, till
suddenly, in a moment, I was aware that some one had come in to me. Not
a crowd as elsewhere; one. My heart leaped up like a bird let loose; it
grew faint within me with joy and fear. I was giddy so that I could not
stand. I called out her name, but low, for I was too happy, I had no
voice. Besides was it needed, when heart already spoke to heart?

I had no answer, but I needed none. I laid myself down on the floor
where her feet would be. Her presence wrapped me round and round. It was
beyond speech. Neither did I need to see her face, nor to touch her
hand. She was more near to me, more near, than when I held her in my
arms. How long it was so, I cannot tell; it was long as love, yet short
as the drawing of a breath. I knew nothing, felt nothing but Her, alone;
all my wonder and desire to know departed from me. We said to each other
everything without words--heart overflowing into heart. It was beyond
knowledge or speech.

But this is not of public signification that I should occupy with it the
time of M. le Maire.

After a while my happiness came to an end. I can no more tell how, than
I can tell how it came. One moment, I was warm in her presence; the
next, I was alone. I rose up staggering with blindness and woe--could it
be that already, already it was over? I went out blindly following after
her. My God, I shall follow, I shall follow, till life is over. She
loved me; but she was gone.

Thus, despair came to me at the very moment when the longing of my soul
was satisfied and I found myself among the unseen; but I cared for
knowledge no longer, I sought only her. I lost a portion of my time so.
I regret to have to confess it to M. le Maire. Much that I might have
learned will thus remain lost to my fellow-citizens and the world. We
are made so. What we desire eludes us at the moment of grasping it--or
those affections which are the foundation of our lives preoccupy us, and
blind the soul. Instead of endeavouring to establish my faith and
enlighten my judgment as to those mysteries which have been my life-long
study, all higher purpose departed from me; and I did nothing but rush
through the city, groping among those crowds, seeing nothing, thinking
of nothing--save of One.

From this also I awakened as out of a dream. What roused me was the
pealing of the Cathedral bells. I was made to pause and stand still, and
return to myself. Then I perceived, but dimly, that the thing which had
happened to me was that which I had desired all my life. I leave this
explanation of my failure [Footnote: The reader will remember that the
ringing of the Cathedral bells happened in fact very soon after the
exodus of the citizens; so that the self-reproaches of M. Lecamus had
less foundation than he thought.] in public duty to the charity of M. le

The bells of the Cathedral brought me back to myself--to that which we
call reality in our language; but of all that was around me when I
regained consciousness, it now appeared to me that I only was a dream. I
was in the midst of a world where all was in movement. What the current
was which flowed around me I know not; if it was thought which becomes
sensible among spirits, if it was action, I cannot tell. But the energy,
the force, the living that was in them, that could no one misunderstand.
I stood in the streets, lagging and feeble, scarcely able to wish, much
less to think. They pushed against me, put me aside, took no note of me.
In the unseen world described by a poet whom M. le Maire has probably
heard of, the man who traverses Purgatory (to speak of no other place)
is seen by all, and is a wonder to all he meets--his shadow, his breath
separate him from those around him. But whether the unseen life has
changed, or if it is I who am not worthy their attention, this I know
that I stood in our city like a ghost, and no one took any heed of me.
When there came back upon me slowly my old desire to inquire, to
understand, I was met with this difficulty at the first--that no one
heeded me. I went through and through the streets, sometimes I paused to
look round, to implore that which swept by me to make itself known. But
the stream went along like soft air, like the flowing of a river,
setting me aside from time to time, as the air will displace a straw, or
the water a stone, but no more. There was neither languor nor lingering.
I was the only passive thing, the being without occupation. Would you
have paused in your labours to tell an idle traveller the meaning of our
lives, before the day when you left Semur? Nor would they: I was driven
hither and thither by the current of that life, but no one stepped forth
out of the unseen to hear my questions or to answer me how this might

You have been made to believe that all was darkness in Semur. M. le
Maire, it was not so. The darkness wrapped the walls as in a winding
sheet; but within, soon after you were gone, there arose a sweet and
wonderful light--a light that was neither of the sun nor of the moon;
and presently, after the ringing of the bells; the silence departed as
the darkness had departed. I began to hear, first a murmur, then the
sound of the going which I had felt without hearing it--then a faint
tinkle of voices--and at the last, as my mind grew attuned to these
wonders, the very words they said. If they spoke in our language or in
another, I cannot tell; but I understood. How long it was before the
sensation of their presence was aided by the happiness of hearing I know
not, nor do I know how the time has passed, or how long it is, whether
years or days, that I have been in Semur with those who are now there;
for the light did not vary--there was no night or day. All I know is
that suddenly, on awakening from a sleep (for the wonder was that I
could sleep, sometimes sitting on the Cathedral steps, sometimes in my
own house; where sometimes also I lingered and searched about for the
crusts that Leocadie had left), I found the whole world full of sound.
They sang going in bands about the streets; they talked to each other
as they went along every way. From the houses, all open, where everyone
could go who would, there came the soft chiming of those voices. And at
first every sound was full of gladness and hope. The song they sang
first was like this: 'Send us, send us to our father's house. Many are
our brethren, many and dear. They have forgotten, forgotten, forgotten!
But when we speak, then will they hear.' And the others answered: 'We
have come, we have come to the house of our fathers. Sweet are the
homes, the homes we were born in. As we remember, so will they remember.
When we speak, when we speak, they will hear.' Do not think that these
were the words they sang; but it was like this. And as they sang there
was joy and expectation everywhere. It was more beautiful than any of
our music, for it was full of desire and longing, yet hope and gladness;
whereas among us, where there is longing, it is always sad. Later a
great singer, I know not who he was, one going past as on a majestic
soft wind, sang another song, of which I shall tell you by and by. I do
not think he was one of them. They came out to the windows, to the
doors, into all the streets and byways to hear him as he went past.

M. le Maire will, however, be good enough to remark that I did not
understand all that I heard. In the middle of a phrase, in a word half
breathed, a sudden barrier would rise. For a time I laboured after their
meaning, trying hard and vainly to understand; but afterwards I
perceived that only when they spoke of Semur, of you who were gone
forth, and of what was being done, could I make it out. At first this
made me only more eager to hear; but when thought came, then I perceived
that of all my longing nothing was satisfied. Though I was alone with
the unseen, I comprehended it not; only when it touched upon what I
knew, then I understood.

At first all went well. Those who were in the streets, and at the doors
and windows of the houses, and on the Cathedral steps, where they seemed
to throng, listening to the sounding of the bells, spoke only of this
that they had come to do. Of you and you only I heard. They said to each
other, with great joy, that the women had been instructed, that they had
listened, and were safe. There was pleasure in all the city. The singers
were called forth, those who were best instructed (so I judged from what
I heard), to take the place of the warders on the walls; and all, as
they went along, sang that song: 'Our brothers have forgotten; but when
we speak, they will hear.' How was it, how was it that you did not hear?
One time I was by the river porte in a boat; and this song came to me
from the walls as sweet as Heaven. Never have I heard such a song. The
music was beseeching, it moved the very heart. 'We have come out of the
unseen,' they sang; 'for love of you; believe us, believe us! Love
brings us back to earth; believe us, believe us!' How was it that you
did not hear? When I heard those singers sing, I wept; they beguiled the
heart out of my bosom. They sang, they shouted, the music swept about
all the walls: 'Love brings us back to earth, believe us!' M. le Maire,
I saw you from the river gate; there was a look of perplexity upon your
face; and one put his curved hand to his ear as if to listen to some
thin far-off sound, when it was like a storm, like a tempest of music!

After that there was a great change in the city. The choirs came back
from the walls marching more slowly, and with a sighing through all the
air. A sigh, nay, something like a sob breathed through the streets.
'They cannot hear us, or they will not hear us.' Wherever I turned, this
was what I heard: 'They cannot hear us.' The whole town, and all the
houses that were teeming with souls, and all the street, where so many
were coming and going was full of wonder and dismay. (If you will take
my opinion, they know pain as well as joy, M. le Maire, Those who are
in Semur. They are not as gods, perfect and sufficing to themselves, nor
are they all-knowing and all-wise, like the good God. They hope like us,
and desire, and are mistaken; but do no wrong. This is my opinion. I am
no more than other men, that you should accept it without support; but I
have lived among them, and this is what I think.) They were taken by
surprise; they did not understand it any more than we understand when we
have put forth all our strength and fail. They were confounded, if I
could judge rightly. Then there arose cries from one to another: 'Do you
forget what was said to us?' and, 'We were warned, we were warned.'
There went a sighing over all the city: 'They cannot hear us, our voices
are not as their voices; they cannot see us. We have taken their homes
from them, and they know not the reason.' My heart was wrung for their
disappointment. I longed to tell them that neither had I heard at once;
but it was only after a time that I ventured upon this. And whether I
spoke, and was heard; or if it was read in my heart, I cannot tell.
There was a pause made round me as if of wondering and listening, and
then, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, a face suddenly turned
and looked into my face.

M. le Maire, it was the face of your father, Martin Dupin, whom I
remember as well as I remember my own father. He was the best man I ever
knew. It appeared to me for a moment, that face alone, looking at me
with questioning eyes.

There seemed to be agitation and doubt for a time after this; some went
out (so I understood) on embassies among you, but could get no hearing;
some through the gates, some by the river. And the bells were rung that
you might hear and know; but neither could you understand the bells. I
wandered from one place to another, listening and watching--till the
unseen became to me as the seen, and I thought of the wonder no more.
Sometimes there came to me vaguely a desire to question them, to ask
whence they came and what was the secret of their living, and why they
were here? But if I had asked who would have heard me? and desire had
grown faint in my heart; all I wished for was that you should hear, that
you should understand; with this wish Semur was full. They thought but
of this. They went to the walls in bands, each in their order, and as
they came all the others rushed to meet them, to ask, 'What news?' I
following, now with one, now with another, breathless and footsore as
they glided along. It is terrible when flesh and blood live with those
who are spirits. I toiled after them. I sat on the Cathedral steps, and
slept and waked, and heard the voices still in my dream. I prayed, but
it was hard to pray. Once following a crowd I entered your house, M. le
Maire, and went up, though I scarcely could drag myself along. There
many were assembled as in council. Your father was at the head of all.
He was the one, he only, who knew me. Again he looked at me and I saw
him, and in the light of his face an assembly such as I have seen in
pictures. One moment it glimmered before me and then it was gone. There
were the captains of all the bands waiting to speak, men and women. I
heard them repeating from one to another the same tale. One voice was
small and soft like a child's; it spoke of you. 'We went to him,' it
said; and your father, M. le Maire, he too joined in, and said: 'We went
to him--but he could not hear us.' And some said it was enough--that
they had no commission from on high, that they were but permitted--that
it was their own will to do it--and that the time had come to forbear.

Now, while I listened, my heart was grieved that they should fail. This
gave me a wound for myself who had trusted in them, and also for them.
But I, who am I, a poor man without credit among my neighbours, a
dreamer, one whom many despise, that I should come to their aid? Yet I
could not listen and take no part. I cried out: 'Send me. I will tell
them in words they understand.' The sound of my voice was like a roar in
that atmosphere. It sent a tremble into the air. It seemed to rend me as
it came forth from me, and made me giddy, so that I would have fallen
had not there been a support afforded me. As the light was going out of
my eyes I saw again the faces looking at each other, questioning,
benign, beautiful heads one over another, eyes that were clear as the
heavens, but sad. I trembled while I gazed: there was the bliss of
heaven in their faces, yet they were sad. Then everything faded. I was
led away, I know not how, and brought to the door and put forth. I was
not worthy to see the blessed grieve. That is a sight upon which the
angels look with awe, and which brings those tears which are salvation
into the eyes of God.

I went back to my house, weary yet calm. There were many in my house;
but because my heart was full of one who was not there, I knew not those
who were there. I sat me down where she had been. I was weary, more
weary than ever before, but calm. Then I bethought me that I knew no
more than at the first, that I had lived among the unseen as if they
were my neighbours, neither fearing them, nor hearing those wonders
which they have to tell. As I sat with my head in my hands, two talked
to each other close by: 'Is it true that we have failed?' said one; and
the other answered, 'Must not all fail that is not sent of the Father?'
I was silent; but I knew them, they were the voices of my father and my
mother. I listened as out of a faint, in a dream.

