A Story of Calais by the Author of "St. Leger"

Some years ago, I was detained unexpectedly in Calais for an entire week. It was with difficulty I could occupy the time. For a while my chief resource was to inspect the different faces which daily presented themselves at the Hotel de Meurice, where one could see every variety of features belonging to every country, age, sex, and condition. I grew tired of this presently, for I had been on the continent a considerable period, and had seen the human species under as many different phases as could well be imagined. Therefore, when the third day brought with it one of those disagreeable storms peculiar to the coast—half drizzle, half sleet and rain—it found me weary of the amusement of attending on new arrivals and departures, and of the nameless petty doings by which time, in a bustling hotel, is attempted to be frittered away. A misty, dreary, damp, offensive day! An out-and-out tempest, a thorough right-down drenching rain, would have been in agreeable contrast with the previous hot, dusty, sunny weather; but this—it seemed absolutely intolerable! I was, besides, in no particular condition to be pleased. I was neither setting out upon a tour, nor returning from one, but had been interrupted in my progress and forced to stand still at this most uninteresting spot. I came down, and with a bad grace, to order breakfast.

"Garçon, Café—œufs a la coque—biftek—rotie—vite!"

I was about repeating this in a louder tone, for the waiter seemed engrossed with something more important than attending to my wants, when I heard a quiet voice behind me—

"Garçon, Café—œufs a la coque—biftek—rotie—vite!"

I turned angrily upon the speaker, doubtful of the design of this repetition of my order.

The reader will perceive that my breakfast was a substantial one; indeed, such a breakfast as an American, who had not so far lost himself in "European society" as to forget his appetite, would be very likely to call for. The idea that I was watched, doubtless made me a little suspicious, or sensitive, or irritable; at any rate, I turned, as I have said, angrily upon the speaker. He was a slightly made, elderly man, at least fifty, with pleasant features, a calm appearance, and quiet manners—a person evidently at home with the world. I recollected at the same moment, that the stranger had been at the hotel ever since my arrival there, although I had not, from his unobtrusive habit, given him more than a passing notice. His appearance at once dispelled the frown which I had brought to bear upon him; but when he answered my stare with a respectful yet half familiar bow, I could have sworn that it came from an old acquaintance. I need not say that I returned the salutation cordially. At the same time my new friend rose, came towards me, and held out his hand.

"I am quite sure," he said, "that you are an American—perhaps a New Englander; I am both; why, then, should not countrymen beguile an unpleasant day in company? Excuse me—I did hear your order just now, and as it suited my own taste, I proposed to myself that we should breakfast together;—we may trust to François; he has been here, to my knowledge, more than twenty years, and pleases every body."

I pressed the hand of my new acquaintance—acknowledged myself to be from New Hampshire—gave my name, and received in return—"Philip Belcher."

We sat down to the same table, and very soon François appeared with a well-served breakfast.

"Pray," said I, "what can one do to relieve the monotony of this intolerable place? If the country about were agreeable—nay, if it were bearable! but as it is, I repeat, what is to be done?"

"Done!" said Mr. Belcher, rather sharply, "a hundred things! Put on your Mackintosh and overshoes; come with me to the Courtgain, and see the fishermen putting to sea, their boats towed out by their wives and daughters; a sight, I will be bound, you have not beheld, although you may have coursed Europe over, and been at Calais half a dozen times."

Mr. Belcher proceeded in this vein, detailing many things that could be seen to advantage even in Calais; but as he suggested nothing which interested me so much as he himself did, I had the boldness to tell him so, and that my curiosity was excited to know more of him.

"There is nothing in my history that can amuse a stranger; indeed, it is without incident or marvel. To be sure, I am alone in the world, but I have never been afflicted, or suffered misfortune, within my recollection. My parents died when I was very young; my father and mother were both only children; a small property which the former left was carefully invested, and faithfully nursed during my minority, by a scrupulous and honest lawyer, in no way connected with us, but whom my father named as executor in his will, and my guardian. Ill health prevented my getting on at school. I can't say that I was an invalid, but my constitution was delicate and my temperament nervous. I tried to make some progress in the study of a profession, under my excellent guardian, but was forced to give it up as too trying to my nerves. The excitement of a court-room I could not endure for a day, much less for a lifetime. Before I was twenty-five, my income had so much increased that I could afford to travel. I have gained in this way my health, which, however, would become impaired should I return to a sedentary life; so, as a matter of necessity, I have wandered about the world. You see my story