While I sat thus, with these voices in my ears, which a little while
before would have seemed to me more worthy of note than anything on
earth, but which now lulled me and comforted me, as a child is comforted
by the voices of its guardians in the night, there occurred a new thing
in the city like nothing I had heard before. It roused me
notwithstanding my exhaustion and stupor. It was the sound as of some
one passing through the city suddenly and swiftly, whether in some
wonderful chariot, whether on some sweeping mighty wind, I cannot tell.
The voices stopped that were conversing beside me, and I stood up, and
with an impulse I could not resist went out, as if a king were passing
that way. Straight, without turning to the right or left, through the
city, from one gate to another, this passenger seemed going; and as he
went there was the sound as of a proclamation, as if it were a herald
denouncing war or ratifying peace. Whosoever he was, the sweep of his
going moved my hair like a wind. At first the proclamation was but as a
great shout, and I could not understand it; but as he came nearer the
words became distinct. 'Neither will they believe--though one rose from
the dead.' As it passed a murmur went up from the city, like the voice
of a great multitude. Then there came sudden silence.

At this moment, for a time--M. le Maire will take my statement for what
it is worth--I became unconscious of what passed further. Whether
weariness overpowered me and I slept, as at the most terrible moment
nature will demand to do, or if I fainted I cannot tell; but for a time
I knew no more. When I came to myself, I was seated on the Cathedral
steps with everything silent around me. From thence I rose up, moved by
a will which was not mine, and was led softly across the Grande Rue,
through the great square, with my face towards the Porte St. Lambert. I
went steadily on without hesitation, never doubting that the gates would
open to me, doubting nothing, though I had never attempted to withdraw
from the city before. When I came to the gate I said not a word, nor any
one to me; but the door rolled slowly open before me, and I was put
forth into the morning light, into the shining of the sun. I have now
said everything I had to say. The message I delivered was said through
me, I can tell no more. Let me rest a little; figure to yourselves, I
have known no night of rest, nor eaten a morsel of bread for--did you
say it was but three days?


We re-entered by the door for foot-passengers which is by the side of
the great Porte St. Lambert.

I will not deny that my heart was, as one may say, in my throat. A man
does what is his duty, what his fellow-citizens expect of him; but that
is not to say that he renders himself callous to natural emotion. My
veins were swollen, the blood coursing through them like a high-flowing
river; my tongue was parched and dry. I am not ashamed to admit that
from head to foot my body quivered and trembled. I was afraid--but I
went forward; no man can do more. As for M. le Cure he said not a word.
If he had any fears he concealed them as I did. But his occupation is
with the ghostly and spiritual. To see men die, to accompany them to
the verge of the grave, to create for them during the time of their
suffering after death (if it is true that they suffer), an interest in
heaven, this his profession must necessarily give him courage. My
position is very different. I have not made up my mind upon these
subjects. When one can believe frankly in all the Church says, many
things become simple, which otherwise cause great difficulty in the
mind. The mysterious and wonderful then find their natural place in the
course of affairs; but when a man thinks for himself, and has to take
everything on his own responsibility, and make all the necessary
explanations, there is often great difficulty. So many things will not
fit into their places, they straggle like weary men on a march. One
cannot put them together, or satisfy one's self.

The sun was shining outside the walls when we re-entered Semur; but the
first step we took was into a gloom as black as night, which did not
re-assure us, it is unnecessary to say. A chill was in the air, of night
and mist. We shivered, not with the nerves only but with the cold. And
as all was dark, so all was still. I had expected to feel the presence
of those who were there, as I had felt the crowd of the invisible before
they entered the city. But the air was vacant, there was nothing but
darkness and cold. We went on for a little way with a strange fervour of
expectation. At each moment, at each step, it seemed to me that some
great call must be made upon my self-possession and courage, some event
happen; but there was nothing. All was calm, the houses on either side
of the way were open, all but the office of the _octroi_ which was black
as night with its closed door. M. le Cure has told me since that he
believed Them to be there, though unseen. This idea, however, was not in
my mind. I had felt the unseen multitude; but here the air was free,
there was no one interposing between us, who breathed as men, and the
walls that surrounded us. Just within the gate a lamp was burning,
hanging to its rope over our heads; and the lights were in the houses as
if some one had left them there; they threw a strange glimmer into the
darkness, flickering in the wind. By and by as we went on the gloom
lessened, and by the time we had reached the Grande Rue, there was a
clear steady pale twilight by which we saw everything, as by the light
of day.

We stood at the corner of the square and looked round. Although still I
heard the beating of my own pulses loudly working in my ears, yet it was
less terrible than at first. A city when asleep is wonderful to look on,
but in all the closed doors and windows one feels the safety and repose
sheltered there which no man can disturb; and the air has in it a sense
of life, subdued, yet warm. But here all was open, and all deserted. The
house of the miser Grosgain was exposed from the highest to the lowest,
but nobody was there to search for what was hidden. The hotel de
Bois-Sombre, with its great _porte-cochere,_ always so jealously closed;
and my own house, which my mother and wife have always guarded so
carefully, that no damp nor breath of night might enter, had every door
and window wide open. Desolation seemed seated in all these empty
places. I feared to go into my own dwelling. It seemed to me as if the
dead must be lying within. _Bon Dieu!_ Not a soul, not a shadow; all
vacant in this soft twilight; nothing moving, nothing visible. The great
doors of the Cathedral were wide open, and every little entry. How
spacious the city looked, how silent, how wonderful! There was room for
a squadron to wheel in the great square, but not so much as a bird, not
a dog; all pale and empty. We stood for a long time (or it seemed a long
time) at the corner, looking right and left. We were afraid to make a
step farther. We knew not what to do. Nor could I speak; there was much
I wished to say, but something stopped my voice.

At last M. le Cure found utterance. His voice so moved the silence, that
at first my heart was faint with fear; it was hoarse, and the sound
rolled round the great square like muffled thunder. One did not seem to
know what strange faces might rise at the open windows, what terrors
might appear. But all he said was, 'We are ambassadors in vain.'

What was it that followed? My teeth chattered. I could not hear. It was
as if 'in vain!--in vain!' came back in echoes, more and more distant
from every opening. They breathed all around us, then were still, then
returned louder from beyond the river. M. le Cure, though he is a
spiritual person, was no more courageous than I. With one impulse, we
put out our hands and grasped each other. We retreated back to back,
like men hemmed in by foes, and I felt his heart beating wildly, and he
mine. Then silence, silence settled all around.

It was now my turn to speak. I would not be behind, come what might,
though my lips were parched with mental trouble.

I said, 'Are we indeed too late? Lecamus must have deceived himself.'

To this there came no echo and no reply, which would be a relief, you
may suppose; but it was not so. It was well-nigh more appalling, more
terrible than the sound; for though we spoke thus, we did not believe
the place was empty. Those whom we approached seemed to be wrapping
themselves in silence, invisible, waiting to speak with some awful
purpose when their time came.

There we stood for some minutes, like two children, holding each other's
hands, leaning against each other at the corner of the square--as
helpless as children, waiting for what should come next. I say it
frankly, my brain and my heart were one throb. They plunged and beat so
wildly that I could scarcely have heard any other sound. In this respect
I think he was more calm. There was on his face that look of intense
listening which strains the very soul. But neither he nor I heard
anything, not so much as a whisper. At last, 'Let us go on,' I said. We
stumbled as we went, with agitation and fear. We were afraid to turn our
backs to those empty houses, which seemed to gaze at us with all their
empty windows pale and glaring. Mechanically, scarce knowing what I was
doing, I made towards my own house.

There was no one there. The rooms were all open and empty. I went from
one to another, with a sense of expectation which made my heart faint;
but no one was there, nor anything changed. Yet I do wrong to say that
nothing was changed. In my library, where I keep my books, where my
father and grandfather conducted their affairs, like me, one little
difference struck me suddenly, as if some one had dealt me a blow. The
old bureau which my grandfather had used, at which I remember standing
by his knee, had been drawn from the corner where I had placed it out
of the way (to make room for the furniture I preferred), and replaced,
as in old times, in the middle of the room. It was nothing; yet how much
was in this! though only myself could have perceived it. Some of the old
drawers were open, full of old papers. I glanced over there in my
agitation, to see if there might be any writing, any message addressed
to me; but there was nothing, nothing but this silent sign of those who
had been here. Naturally M. le Cure, who kept watch at the door, was
unacquainted with the cause of my emotion. The last room I entered was
my wife's. Her veil was lying on the white bed, as if she had gone out
that moment, and some of her ornaments were on the table. It seemed to
me that the atmosphere of mystery which filled the rest of the house was
not here. A ribbon, a little ring, what nothings are these? Yet they
make even emptiness sweet. In my Agnes's room there is a little shrine,
more sacred to us than any altar. There is the picture of our little
Marie. It is covered with a veil, embroidered with needlework which it
is a wonder to see. Not always can even Agnes bear to look upon the face
of this angel, whom God has taken from her. She has worked the little
curtain with lilies, with white and virginal flowers; and no hand, not
even mine, ever draws it aside. What did I see? The veil was boldly
folded away; the face of the child looked at me across her mother's bed,
and upon the frame of the picture was laid a branch of olive, with
silvery leaves. I know no more but that I uttered a great cry, and flung
myself upon my knees before this angel-gift. What stranger could know
what was in my heart? M. le Cure, my friend, my brother, came hastily to
me, with a pale countenance; but when he looked at me, he drew back and
turned away his face, and a sob came from his breast. Never child had
called him father, were it in heaven, were it on earth. Well I knew
whose tender fingers had placed the branch of olive there.

I went out of the room and locked the door. It was just that my wife
should find it where it had been laid.

I put my arm into his as we went out once more into the street. That
moment had made us brother and brother. And this union made us more
strong. Besides, the silence and the emptiness began to grow less
terrible to us. We spoke in our natural voices as we came out, scarcely
knowing how great was the difference between them and the whispers which
had been all we dared at first to employ. Yet the sound of these louder
tones scared us when we heard them, for we were still trembling, not
assured of deliverance. It was he who showed himself a man, not I; for
my heart was overwhelmed, the tears stood in my eyes, I had no strength
to resist my impressions.

'Martin Dupin,' he said suddenly, 'it is enough. We are frightening
ourselves with shadows. We are afraid even of our own voices. This must
not be. Enough! Whosoever they were who have been in Semur, their
visitation is over, and they are gone.'

'I think so,' I said faintly; 'but God knows.' Just then something
passed me as sure as ever man passed me. I started back out of the way
and dropped my friend's arm, and covered my eyes with my hands. It was
nothing that could be seen; it was an air, a breath. M. le Cure looked
at me wildly; he was as a man beside himself. He struck his foot upon
the pavement and gave a loud and bitter cry.

'Is it delusion?' he said, 'O my God! or shall not even this, not even
so much as this be revealed to me?'

To see a man who had so ruled himself, who had resisted every
disturbance and stood fast when all gave way, moved thus at the very
last to cry out with passion against that which had been denied to him,
brought me back to myself. How often had I read it in his eyes before!
He--the priest--the servant of the unseen--yet to all of us lay persons
had that been revealed which was hid from him. A great pity was within
me, and gave me strength. 'Brother,' I said, 'we are weak. If we saw
heaven opened, could we trust to our vision now? Our imaginations are
masters of us. So far as mortal eye can see, we are alone in Semur. Have
you forgotten your psalm, and how you sustained us at the first? And
now, your Cathedral is open to you, my brother. _Laetatus sum_,' I said.
It was an inspiration from above, and no thought of mine; for it is well
known, that though deeply respectful, I have never professed religion.
With one impulse we turned, we went together, as in a procession, across
the silent place, and up the great steps. We said not a word to each
other of what we meant to do. All was fair and silent in the holy place;
a breath of incense still in the air; a murmur of psalms (as one could
imagine) far up in the high roof. There I served, while he said his
mass. It was for my friend that this impulse came to my mind; but I was
rewarded. The days of my childhood seemed to come back to me. All
trouble, and care, and mystery, and pain, seemed left behind. All I
could see was the glimmer on the altar of the great candle-sticks, the
sacred pyx in its shrine, the chalice, and the book. I was again an
_enfant de choeur_ robed in white, like the angels, no doubt, no
disquiet in my soul--and my father kneeling behind among the faithful,
bowing his head, with a sweetness which I too knew, being a father,
because it was his child that tinkled the bell and swung the censer.
Never since those days have I served the mass. My heart grew soft within
me as the heart of a little child. The voice of M. le Cure was full of
tears--it swelled out into the air and filled the vacant place. I knelt
behind him on the steps of the altar and wept.

Then there came a sound that made our hearts leap in our bosoms. His
voice wavered as if it had been struck by a strong wind; but he was a
brave man, and he went on. It was the bells of the Cathedral that pealed
out over our heads. In the midst of the office, while we knelt all
alone, they began to ring as at Easter or some great festival. At first
softly, almost sadly, like choirs of distant singers, that died away and
were echoed and died again; then taking up another strain, they rang out
into the sky with hurrying notes and clang of joy. The effect upon
myself was wonderful. I no longer felt any fear. The illusion was
complete. I was a child again, serving the mass in my little
surplice--aware that all who loved me were kneeling behind, that the
good God was smiling, and the Cathedral bells ringing out their majestic

M. le Cure came down the altar steps when his mass was ended. Together
we put away the vestments and the holy vessels. Our hearts were soft;
the weight was taken from them. As we came out the bells were dying
away in long and low echoes, now faint, now louder, like mingled voices
of gladness and regret. And whereas it had been a pale twilight when we
entered, the clearness of the day had rolled sweetly in, and now it was
fair morning in all the streets. We did not say a word to each other,
but arm and arm took our way to the gates, to open to our neighbours, to
call all our fellow-citizens back to Semur.

If I record here an incident of another kind, it is because of the
sequel that followed. As we passed by the hospital of St. Jean, we heard
distinctly, coming from within, the accents of a feeble yet impatient
voice. The sound revived for a moment the troubles that were stilled
within us--but only for a moment. This was no visionary voice. It
brought a smile to the grave face of M. le Cure and tempted me well nigh
to laughter, so strangely did this sensation of the actual, break and
disperse the visionary atmosphere. We went in without any timidity,
with a conscious relaxation of the great strain upon us. In a little
nook, curtained off from the great ward, lay a sick man upon his bed.
'Is it M. le Maire?' he said; 'a la bonne heure! I have a complaint to
make of the nurses for the night. They have gone out to amuse
themselves; they take no notice of poor sick people. They have known for
a week that I could not sleep; but neither have they given me a sleeping
draught, nor endeavoured to distract me with cheerful conversation. And
to-day, look you, M. le Maire, not one of the sisters has come near me!'

'Have you suffered, my poor fellow?' I said; but he would not go so far
as this.

'I don't want to make complaints, M. le Maire; but the sisters do not
come themselves as they used to do. One does not care to have a strange
nurse, when one knows that if the sisters did their duty--But if it does
not occur any more I do not wish it to be thought that I am the one to

'Do not fear, mon ami,' I said. 'I will say to the Reverend Mother that
you have been left too long alone.'

'And listen, M. le Maire,' cried the man; 'those bells, will they never
be done? My head aches with the din they make. How can one go to sleep
with all that riot in one's ears?'

We looked at each other, we could not but smile. So that which is joy
and deliverance to one is vexation to another. As we went out again into
the street the lingering music of the bells died out, and (for the first
time for all these terrible days and nights) the great clock struck the
hour. And as the clock struck, the last cloud rose like a mist and
disappeared in flying vapours, and the full sunshine of noon burst on


When M. le Maire disappeared within the mist, we all remained behind
with troubled hearts. For my own part I was alarmed for my friend. M.
Martin Dupin is not noble. He belongs, indeed, to the _haute
bourgeoisie,_ and all his antecedents are most respectable; but it is
his personal character and admirable qualities which justify me in
calling him my friend. The manner in which he has performed his duties
to his fellow-citizens during this time of distress has been sublime. It
is not my habit to take any share in public life; the unhappy
circumstances of France have made this impossible for years.
Nevertheless, I put aside my scruples when it became necessary, to leave
him free for his mission. I gave no opinion upon that mission itself,
or how far he was right in obeying the advice of a hare-brained
enthusiast like Lecamus. Nevertheless the moment had come at which our
banishment had become intolerable. Another day, and I should have
proposed an assault upon the place. Our dead forefathers, though I would
speak of them with every respect, should not presume upon their
privilege. I do not pretend to be braver than other men, nor have I
shown myself more equal than others to cope with the present emergency.
But I have the impatience of my countrymen, and rather than rot here
outside the gates, parted from Madame de Bois-Sombre and my children,
who, I am happy to state, are in safety at the country house of the
brave Dupin, I should have dared any hazard. This being the case, a new
step of any kind called for my approbation, and I could not refuse under
the circumstances--especially as no ceremony of installation was
required or profession of loyalty to one government or another--to take
upon me the office of coadjutor and act as deputy for my friend Martin
outside the walls of Semur.

The moment at which I assumed the authority was one of great
discouragement and depression. The men were tired to death. Their minds
were worn out as well as their bodies. The excitement and fatigue had
been more than they could bear. Some were for giving up the contest and
seeking new homes for themselves. These were they, I need not remark,
who had but little to lose; some seemed to care for nothing but to lie
down and rest. Though it produced a great movement among us when Lecamus
suddenly appeared coming out of the city; and the undertaking of Dupin
and the excellent Cure was viewed with great interest, yet there could
not but be signs apparent that the situation had lasted too long. It was
_tendu_ in the strongest degree, and when that is the case a reaction
must come. It is impossible to say, for one thing, how treat was our
personal discomfort. We were as soldiers campaigning without a
commissariat, or any precautions taken for our welfare; no food save
what was sent to us from La Clairiere and other places; no means of
caring for our personal appearance, in which lies so much of the
materials of self respect. I say nothing of the chief features of
all--the occupation of our homes by others--the forcible expulsion of
which we had been the objects. No one could have been more deeply
impressed than myself at the moment of these extraordinary proceedings;
but we cannot go on with one monotonous impression, however serious, we
other Frenchmen. Three days is a very long time to dwell in one thought;
I myself had become impatient, I do not deny. To go away, which would
have been very natural, and which Agathe proposed, was contrary to my
instincts and interests both. I trust I can obey the logic of
circumstances as well as another; but to yield is not easy, and to leave
my hotel at Semur--now the chief residence, alas! of the
Bois-Sombres--probably to the licence of a mob--for one can never tell
at what moment Republican institutions may break down and sink back into
the chaos from which they arose--was impossible. Nor would I forsake the
brave Dupin without the strongest motive; but that the situation was
extremely _tendu_, and a reaction close at hand, was beyond dispute.

I resisted the movement which my excellent friend made to take off and
transfer to me his scarf of office. These things are much thought of
among the _bourgeoisie_. '_Mon ami_,' I said, 'you cannot tell what use
you may have for it; whereas our townsmen know me, and that I am not one
to take up an unwarrantable position.' We then accompanied him to the
neighbourhood of the Porte St. Lambert. It was at that time invisible;
we could but judge approximately. My men were unwilling to approach too
near, neither did I myself think it necessary. We parted, after giving
the two envoys an honourable escort, leaving a clear space between us
and the darkness. To see them disappear gave us all a startling
sensation. Up to the last moment I had doubted whether they would obtain
admittance. When they disappeared from our eyes, there came upon all of
us an impulse of alarm. I myself was so far moved by it, that I called
out after them in a sudden panic. For if any catastrophe had happened,
how could I ever have forgiven myself, especially as Madame Dupin de la
Clairiere, a person entirely _comme il faut_, and of the most
distinguished character, went after her husband, with a touching
devotion, following him to the very edge of the darkness? I do not
think, so deeply possessed was he by his mission, that he saw her. Dupin
is very determined in his way; but he is imaginative and thoughtful, and
it is very possible that, as he required all his powers to brace him for
this enterprise, he made it a principle neither to look to the right
hand nor the left. When we paused, and following after our two
representatives, Madame Dupin stepped forth, a thrill ran through us
all. Some would have called to her, for I heard many broken
exclamations; but most of us were too much startled to speak. We thought
nothing less than that she was about to risk herself by going after them
into the city. If that was her intention--and nothing is more probable;
for women are very daring, though they are timid--she was stopped, it is
most likely, by that curious inability to move a step farther which we
have all experienced. We saw her pause, clasp her hands in despair (or
it might be in token of farewell to her husband), then, instead of
returning, seat herself on the road on the edge of the darkness. It was
a relief to all who were looking on to see her there.

In the reaction after that excitement I found myself in face of a great
difficulty--what to do with my men, to keep them from demoralisation.
They were greatly excited; and yet there was nothing to be done for
them, for myself, for any of us, but to wait. To organise the patrol
again, under the circumstances, would have been impossible. Dupin,
perhaps, might have tried it with that _bourgeois_ determination which
so often carries its point in spite of all higher intelligence; but to
me, who have not this commonplace way of looking at things, it was
impossible. The worthy soul did not think in what a difficulty he left
us. That intolerable, good-for-nothing Jacques Richard (whom Dupin
protects unwisely, I cannot tell why), and who was already
half-seas-over, had drawn several of his comrades with him towards the
_cabaret_, which was always a danger to us. 'We will drink success to M.
le Maire,' he said, '_mes bons amis_! That can do no one any harm; and
as we have spoken up, as we have empowered him to offer handsome terms
to _Messieurs les Morts_----'

It was intolerable. Precisely at the moment when our fortune hung in the
balance, and when, perhaps, an indiscreet word--'Arrest that fellow,' I
said. 'Riou, you are an official; you understand your duty. Arrest him
on the spot, and confine him in the tent out of the way of mischief. Two
of you mount guard over him. And let a party be told off, of which you
will take the command, Louis Bertin, to go at once to La Clairiere and
beg the Reverend Mothers of the hospital to favour us with their
presence. It will be well to have those excellent ladies in our front
whatever happens; and you may communicate to them the unanimous decision
about their chapel. You, Robert Lemaire, with an escort, will proceed to
the _campagne_ of M. Barbou, and put him in possession of the
circumstances. Those of you who have a natural wish to seek a little
repose will consider yourselves as discharged from duty and permitted to
do so. Your Maire having confided to me his authority--not without your
consent--(this I avow I added with some difficulty, for who cared for
their assent? but a Republican Government offers a premium to every
insincerity), I wait with confidence to see these dispositions carried

This, I am happy to say, produced the best effect. They obeyed me
without hesitation; and, fortunately for me, slumber seized upon the
majority. Had it not been for this, I can scarcely tell how I should
have got out of it. I felt drowsy myself, having been with the patrol
the greater part of the night; but to yield to such weakness was, in my
position, of course impossible.

This, then, was our attitude during the last hours of suspense, which
were perhaps the most trying of all. In the distance might be seen the
little bands marching towards La Clairiere, on one side, and M. Barbou's
country-house ('La Corbeille des Raisins') on the other. It goes without
saying that I did not want M. Barbou, but it was the first errand I
could think of. Towards the city, just where the darkness began that
enveloped it, sat Madame Dupin. That _sainte femme_ was praying for her
husband, who could doubt? And under the trees, wherever they could find
a favourable spot, my men lay down on the grass, and most of them fell
asleep. My eyes were heavy enough, but responsibility drives away rest.
I had but one nap of five minutes' duration, leaning against a tree,
when it occurred to me that Jacques Richard, whom I sent under escort
half-drunk to the tent, was not the most admirable companion for that
poor visionary Lecamus, who had been accommodated there. I roused
myself, therefore, though unwillingly, to see whether these two, so
discordant, could agree.

I met Lecamus at the tent-door. He was coming out, very feeble and
tottering, with that dazed look which (according to me) has always been
characteristic of him. He had a bundle of papers in his hand. He had
been setting in order his report of what had happened to him, to be
submitted to the Maire. 'Monsieur,' he said, with some irritation
(which I forgave him), 'you have always been unfavourable to me. I owe
it to you that this unhappy drunkard has been sent to disturb me in my
feebleness and the discharge of a public duty.'

'My good Monsieur Lecamus,' said I, 'you do my recollection too much
honour. The fact is, I had forgotten all about you and your public duty.
Accept my excuses. Though indeed your supposition that I should have
taken the trouble to annoy you, and your description of that
good-for-nothing as an unhappy drunkard, are signs of intolerance which
I should not have expected in a man so favoured.'

This speech, though too long, pleased me, for a man of this species, a
revolutionary (are not all visionaries revolutionaries?) is always, when
occasion offers, to be put down. He disarmed me, however, by his
humility. He gave a look round. 'Where can I go?' he said, and there was
pathos in his voice. At length he perceived Madame Dupin sitting almost
motionless on the road. 'Ah!' he said, 'there is my place.' The man, I
could not but perceive, was very weak. His eyes were twice their natural
size, his face was the colour of ashes; through his whole frame there
was a trembling; the papers shook in his hand. A compunction seized my
mind: I regretted to have sent that piece of noise and folly to disturb
a poor man so suffering and weak. 'Monsieur Lecamus,' I said, 'forgive
me. I acknowledge that it was inconsiderate. Remain here in comfort, and
I will find for this unruly fellow another place of confinement.'

'Nay,' he said, 'there is my place,' pointing to where Madame Dupin sat.
I felt disposed for a moment to indulge in a pleasantry, to say that I
approved his taste; but on second thoughts I forebore. He went tottering
slowly across the broken ground, hardly able to drag himself along. 'Has
he had any refreshment?' I asked of one of the women who were about.
They told me yes, and this restored my composure; for after all I had
not meant to annoy him, I had forgotten he was there--a trivial fault in
circumstances so exciting. I was more easy in my mind, however, I
confess it, when I saw that he had reached his chosen position safely.
The man looked so weak. It seemed to me that he might have died on the

I thought I could almost perceive the gate, with Madame Dupin seated
under the battlements, her charming figure relieved against the gloom,
and that poor Lecamus lying, with his papers fluttering at her feet.
This was the last thing I was conscious of.


I went with my husband to the city gate. I did not wish to distract his
mind from what he had undertaken, therefore I took care he should not
see me; but to follow close, giving the sympathy of your whole heart,
must not that be a support? If I am asked whether I was content to let
him go, I cannot answer yes; but had another than Martin been chosen, I
could not have borne it. What I desired, was to go myself. I was not
afraid: and if it had proved dangerous, if I had been broken and crushed
to pieces between the seen and the unseen, one could not have had a
more beautiful fate. It would have made me happy to go. But perhaps it
was better that the messenger should not be a woman; they might have
said it was delusion, an attack of the nerves. We are not trusted in
these respects, though I find it hard to tell why.

But I went with Martin to the gate. To go as far as was possible, to be
as near as possible, that was something. If there had been room for me
to pass, I should have gone, and with such gladness! for God He knows
that to help to thrust my husband into danger, and not to share it, was
terrible to me. But no; the invisible line was still drawn, beyond which
I could not stir. The door opened before him, and closed upon me. But
though to see him disappear into the gloom was anguish, yet to know that
he was the man by whom the city should be saved was sweet. I sat down on
the spot where my steps were stayed. It was close to the wall, where
there is a ledge of stonework round the basement of the tower. There I
sat down to wait till he should come again.

If any one thinks, however, that we, who were under the shelter of the
roof of La Clairiere were less tried than our husbands, it is a mistake;
our chief grief was that we were parted from them, not knowing what
suffering, what exposure they might have to bear, and knowing that they
would not accept, as most of us were willing to accept, the
interpretation of the mystery; but there was a certain comfort in the
fact that we had to be very busy, preparing a little food to take to
them, and feeding the others. La Clairiere is a little country house,
not a great chateau, and it was taxed to the utmost to afford some
covert to the people. The children were all sheltered and cared for; but
as for the rest of us we did as we could. And how gay they were, all the
little ones! What was it to them all that had happened? It was a fete
for them to be in the country, to be so many together, to run in the
fields and the gardens. Sometimes their laughter and their happiness
were more than we could bear. Agathe de Bois-Sombre, who takes life
hardly, who is more easily deranged than I, was one who was much
disturbed by this. But was it not to preserve the children that we were
commanded to go to La Clairiere? Some of the women also were not easy to
bear with. When they were put into our rooms they too found it a fete,
and sat down among the children, and ate and drank, and forgot what it
was; what awful reason had driven us out of our homes. These were not,
oh let no one think so! the majority; but there were some, it cannot be
denied; and it was difficult for me to calm down Bonne Maman, and keep
her from sending them away with their babes. 'But they are
_miserables_,' she said. 'If they were to wander and be lost, if they
were to suffer as thou sayest, where would be the harm? I have no
patience with the idle, with those who impose upon thee.' It is possible
that Bonne Maman was right--but what then? 'Preserve the children and
the sick,' was the mission that had been given to me. My own room was
made the hospital. Nor did this please Bonne Maman. She bid me if I did
not stay in it myself to give it to the Bois-Sombres, to some who
deserved it. But is it not they who need most who deserve most? Bonne
Maman cannot bear that the poor and wretched should live in her Martin's
chamber. He is my Martin no less. But to give it up to our Lord is not
that to sanctify it? There are who have put Him into their own bed when
they imagined they were but sheltering a sick beggar there; that He
should have the best was sweet to me: and could not I pray all the
better that our Martin should be enlightened, should come to the true
sanctuary? When I said this Bonne Maman wept. It was the grief of her
heart that Martin thought otherwise than as we do. Nevertheless she
said, 'He is so good; the _bon Dieu_ knows how good he is;' as if even
his mother could know that so well as I!

But with the women and the children crowding everywhere, the sick in my
chamber, the helpless in every corner, it will be seen that we, too, had
much to do. And our hearts were elsewhere, with those who were watching
the city, who were face to face with those in whom they had not
believed. We were going and coming all day long with food for them, and
there never was a time of the night or day that there were not many of
us watching on the brow of the hill to see if any change came in Semur.
Agathe and I, and our children, were all together in one little room.
She believed in God, but it was not any comfort to her; sometimes she
would weep and pray all day long; sometimes entreat her husband to
abandon the city, to go elsewhere and live, and fly from this strange
fate. She is one who cannot endure to be unhappy--not to have what she
wishes. As for me, I was brought up in poverty, and it is no wonder if
I can more easily submit. She was not willing that I should come this
morning to Semur. In the night the Mere Julie had roused us, saying she
had seen a procession of angels coming to restore us to the city. Ah! to
those who have no knowledge it is easy to speak of processions of
angels. But to those who have seen what an angel is--how they flock upon
us unawares in the darkness, so that one is confused, and scarce can
tell if it is reality or a dream; to those who have heard a little voice
soft as the dew coming out of heaven! I said to them--for all were in a
great tumult--that the angels do not come in processions, they steal
upon us unaware, they reveal themselves in the soul. But they did not
listen to me; even Agathe took pleasure in hearing of the revelation. As
for me, I had denied myself, I had not seen Martin for a night and a
day. I took one of the great baskets, and I went with the women who were
the messengers for the day. A purpose formed itself in my heart, it was
to make my way into the city, I know not how, and implore them to have
pity upon us before the people were distraught. Perhaps, had I been able
to refrain from speaking to Martin, I might have found the occasion I
wished; but how could I conceal my desire from my husband? And now all
is changed, I am rejected and he is gone. He was more worthy. Bonne
Maman is right. Our good God, who is our father, does He require that
one should make profession of faith, that all should be alike? He sees
the heart; and to choose my Martin, does not that prove that He loves
best that which is best, not I, or a priest, or one who makes
professions? Thus, I sat down at the gate with a great confidence,
though also a trembling in my heart. He who had known how to choose him
among all the others, would not He guard him? It was a proof to me once
again that heaven is true, that the good God loves and comprehends us
all, to see how His wisdom, which is unerring, had chosen the best man
in Semur.

And M. le Cure, that goes without saying, he is a priest of priests, a
true servant of God.

I saw my husband go: perhaps, God knows, into danger, perhaps to some
encounter such as might fill the world with awe--to meet those who read
the thought in your mind before it comes to your lips. Well! there is no
thought in Martin that is not noble and true. Me, I have follies in my
heart, every kind of folly; but he!--the tears came in a flood to my
eyes, but I would not shed them, as if I were weeping for fear and
sorrow--no--but for happiness to know that falsehood was not in him. My
little Marie, a holy virgin, may look into her father's heart--I do not
fear the test.

The sun came warm to my feet as I sat on the foundation of our city, but
the projection of the tower gave me a little shade. All about was a
great peace. I thought of the psalm which says, 'He will give it to His
beloved sleeping'--that is true; but always there are some who are used
as instruments, who are not permitted to sleep. The sounds that came
from the people gradually ceased; they were all very quiet. M. de
Bois-Sombre I saw at a distance making his dispositions. Then M. Paul
Lecamus, whom I had long known, came up across the field, and seated
himself close to me upon the road. I have always had a great sympathy
with him since the death of his wife; ever since there has been an
abstraction in his eyes, a look of desolation. He has no children or any
one to bring him back to life. Now, it seemed to me that he had the air
of a man who was dying. He had been in the city while all of us had been

'Monsieur Lecamus,' I said, 'you look very ill, and this is not a place
for you. Could not I take you somewhere, where you might be more at your

'It is true, Madame,' he said, 'the road is hard, but the sunshine is
sweet; and when I have finished what I am writing for M. le Maire, it
will be over. There will be no more need--'

I did not understand what he meant. I asked him to let me help him, but
he shook his head. His eyes were very hollow, in great caves, and his
face was the colour of ashes. Still he smiled. 'I thank you, Madame,' he
said, 'infinitely; everyone knows that Madame Dupin is kind; but when it
is done, I shall be free.'

'I am sure, M. Lecamus, that my husband--that M. le Maire--would not
wish you to trouble yourself, to be hurried--'

'No,' he said, 'not he, but I. Who else could write what I have to
write? It must be done while it is day.'

'Then there is plenty of time, M. Lecamus. All the best of the day is
yet to come; it is still morning. If you could but get as far as La
Clairiere. There we would nurse you--restore you.'

He shook his head. 'You have enough on your hands at La Clairiere,' he
said; and then, leaning upon the stones, he began to write again with
his pencil. After a time, when he stopped, I ventured to ask--'Monsieur
Lecamus, is it, indeed, Those----whom we have known, who are in Semur?'

He turned his dim eyes upon me. 'Does Madame Dupin,' he said, 'require
to ask?'

'No, no. It is true. I have seen and heard. But yet, when a little time
passes, you know? one wonders; one asks one's self, was it a dream?'

'That is what I fear,' he said. 'I, too, if life went on, might ask,
notwithstanding all that has occurred to me, Was it a dream?'

'M. Lecamus, you will forgive me if I hurt you. You saw--_her_?'

'No. Seeing--what is seeing? It is but a vulgar sense, it is not all;
but I sat at her feet. She was with me. We were one, as of old----.' A
gleam of strange light came into his dim eyes. 'Seeing is not
everything, Madame.'

'No, M. Lecamus. I heard the dear voice of my little Marie.'

'Nor is hearing everything,' he said hastily. 'Neither did she speak;
but she was there. We were one; we had no need to speak. What is
speaking or hearing when heart wells into heart? For a very little
moment, only for a moment, Madame Dupin.'

I put out my hand to him; I could not say a word. How was it possible
that she could go away again, and leave him so feeble, so worn, alone?

'Only a very little moment,' he said, slowly. 'There were other
voices--but not hers. I think I am glad it was in the spirit we met, she
and I--I prefer not to see her till--after----'

'Oh, M. Lecamus, I am too much of the world! To see them, to hear
them--it is for this I long.'

'No, dear Madame. I would not have it till--after----. But I must make
haste, I must write, I hear the hum approaching----'

I could not tell what he meant; but I asked no more. How still
everything was The people lay asleep on the grass, and I, too, was
overwhelmed by the great quiet. I do not know if I slept, but I dreamed.
I saw a child very fair and tall always near me, but hiding her face. It
appeared to me in my dream that all I wished for was to see this hidden
countenance, to know her name; and that I followed and watched her, but
for a long time in vain. All at once she turned full upon me, held out
her arms to me. Do I need to say who it was? I cried out in my dream to
the good God, that He had done well to take her from me--that this was
worth it all. Was it a dream? I would not give that dream for rears of
waking life. Then I started and came back, in a moment, to the still
morning sunshine, the sight of the men asleep, the roughness of the wall
against which I leant. Some one laid a hand on mine. I opened my eyes,
not knowing what it was--if it might be my husband coming back, or her
whom I had seen in my dream. It was M. Lecamus. He had risen up upon his
knees--his papers were all laid aside. His eyes in those hollow caves
were opened wide, and quivering with a strange light. He had caught my
wrist with his worn hand. 'Listen!' he said; his voice fell to a
whisper; a light broke over his face. 'Listen!' he cried; 'they are
coming.' While he thus grasped my wrist, holding up his weak and
wavering body in that strained attitude, the moments passed very slowly.
I was afraid of him, of his worn face and thin hands, and the wild
eagerness about him. I am ashamed to say it, but so it was. And for this
reason it seemed long to me, though I think not more than a minute, till
suddenly the bells rang out, sweet and glad as they ring at Easter for
the resurrection. There had been ringing of bells before, but not like
this. With a start and universal movement the sleeping men got up from
where they lay--not one but every one, coming out of the little hollows
and from under the trees as if from graves. They all sprang up to
listen, with one impulse; and as for me, knowing that Martin was in the
city, can it be wondered at if my heart beat so loud that I was
incapable of thought of others! What brought me to myself was the
strange weight of M. Lecamus on my arm. He put his other hand upon me,
all cold in the brightness, all trembling. He raised himself thus slowly
to his feet. When I looked at him I shrieked aloud. I forgot all else.
His face was transformed--a smile came upon it that was ineffable--the
light blazed up, and then quivered and flickered in his eyes like a
dying flame. All this time he was leaning his weight upon my arm. Then
suddenly he loosed his hold of me, stretched out his hands, stood up,
and--died. My God! shall I ever forget him as he stood--his head raised,
his hands held out, his lips moving, the eyelids opened wide with a
quiver, the light flickering and dying He died first, standing up,
saying something with his pale lips--then fell. And it seemed to me all
at once, and for a moment, that I heard a sound of many people marching
past, the murmur and hum of a great multitude; and softly, softly I was
put out of the way, and a voice said, '_Adieu, ma soeur_.' '_Ma soeur_!'
who called me '_Ma soeur_'? I have no sister. I cried out, saying I know
not what. They told me after that I wept and wrung my hands, and said,
'Not thee, not thee, Marie!' But after that I knew no more.


To complete the _proces verbal_, my son wishes me to give my account of
the things which happened out of Semur during its miraculous occupation,
as it is his desire, in the interests of truth, that nothing should be
left out. In this I find a great difficulty for many reasons; in the
first place, because I have not the aptitude of expressing myself in
writing, and it may well be that the phrases I employ may fail in the
correctness which good French requires; and again, because it is my
misfortune not to agree in all points with my Martin, though I am proud
to think that he is, in every relation of life, so good a man, that the
women of his family need not hesitate to follow his advice--but
necessarily there are some points which one reserves; and I cannot but
feel the closeness of the connection between the late remarkable
exhibition of the power of Heaven and the outrage done upon the good
Sisters of St. Jean by the administration, of which unfortunately my son
is at the head. I say unfortunately, since it is the spirit of
independence and pride in him which has resisted all the warnings
offered by Divine Providence, and which refuses even now to right the
wrongs of the Sisters of St. Jean; though, if it may be permitted to me
to say it, as his mother, it was very fortunate in the late troubles
that Martin Dupin found himself at the head of the Commune of
Semur--since who else could have kept his self-control as he
did?--caring for all things and forgetting nothing; who else would, with
so much courage, have entered the city? and what other man, being a
person of the world and secular in all his thoughts, as, alas! it is so
common for men to be, would have so nobly acknowledged his obligations
to the good God when our misfortunes were over? My constant prayers for
his conversion do not make me incapable of perceiving the nobility of
his conduct. When the evidence has been incontestible he has not
hesitated to make a public profession of his gratitude, which all will
acknowledge to be the sign of a truly noble mind and a heart of gold.

I have long felt that the times were ripe for some exhibition of the
power of God. Things have been going very badly among us. Not only have
the powers of darkness triumphed over our holy church, in a manner ever
to be wept and mourned by all the faithful, and which might have been
expected to bring down fire from Heaven upon our heads, but the
corruption of popular manners (as might also have been expected) has
been daily arising to a pitch unprecedented. The fetes may indeed be
said to be observed, but in what manner? In the cabarets rather than in
the churches; and as for the fasts and vigils, who thinks of them? who
attends to those sacred moments of penitence? Scarcely even a few ladies
are found to do so, instead of the whole population, as in duty bound. I
have even seen it happen that my daughter-in-law and myself, and her
friend Madame de Bois-Sombre, and old Mere Julie from the market, have
formed the whole congregation. Figure to yourself the _bon Dieu_ and all
the blessed saints looking down from heaven to hear--four persons only
in our great Cathedral! I trust that I know that the good God does not
despise even two or three; but if any one will think of it--the great
bells rung, and the candles lighted, and the cure in his beautiful
robes, and all the companies of heaven looking on--and only us four!
This shows the neglect of all sacred ordinances that was in Semur.
While, on the other hand, what grasping there was for money; what fraud
and deceit; what foolishness and dissipation! Even the Mere Julie
herself, though a devout person, the pears she sold to us on the last
market day before these events, were far, very far, as she must have
known, from being satisfactory. In the same way Gros-Jean, though a
peasant from our own village near La Clairiere, and a man for whom we
have often done little services, attempted to impose upon me about the
wood for the winter's use, the very night before these occurrences. 'It
is enough,' I cried out, 'to bring the dead out of their graves.' I did
not know--the holy saints forgive me!--how near it was to the moment
when this should come true.

And perhaps it is well that I should admit without concealment that I am
not one of the women to whom it has been given to see those who came
back. There are moments when I will not deny I have asked myself why
those others should have been so privileged and never I. Not even in a
dream do I see those whom I have lost; yet I think that I too have loved
them as well as any have been loved. I have stood by their beds to the
last; I have closed their beloved eyes. _Mon Dieu! mon Dieu!_ have not I
drunk of that cup to the dregs? But never to me, never to me, has it
been permitted either to see or to hear. _Bien_! it has been so ordered.
Agnes, my daughter-in-law, is a good woman. I have not a word to say
against her; and if there are moments when my heart rebels, when I ask
myself why she should have her eyes opened and not I, the good God knows
that I do not complain against His will--it is in His hand to do as He
pleases. And if I receive no privileges, yet have I the privilege which
is best, which is, as M. le Cure justly observes, the highest of all--
that of doing my duty. In this I thank the good Lord our Seigneur that
my Martin has never needed to be ashamed of his mother.

I will also admit that when it was first made apparent to me--not by the
sounds of voices which the others heard, but by the use of my reason
which I humbly believe is also a gift of God--that the way in which I
could best serve both those of the city and my son Martin, who is over
them, was to lead the way with the children and all the helpless to La
Clairiere, thus relieving the watchers, there was for a time a great
struggle in my bosom. What were they all to me, that I should desert my
Martin, my only son, the child of my old age; he who is as his father,
as dear, and yet more dear, because he is his father's son? 'What! (I
said in my heart) abandon thee, my child? nay, rather abandon life and
every consolation; for what is life to me but thee?' But while my heart
swelled with this cry, suddenly it became apparent to me how many there
were holding up their hands helplessly to him, clinging to him so that
he could not move. To whom else could they turn? He was the one among
all who preserved his courage, who neither feared nor failed. When those
voices rang out from the walls--which some understood, but which I did
not understand, and many more with me--though my heart was wrung with
straining my ears to listen if there was not a voice for me too, yet at
the same time this thought was working in my heart. There was a poor
woman close to me with little children clinging to her; neither did she
know what those voices said. Her eyes turned from Semur, all lost in the
darkness, to the sky above us and to me beside her, all confused and
bewildered; and the children clung to her, all in tears, crying with
that wail which is endless--the trouble of childhood which does not know
why it is troubled. 'Maman! Maman!' they cried, 'let us go home.' 'Oh!
be silent, my little ones,' said the poor woman; 'be silent; we will go
to M. le Maire--he will not leave us without a friend.' It was then that
I saw what my duty was. But it was with a pang--_bon Dieu!_--when I
turned my back upon my Martin, when I went away to shelter, to peace,
leaving my son thus in face of an offended Heaven and all the invisible
powers, do you suppose it was a whole heart I carried in my breast? But
no! it was nothing save a great ache--a struggle as of death. But what
of that? I had my duty to do, as he had--and as he did not flinch, so
did not I; otherwise he would have been ashamed of his mother--and I? I
should have felt that the blood was not mine which ran in his veins.

No one can tell what it was, that march to La Clairiere. Agnes at first
was like an angel. I hope I always do Madame Martin justice. She is a
saint. She is good to the bottom of her heart. Nevertheless, with those
natures which are enthusiast--which are upborne by excitement--there is
also a weakness. Though she was brave as the holy Pucelle when we set
out, after a while she flagged like another. The colour went out of her
face, and though she smiled still, yet the tears came to her eyes, and
she would have wept with the other women, and with the wail of the
weary children, and all the agitation, and the weariness, and the length
of the way, had not I recalled her to herself. 'Courage!' I said to her.
'Courage, _ma fille!_ We will throw open all the chambers. I will give
up even that one in which my Martin Dupin, the father of thy husband,
died.' '_Ma mere_,' she said, holding my hand to her bosom, 'he is not
dead--he is in Semur.' Forgive me, dear Lord! It gave me a pang that she
could see him and not I. 'For me,' I cried, 'it is enough to know that
my good man is in heaven: his room, which I have kept sacred, shall be
given up to the poor.' But oh! the confusion of the stumbling, weary
feet; the little children that dropped by the way, and caught at our
skirts, and wailed and sobbed; the poor mothers with babes upon each
arm, with sick hearts and failing limbs. One cry seemed to rise round us
as we went, each infant moving the others to sympathy, till it rose like
one breath, a wail of 'Maman! Maman!' a cry that had no meaning,
through having so much meaning. It was difficult not to cry out too in
the excitement, in the labouring of the long, long, confused, and
tedious way. 'Maman! Maman!' The Holy Mother could not but hear it. It
is not possible but that she must have looked out upon us, and heard us,
so helpless as we were, where she sits in heaven.

When we got to La Clairiere we were ready to sink down with fatigue like
all the rest--nay, even more than the rest, for we were not used to it,
and for my part I had altogether lost the habitude of long walks. But
then you could see what Madame Martin was. She is slight and fragile and
pale, not strong, as any one can perceive; but she rose above the needs
of the body. She was the one among us who rested not. We threw open all
the rooms, and the poor people thronged in. Old Leontine, who is the
_garde_ of the house, gazed upon us and the crowd whom we brought with
us with great eyes full of fear and trouble. 'But, Madame,' she cried,
'Madame!' following me as I went above to the better rooms. She pulled
me by my robe. She pushed the poor women with their children away.
'_Allez donc, allez_!--rest outside till these ladies have time to speak
to you,' she said; and pulled me by my sleeve. Then 'Madame Martin is
putting all this _canaille_ into our very chambers,' she cried. She had
always distrusted Madame Martin, who was taken by the peasants for a
clerical and a devote, because she was noble. 'The _bon Dieu_ be praised
that Madame also is here, who has sense and will regulate everything.'
'These are no _canaille,'_ I said: 'be silent, _ma bonne_ Leontine, here
is something which you cannot understand. This is Semur which has come
out to us for lodging.' She let the keys drop out of her hands. It was
not wonderful if she was amazed. All day long she followed me about, her
very mouth open with wonder. 'Madame Martin, that understands itself,'
she would say. 'She is romanesque--she has imagination--but Madame,
Madame has _bon sens_--who would have believed it of Madame?' Leontine
had been my _femme de menage_ long before there was a Madame Martin,
when my son was young; and naturally it was of me she still thought. But
I cannot put down all the trouble we had ere we found shelter for every
one. We filled the stables and the great barn, and all the cottages
near; and to get them food, and to have something provided for those who
were watching before the city, and who had no one but us to think of
them, was a task which was almost beyond our powers. Truly it was beyond
our powers--but the Holy Mother of heaven and the good angels helped us.
I cannot tell to any one how it was accomplished, yet it was
accomplished. The wail of the little ones ceased. They slept that first
night as if they had been in heaven. As for us, when the night came, and
the dews and the darkness, it seemed to us as if we were out of our
bodies, so weary were we, so weary that we could not rest. From La
Clairiere on ordinary occasions it is a beautiful sight to see the
lights of Semur shining in all the high windows, and the streets
throwing up a faint whiteness upon the sky; but how strange it was now
to look down and see nothing but a darkness--a cloud, which was the
city! The lights of the watchers in their camp were invisible to
us,--they were so small and low upon the broken ground that we could not
see them. Our Agnes crept close to me; we went with one accord to the
seat before the door. We did not say 'I will go,' but went by one
impulse, for our hearts were there; and we were glad to taste the
freshness of the night and be silent after all our labours. We leant
upon each other in our weariness. 'Ma mere,' she said, 'where is he now,
our Martin?' and wept. 'He is where there is the most to do, be thou
sure of that,' I cried, but wept not. For what did I bring him into the
world but for this end?

Were I to go day by day and hour by hour over that time of trouble, the
story would not please any one. Many were brave and forgot their own
sorrows to occupy themselves with those of others, but many also were
not brave. There were those among us who murmured and complained. Some
would contend with us to let them go and call their husbands, and leave
the miserable country where such things could happen. Some would rave
against the priests and the government, and some against those who
neglected and offended the Holy Church. Among them there were those who
did not hesitate to say it was our fault, though how we were answerable
they could not tell. We were never at any time of the day or night
without a sound of some one weeping or bewailing herself, as if she were
the only sufferer, or crying out against those who had brought her here,
far from all her friends. By times it seemed to me that I could bear it
no longer, that it was but justice to turn those murmurers
_(pleureuses)_ away, and let them try what better they could do for
themselves. But in this point Madame Martin surpassed me. I do not
grudge to say it. She was better than I was, for she was more patient.
She wept with the weeping women, then dried her eyes and smiled upon
them without a thought of anger--whereas I could have turned them to the
door. One thing, however, which I could not away with, was that Agnes
filled her own chamber with the poorest of the poor. 'How,' I cried,
thyself and thy friend Madame de Bois-Sombre, were you not enough to
fill it, that you should throw open that chamber to good-for-nothings,
to _va-nu-pieds_, to the very rabble?' '_Ma mere,'_ said Madame Martin,
'our good Lord died for them.' 'And surely for thee too, thou
saint-imbecile!' I cried out in my indignation. What, my Martin's
chamber which he had adorned for his bride! I was beside myself. And
they have an obstinacy these enthusiasts! But for that matter her friend
Madame de Bois-Sombre thought the same. She would have been one of the
_pleureuses_ herself had it not been for shame. 'Agnes wishes to aid the
_bon Dieu_, Madame,' she said, 'to make us suffer still a little more.'
The tone in which she spoke, and the contraction in her forehead, as if
our hospitality was not enough for her, turned my heart again to my
daughter-in-law. 'You have reason, Madame,' I cried; 'there are indeed
many ways in which Agnes does the work of the good God.' The
Bois-Sombres are poor, they have not a roof to shelter them save that of
the old hotel in Semur, from whence they were sent forth like the rest
of us. And she and her children owed all to Agnes. Figure to yourself
then my resentment when this lady directed her scorn at my
daughter-in-law. I am not myself noble, though of the _haute
bourgeoisie_, which some people think a purer race.

Long and terrible were the days we spent in this suspense. For ourselves
it was well that there was so much to do--the food to provide for all
this multitude, the little children to care for, and to prepare the
provisions for our men who were before Semur. I was in the Ardennes
during the war, and I saw some of its perils--but these were nothing to
what we encountered now. It is true that my son Martin was not in the
war, which made it very different to me; but here the dangers were such
as we could not understand, and they weighed upon our spirits. The seat
at the door, and that point where the road turned, where there was
always so beautiful a view of the valley and of the town of Semur--were
constantly occupied by groups of poor people gazing at the darkness in
which their homes lay. It was strange to see them, some kneeling and
praying with moving lips; some taking but one look, not able to endure
the sight. I was of these last. From time to time, whenever I had a
moment, I came out, I know not why, to see if there was any change. But
to gaze upon that altered prospect for hours, as some did, would have
been intolerable to me. I could not linger nor try to imagine what might
be passing there, either among those who were within (as was believed),
or those who were without the walls. Neither could I pray as many did.
My devotions of every day I will never, I trust, forsake or forget, and
that my Martin was always in my mind is it needful to say? But to go
over and over all the vague fears that were in me, and all those
thoughts which would have broken my heart had they been put into words,
I could not do this even to the good Lord Himself. When I suffered
myself to think, my heart grew sick, my head swam round, the light went
from my eyes. They are happy who can do so, who can take the _bon Dieu_
into their confidence, and say all to Him; but me, I could not do it. I
could not dwell upon that which was so terrible, upon my home abandoned,
my son--Ah! now that it is past, it is still terrible to think of. And
then it was all I was capable of, to trust my God and do what was set
before me. God, He knows what it is we can do and what we cannot. I
could not tell even to Him all the terror and the misery and the
darkness there was in me; but I put my faith in Him. It was all of which
I was capable. We are not made alike, neither in the body nor in the

And there were many women like me at La Clairiere. When we had done each
piece of work we would look out with a kind of hope, then go back to
find something else to do--not looking at each other, not saying a word.
Happily there was a great deal to do. And to see how some of the women,
and those the most anxious, would work, never resting, going on from one
thing to another, as if they were hungry for more and more! Some did it
with their mouths shut close, with their countenances fixed, not daring
to pause or meet another's eyes; but some, who were more patient, worked
with a soft word, and sometimes a smile, and sometimes a tear; but ever
working on. Some of them were an example to us all. In the morning, when
we got up, some from beds, some from the floor,--I insisted that all
should lie down, by turns at least, for we could not make room for every
one at the same hours,--the very first thought of all was to hasten to
the window, or, better, to the door. Who could tell what might have
happened while we slept? For the first moment no one would speak,--it
was the moment of hope--and then there would be a cry, a clasping of the
hands, which told--what we all knew. The one of the women who touched my
heart most was the wife of Riou of the _octroi_. She had been almost
rich for her condition in life, with a good house and a little servant
whom she trained admirably, as I have had occasion to know. Her husband
and her son were both among those whom we had left under the walls of
Semur; but she had three children with her at La Clairiere. Madame Riou
slept lightly, and so did I. Sometimes I heard her stir in the middle of
the night, though so softly that no one woke. We were in the same room,
for it may be supposed that to keep a room to one's self was not
possible. I did not stir, but lay and watched her as she went to the
window, her figure visible against the pale dawning of the light, with
an eager quick movement as of expectation--then turning back with slower
step and a sigh. She was always full of hope. As the days went on, there
came to be a kind of communication between us. We understood each other.
When one was occupied and the other free, that one of us who went out to
the door to look across the valley where Semur was would look at the
other as if to say, 'I go.' When it was Madame Riou who did this, I
shook my head, and she gave me a smile which awoke at every repetition
(though I knew it was vain) a faint expectation, a little hope. When she
came back, it was she who would shake her head, with her eyes full of
tears. 'Did I not tell thee?' I said, speaking to her as if she were my
daughter. 'It will be for next time, Madame,' she would say, and smile,
yet put her apron to her eyes. There were many who were like her, and
there were those of whom I have spoken who were _pleureuses_, never
hoping anything, doing little, bewailing themselves and their hard fate.
Some of them we employed to carry the provisions to Semur, and this
amused them, though the heaviness of the baskets made again a complaint.

As for the children, thank God! they were not disturbed as we were--to
them it was a beautiful holiday--it was like Heaven. There is no place
on earth that I love like Semur, yet it is true that the streets are
narrow, and there is not much room for the children. Here they were
happy as the day; they strayed over all our gardens and the meadows,
which were full of flowers; they sat in companies upon the green grass,
as thick as the daisies themselves, which they loved. Old Sister
Mariette, who is called Marie de la Consolation, sat out in the meadow
under an acacia-tree and watched over them. She was the one among us who
was happy. She had no son, no husband, among the watchers, and though,
no doubt, she loved her convent and her hospital, yet she sat all day
long in the shade and in the full air, and smiled, and never looked
towards Semur. 'The good Lord will do as He wills,' she said, 'and that
will be well.' It was true--we all knew it was true; but it might
be--who could tell?--that it was His will to destroy our town, and take
away our bread, and perhaps the lives of those who were dear to us; and
something came in our throats which prevented a reply. '_Ma soeur_,' I
said, 'we are of the world, we tremble for those we love; we are not as
you are.' Sister Mariette did nothing but smile upon us. 'I have known
my Lord these sixty years,' she said, 'and He has taken everything from
me.' To see her smile as she said this was more than I could bear. From
me He had taken something, but not all. Must we be prepared to give up
all if we would be perfected? There were many of the others also who
trembled at these words. 'And now He gives me my consolation,' she said,
and called the little ones round her, and told them a tale of the Good
Shepherd, which is out of the holy Gospel. To see all the little ones
round her knees in a crowd, and the peaceful face with which she smiled
upon them, and the meadows all full of flowers, and the sunshine coming
and going through the branches: and to hear that tale of Him who went
forth to seek the lamb that was lost, was like a tale out of a holy
book, where all was peace and goodness and joy. But on the other side,
not twenty steps off, was the house full of those who wept, and at all
the doors and windows anxious faces gazing down upon that cloud in the
valley where Semur was. A procession of our women was coming back, many
with lingering steps, carrying the baskets which were empty. 'Is there
any news?' we asked, reading their faces before they could answer. And
some shook their heads, and some wept. There was no other reply.

On the last night before our deliverance, suddenly, in the middle of the
night, there was a great commotion in the house. We all rose out of our
beds at the sound of the cry, almost believing that some one at the
window had seen the lifting of the cloud, and rushed together,
frightened, yet all in an eager expectation to hear what it was. It was
in the room where the old Mere Julie slept that the disturbance was.
Mere Julie was one of the market-women of Semur, the one I have
mentioned who was devout, who never missed the _Salut_ in the afternoon,
besides all masses which are obligatory. But there were other matters
in which she had not satisfied my mind, as I have before said. She was
the mother of Jacques Richard, who was a good-for-nothing, as is well
known. At La Clairiere Mere Julie had enacted a strange part. She had
taken no part in anything that was done, but had established herself in
the chamber allotted to her, and taken the best bed in it, where she
kept her place night and day, making the others wait upon her. She had
always expressed a great devotion for St. Jean; and the Sisters of the
Hospital had been very kind to her, and also to her _vaurien_ of a son,
who was indeed, in some manner, the occasion of all our troubles--being
the first who complained of the opening of the chapel into the chief
ward, which was closed up by the administration, and thus became, as I
and many others think, the cause of all the calamities that have come
upon us. It was her bed that was the centre of the great commotion we
had heard, and a dozen voices immediately began to explain to us as we
entered. 'Mere Julie has had a dream. She has seen a vision,' they said.
It was a vision of angels in the most beautiful robes, all shining with
gold and whiteness.

'The dress of the Holy Mother which she wears on the great _fetes_ was
nothing to them,' Mere Julie told us, when she had composed herself. For
all had run here and there at her first cry, and procured for her a
_tisane_, and a cup of _bouillon_, and all that was good for an attack
of the nerves, which was what it was at first supposed to be. 'Their
wings were like the wings of the great peacock on the terrace, but also
like those of eagles. And each one had a collar of beautiful jewels
about his neck, and robes whiter than those of any bride.' This was the
description she gave: and to see the women how they listened, head above
head, a cloud of eager faces, all full of awe and attention! The angels
had promised her that they would come again, when we had bound ourselves
to observe all the functions of the Church, and when all these
Messieurs had been converted, and made their submission--to lead us back
gloriously to Semur. There was a great tumult in the chamber, and all
cried out that they were convinced, that they were ready to promise. All
except Madame Martin, who stood and looked at them with a look which
surprised me, which was of pity rather than sympathy. As there was no
one else to speak, I took the word, being the mother of the present
Maire, and wife of the last, and in part mistress of the house. Had
Agnes spoken I would have yielded to her, but as she was silent I took
my right. 'Mere Julie,' I said, 'and mes bonnes femmes, my friends, know
you that it is the middle of the night, the hour at which we must rest
if we are to be able to do the work that is needful, which the _bon
Dieu_ has laid upon us? It is not from us--my daughter and myself--who,
it is well known, have followed all the functions of the Church, that
you will meet with an opposition to your promise. But what I desire is
that you should calm yourselves, that you should retire and rest till
the time of work, husbanding your strength, since we know not what claim
may be made upon it. The holy angels,' I said, 'will comprehend, or if
not they, then the _bon Dieu_, who understands everything.'

But it was with difficulty that I could induce them to listen to me, to
do that which was reasonable. When, however, we had quieted the
agitation, and persuaded the good women to repose themselves, it was no
longer possible for me to rest. I promised to myself a little moment of
quiet, for my heart longed to be alone. I stole out as quietly as I
might, not to disturb any one, and sat down upon the bench outside the
door. It was still a kind of half-dark, nothing visible, so that if any
one should gaze and gaze down the valley, it was not possible to see
what was there: and I was glad that it was not possible, for my very
soul was tired. I sat down and leant my back upon the wall of our
house, and opened my lips to draw in the air of the morning. How still
it was! the very birds not yet begun to rustle and stir in the bushes;
the night air hushed, and scarcely the first faint tint of blue
beginning to steal into the darkness. When I had sat there a little,
closing my eyes, lo, tears began to steal into them like rain when there
has been a fever of heat. I have wept in my time many tears, but the
time of weeping is over with me, and through all these miseries I had
shed none. Now they came without asking, like a benediction refreshing
my eyes. Just then I felt a soft pressure upon my shoulder, and there
was Agnes coming close, putting her shoulder to mine, as was her way,
that we might support each other.

'You weep, ma mere,' she said.

'I think it is one of the angels Mere Julie has seen,' said I. 'It is a
refreshment--a blessing; my eyes were dry with weariness.'

'Mother,' said Madame Martin, 'do you think it is angels with wings
like peacocks and jewelled collars that our Father sends to us? Ah, not
so--one of those whom we love has touched your dear eyes,' and with that
she kissed me upon my eyes, taking me in her arms. My heart is sometimes
hard to my son's wife, but not always--not with my will, God knows! Her
kiss was soft as the touch of any angel could be.

'God bless thee, my child,' I said.

'Thanks, thanks, ma mere!' she cried. 'Now I am resolved; now will I go
and speak to Martin--of something in my heart.'

'What will you do, my child?' I said, for as the light increased I could
see the meaning in her face, and that it was wrought up for some great
thing. 'Beware, Agnes; risk not my son's happiness by risking thyself;
thou art more to Martin than all the world beside.'

'He loves thee dearly, mother,' she said. My heart was comforted. I was
able to remember that I too had had my day. 'He loves his mother, thank
God, but not as he loves thee. Beware, _ma fille_. If you risk my son's
happiness, neither will I forgive you.' She smiled upon me, and kissed
my hands.

'I will go and take him his food and some linen, and carry him your love
and mine.'

'_You_ will go, and carry one of those heavy baskets with the others!'

'Mother,' cried Agnes, 'now you shame me that I have never done it

What could I say? Those whose turn it was were preparing their burdens
to set out. She had her little packet made up, besides, of our cool
white linen, which I knew would be so grateful to my son. I went with
her to the turn of the road, helping her with her basket; but my limbs
trembled, what with the long continuance of the trial, what with the
agitation of the night. It was but just daylight when they went away,
disappearing down the long slope of the road that led to Semur. I went
back to the bench at the door, and there I sat down and thought.
Assuredly it was wrong to close up the chapel, to deprive the sick of
the benefit of the holy mass. But yet I could not but reflect that the
_bon Dieu_ had suffered still more great scandals to take place without
such a punishment. When, however, I reflected on all that has been done
by those who have no cares of this world as we have, but are brides of
Christ, and upon all they resign by their dedication, and the claim they
have to be furthered, not hindered, in their holy work: and when I
bethought myself how many and great are the powers of evil, and that,
save in us poor women who can do so little, the Church has few friends:
then it came back to me how heinous was the offence that had been
committed, and that it might well be that the saints out of heaven
should return to earth to take the part and avenge the cause of the
weak. My husband would have been the first to do it, had he seen with
my eyes; but though in the flesh he did not do so, is it to be doubted
that in heaven their eyes are enlightened--those who have been subjected
to the cleansing fires and have ascended into final bliss? This all
became clear to me as I sat and pondered, while the morning light grew
around me, and the sun rose and shed his first rays, which are as
precious gold, on the summits of the mountains--for at La Clairiere we
are nearer the mountains than at Semur.

The house was more still than usual, and all slept to a later hour
because of the agitation of the past night. I had been seated, like old
sister Mariette, with my eyes turned rather towards the hills than to
the valley, being so deep in my thoughts that I did not look, as it was
our constant wont to look, if any change had happened over Semur. Thus
blessings come unawares when we are not looking for them. Suddenly I
lifted my eyes--but not with expectation--languidly, as one looks
without thought. Then it was that I gave that great cry which brought
all crowding to the windows, to the gardens, to every spot from whence
that blessed sight was visible; for there before us, piercing through
the clouds, were the beautiful towers of Semur, the Cathedral with all
its pinnacles, that are as if they were carved out of foam, and the
solid tower of St. Lambert, and the others, every one. They told me
after that I flew, though I am past running, to the farmyard to call all
the labourers and servants of the farm, bidding them prepare every
carriage and waggon, and even the _charrettes_, to carry back the
children, and those who could not walk to the city.

'The men will be wild with privation and trouble,' I said to myself;
'they will want the sight of their little children, the comfort of their

I did not wait to reason nor to ask myself if I did well; and my son has
told me since that he scarcely was more thankful for our great
deliverance than, just when the crowd of gaunt and weary men returned
into Semur, and there was a moment when excitement and joy were at their
highest, and danger possible, to hear the roll of the heavy farm
waggons, and to see me arrive, with all the little ones and their
mothers, like a new army, to take possession of their homes once more.


The narratives which I have collected from the different eye-witnesses
during the time of my own absence, will show how everything passed while
I, with M. le Cure, was recovering possession of our city. Many have
reported to me verbally the occurrences of the last half-hour before my
return; and in their accounts there are naturally discrepancies, owing
to their different points of view and different ways of regarding the
subject. But all are agreed that a strange and universal slumber had
seized upon all. M. de Bois-Sombre even admits that he, too, was
overcome by this influence. They slept while we were performing our
dangerous and solemn duty in Semur. But when the Cathedral bells began
to ring, with one impulse all awoke; and starting from the places where
they lay, from the shade of the trees and bushes and sheltering hollows,
saw the cloud and the mist and the darkness which had enveloped Semur
suddenly rise from the walls. It floated up into the higher air before
their eyes, then was caught and carried away, and flung about into
shreds upon the sky by a strong wind, of which down below no influence
was felt. They all gazed, not able to get their breath, speechless,
beside themselves with joy, and saw the walls reappear, and the roofs of
the houses, and our glorious Cathedral against the blue sky. They stood
for a moment spell-bound. M. de Bois-Sombre informs me that he was
afraid of a wild rush into the city, and himself hastened to the front
to lead and restrain it; when suddenly a great cry rang through the air,
and some one was seen to fall across the high road, straight in front of
the Porte St. Lambert. M. de Bois-Sombre was at once aware who it was,
for he himself had watched Lecamus taking his place at the feet of my
wife, who awaited my return there. This checked the people in their
first rush towards their homes; and when it was seen that Madame Dupin
had also sunk down fainting on the ground after her more than human
exertions for the comfort of all, there was but one impulse of
tenderness and pity. When I reached the gate on my return, I found my
wife lying there in all the pallor of death, and for a moment my heart
stood still with sudden terror. What mattered Semur to me, if it had
cost me my Agnes? or how could I think of Lecamus or any other, while
she lay between life and death? I had her carried back to our own house.
She was the first to re-enter Semur; and after a time, thanks be to God,
she came back to herself. But Paul Lecamus was a dead man. No need to
carry him in, to attempt unavailing cares. 'He has gone, that one; he
has marched with the others,' said the old doctor, who had served in his
day, and sometimes would use the language of the camp. He cast but one
glance at him, and laid his hand upon his heart in passing. 'Cover his
face,' was all he said.

It is possible that this check was good for the restraint of the crowd.
It moderated the rush with which they returned to their homes. The sight
of the motionless figures stretched out by the side of the way overawed
them. Perhaps it may seem strange, to any one who has known what had
occurred, that the state of the city should have given me great anxiety
the first night of our return. The withdrawal of the oppression and awe
which had been on the men, the return of everything to its natural
state, the sight of their houses unchanged, so that the brain turned
round of these common people, who seldom reflect upon anything, and they
already began to ask themselves was it all a delusion--added to the
exhaustion of their physical condition, and the natural desire for ease
and pleasure after the long strain upon all their faculties--produced an
excitement which might have led to very disastrous consequences.
Fortunately I had foreseen this. I have always been considered to
possess great knowledge of human nature, and this has been matured by
recent events. I sent off messengers instantly to bring home the women
and children, and called around me the men in whom I could most trust.
Though I need not say that the excitement and suffering of the past
three days had told not less upon myself than upon others, I abandoned
all idea of rest. The first thing that I did, aided by my respectable
fellow-townsmen, was to take possession of all _cabarets_ and
wine-shops, allowing indeed the proprietors to return, but preventing
all assemblages within them. We then established a patrol of respectable
citizens throughout the city, to preserve the public peace. I
calculated, with great anxiety, how many hours it would be before my
messengers could react: La Clairiere, to bring back the women--for in
such a case the wives are the best guardians, and can exercise an
influence more general and less suspected than that of the magistrates;
but this was not to be hoped for for three or four hours at least.
Judge, then, what was my joy and satisfaction when the sound of wheels
(in itself a pleasant sound, for no wheels had been audible on the
high-road since these events began) came briskly to us from the
distance; and looking out from the watch-tower over the Porte St.
Lambert, I saw the strangest procession. The wine-carts and all the farm
vehicles of La Clairiere, and every kind of country waggon, were jolting
along the road, all in a tumult and babble of delicious voices; and from
under the rude canopies and awnings and roofs of vine branches, made up
to shield them from the sun, lo! there were the children like birds in a
nest, one little head peeping over the other. And the cries and songs,
the laughter, and the shoutings! As they came along the air grew sweet,
the world was made new. Many of us, who had borne all the terrors and
sufferings of the past without fainting, now felt their strength fail
them. Some broke out into tears, interrupted with laughter. Some called
out aloud the names of their little ones. We went out to meet them,
every man there present, myself at the head. And I will not deny that a
sensation of pride came over me when I saw my mother stand up in the
first waggon, with all those happy ones fluttering around her. 'My son,'
she said, 'I have discharged the trust that was given me. I bring thee
back the blessing of God.' 'And God bless thee, my mother!' I cried. The
other men, who were fathers, like me, came round me, crowding to kiss
her hand. It is not among the women of my family that you will find
those who abandon their duties.

And then to lift them down in armfuls, those flowers of paradise, all
fresh with the air of the fields, all joyous like the birds! We put them
down by twos and threes, some of us sobbing with joy. And to see them
dispersing hand in hand, running here and there, each to its home,
carrying peace, and love, and gladness, through the streets--that was
enough to make the most serious smile. No fear was in them, or care.
Every haggard man they met--some of them feverish, restless, beginning
to think of riot and pleasure after forced abstinence--there was a new
shout, a rush of little feet, a shower of soft kisses. The women were
following after, some packed into the carts and waggons, pale and worn,
yet happy; some walking behind in groups; the more strong, or the more
eager, in advance, and a long line of stragglers behind. There was
anxiety in their faces, mingled with their joy. How did they know what
they might find in the houses from which they had been shut out? And
many felt, like me, that in the very return, in the relief, there was
danger. But the children feared nothing; they filled the streets with
their dear voices, and happiness came back with them. When I felt my
little Jean's cheek against mine, then for the first time did I know how
much anguish I had suffered--how terrible was parting, and how sweet was
life. But strength and prudence melt away when one indulges one's self,
even in one's dearest affections. I had to call my guardians together,
to put mastery upon myself, that a just vigilance might not be relaxed.
M. de Bois-Sombre, though less anxious than myself, and disposed to
believe (being a soldier) that a little license would do no harm, yet
stood by me; and, thanks to our precautions, all went well.

Before night three parts of the population had returned to Semur, and
the houses were all lighted up as for a great festival. The Cathedral
stood open--even the great west doors, which are only opened on great
occasions--with a glow of tapers gleaming out on every side. As I stood
in the twilight watching, and glad at heart to think that all was going
well, my mother and my wife--still pale, but now recovered from her
fainting and weakness--came out into the great square, leading my little
Jean. They were on their way to the Cathedral, to thank God for their
return. They looked at me, but did not ask me to go with them, those
dear women; they respected my opinions, as I had always respected
theirs. But this silence moved me more than words; there came into my
heart a sudden inspiration. I was still in my scarf of office, which had
been, I say it without vanity, the standard of authority and protection
during all our trouble; and thus marked out as representative of all, I
uncovered myself, after the ladies of my family had passed, and, without
joining them, silently followed with a slow and solemn step. A
suggestion, a look, is enough for my countrymen; those who were in the
Place with me perceived in a moment what I meant. One by one they
uncovered, they put themselves behind me. Thus we made such a procession
as had never been seen in Semur. We were gaunt and worn with watching
and anxiety, which only added to the solemn effect. Those who were
already in the Cathedral, and especially M. le Cure, informed me
afterwards that the tramp of our male feet as we came up the great steps
gave to all a thrill of expectation and awe. It was at the moment of the
exposition of the Sacrament that we entered. Instinctively, in a moment,
all understood--a thing which could happen nowhere but in France, where
intelligence is swift as the breath on our lips. Those who were already
there yielded their places to us, most of the women rising up, making as
it were a ring round us, the tears running down their faces. When the
Sacrament was replaced upon the altar, M. le Cure, perceiving our
meaning, began at once in his noble voice to intone the _Te Deum_.
Rejecting all other music, he adopted the plain song in which all could
join, and with one voice, every man in unison with his brother, we sang
with him. The great Cathedral walls seemed to throb with the sound that
rolled upward, _male_ and deep, as no song has ever risen from Semur in
the memory of man. The women stood up around us, and wept and sobbed
with pride and joy. When this wonderful moment was over, and all the
people poured forth out of the Cathedral walls into the soft evening,
with stars shining above, and all the friendly lights below, there was
such a tumult of emotion and gladness as I have never seen before. Many
of the poor women surrounded me, kissed my hand notwithstanding my
resistance, and called upon God to bless me; while some of the older
persons made remarks full of justice and feeling.

'The _bon Dieu_ is not used to such singing,' one of them cried, her old
eyes streaming with tears. 'It must have surprised the saints up in

'It will bring a blessing,' cried another. 'It is not like our little
voices, that perhaps only reach half-way.'

This was figurative language, yet it was impossible to doubt there was
much truth in it. Such a submission of our intellects, as I felt in
determining to make it, must have been pleasing to heaven. The women,
they are always praying; but when we thus presented ourselves to give
thanks, it meant something, a real homage; and with a feeling of
solemnity we separated, aware that we had contented both earth and

Next morning there was a great function in the Cathedral, at which the
whole city assisted. Those who could not get admittance crowded upon the
steps, and knelt half way across the Place. It was an occasion long
remembered in Semur, though I have heard many say not in itself so
impressive as the _Te Deum_ on the evening of our return. After this we
returned to our occupations, and life was resumed under its former
conditions in our city.

It might be supposed, however, that the place in which events so
extraordinary had happened would never again be as it was before. Had I
not been myself so closely involved, it would have appeared to me
certain, that the streets, trod once by such inhabitants as those who
for three nights and days abode within Semur, would have always retained
some trace of their presence; that life there would have been more
solemn than in other places; and that those families for whose advantage
the dead had risen out of their graves, would have henceforward carried
about with them some sign of that interposition. It will seem almost
incredible when I now add that nothing of this kind has happened at
Semur. The wonderful manifestation which interrupted our existence has
passed absolutely as if it had never been. We had not been twelve hours
in our houses ere we had forgotten, or practically forgotten, our
expulsion from them. Even myself, to whom everything was so vividly
brought home, I have to enter my wife's room to put aside the curtain
from little Marie's picture, and to see and touch the olive branch
which is there, before I can recall to myself anything that resembles
the feeling with which I re-entered that sanctuary. My grandfather's
bureau still stands in the middle of my library, where I found it on my
return; but I have got used to it, and it no longer affects me.
Everything is as it was; and I cannot persuade myself that, for a time,
I and mine were shut out, and our places taken by those who neither eat
nor drink, and whose life is invisible to our eyes. Everything, I say,
is as it was--every thing goes on as if it would endure for ever. We
know this cannot be, yet it does not move us. Why, then, should the
other move us? A little time, we are aware, and we, too, shall be as
they are--as shadows, and unseen. But neither has the one changed us,
and neither does the other. There was, for some time, a greater respect
shown to religion in Semur, and a more devout attendance at the sacred
functions; but I regret to say this did not continue. Even in my own
case--I say it with sorrow--it did not continue. M. le Cure is an
admirable person. I know no more excellent ecclesiastic. He is
indefatigable in the performance of his spiritual duties; and he has,
besides, a noble and upright soul. Since the days when we suffered and
laboured together, he has been to me as a brother. Still, it is
undeniable that he makes calls upon our credulity, which a man obeys
with reluctance. There are ways of surmounting this; as I see in Agnes
for one, and in M. de Bois-Sombre for another. My wife does not
question, she believes much; and in respect to that which she cannot
acquiesce in, she is silent. 'There are many things I hear you talk of,
Martin, which are strange to me,' she says, 'of myself I cannot believe
in them; but I do not oppose, since it is possible you may have reason
to know better than I; and so with some things that we hear from M. le
Cure.' This is how she explains herself--but she is a woman. It is a
matter of grace to yield to our better judgment. M. de Bois-Sombre has
another way. '_Ma foi_,' he says, 'I have not the time for all your
delicacies, my good people; I have come to see that these things are for
the advantage of the world, and it is not my business to explain them.
If M. le Cure attempted to criticise me in military matters, or thee, my
excellent Martin, in affairs of business, or in the culture of your
vines, I should think him not a wise man; and in like manner, faith and
religion, these are his concern.' Felix de Bois Sombre is an excellent
fellow; but he smells a little of the _mousquetaire_. I, who am neither
a soldier nor a woman, I have hesitations. Nevertheless, so long as I am
Maire of Semur, nothing less than the most absolute respect shall ever
be shown to all truly religious persons, with whom it is my earnest
desire to remain in sympathy and fraternity, so far as that may be.

It seemed, however, a little while ago as if my tenure of this office
would not be long, notwithstanding the services which I am acknowledged,
on every hand, to have done to my fellow-townsmen. It will be remembered
that when M. le Cure and myself found Semur empty, we heard a voice of
complaining from the hospital of St. Jean, and found a sick man who had
been left there, and who grumbled against the Sisters, and accused them
of neglecting him, but remained altogether unaware, in the meantime, of
what had happened in the city. Will it be believed that after a time
this fellow was put faith in as a seer, who had heard and beheld many
things of which we were all ignorant? It must be said that, in the
meantime, there had been a little excitement in the town on the subject
of the chapel in the hospital, to which repeated reference has already
been made. It was insisted on behalf of these ladies that a promise had
been given, taking, indeed, the form of a vow, that, as soon as we were
again in possession of Semur, their full privileges should be restored
to them. Their advocates even went so far as to send to me a deputation
of those who had been nursed in the hospital, the leader of which was
Jacques Richard, who since he has been, as he says, 'converted,' thrusts
himself to the front of every movement.

'Permit me to speak, M. le Maire,' he said; 'me, who was one of those so
misguided as to complain, before the great lesson we have all received.
The mass did not disturb any sick person who was of right dispositions.
I was then a very bad subject, indeed--as, alas! M. le Maire too well
knows. It annoyed me only as all pious observances annoyed me. I am now,
thank heaven, of a very different way of thinking----'

But I would not listen to the fellow. When he was a _mauvais sujet_ he
was less abhorrent to me than now.

The men were aware that when I pronounced myself so distinctly on any
subject, there was nothing more to be said, for, though gentle as a
lamb and open to all reasonable arguments, I am capable of making the
most obstinate stand for principle; and to yield to popular
superstition, is that worthy of a man who has been instructed? At the
same time it raised a great anger in my mind that all that should be
thought of was a thing so trivial. That they should have given
themselves, soul and body, for a little money; that they should have
scoffed at all that was noble and generous, both in religion and in
earthly things; all that was nothing to them. And now they would insult
the great God Himself by believing that all He cared for was a little
mass in a convent chapel. What desecration! What debasement! When I went
to M. le Cure, he smiled at my vehemence. There was pain in his smile,
and it might be indignation; but he was not furious like me.

'They will conquer you, my friend,' he said.

'Never,' I cried. 'Before I might have yielded. But to tell me the
gates of death have been rolled back, and Heaven revealed, and the great
God stooped down from Heaven, in order that mass should be said
according to the wishes of the community in the midst of the sick wards!
They will never make me believe this, if I were to die for it.'

'Nevertheless, they will conquer,' M. le Cure said.

It angered me that he should say so. My heart was sore as if my friend
had forsaken me. And then it was that the worst step was taken in this
crusade of false religion. It was from my mother that I heard of it
first. One day she came home in great excitement, saying that now indeed
a real light was to be shed upon all that had happened to us.

'It appears,' she said, 'that Pierre Plastron was in the hospital all
the time, and heard and saw many wonderful things. Sister Genevieve has
just told me. It is wonderful beyond anything you could believe. He has
spoken with our holy patron himself, St. Lambert, and has received
instructions for a pilgrimage--'

'Pierre Plastron!' I cried; 'Pierre Plastron saw nothing, ma mere. He
was not even aware that anything remarkable had occurred. He complained
to us of the Sisters that they neglected him; he knew nothing more.'

'My son,' she said, looking upon me with reproving eyes, 'what have the
good Sisters done to thee? Why is it that you look so unfavourably upon
everything that comes from the community of St. Jean?'

'What have I to do with the community?' I cried--'when I tell thee,
Maman, that this Pierre Plastron knows nothing! I heard it from the
fellow's own lips, and M. le Cure was present and heard him too. He had
seen nothing, he knew nothing. Inquire of M. le Cure, if you have doubts
of me.'

'I do not doubt you, Martin,' said my mother, with severity, 'when you
are not biassed by prejudice. And, as for M. le Cure, it is well known
that the clergy are often jealous of the good Sisters, when they are not
under their own control.'

Such was the injustice with which we were treated. And next day nothing
was talked of but the revelation of Pierre Plastron. What he had seen
and what he had heard was wonderful. All the saints had come and talked
with him, and told him what he was to say to his townsmen. They told him
exactly how everything had happened: how St. Jean himself had interfered
on behalf of the Sisters, and how, if we were not more attentive to the
duties of religion, certain among us would be bound hand and foot and
cast into the jaws of hell. That I was one, nay the chief, of these
denounced persons, no one could have any doubt. This exasperated me; and
as soon as I knew that this folly had been printed and was in every
house, I hastened to M. le Cure, and entreated him in his next Sunday's
sermon to tell the true story of Pierre Plastron, and reveal the

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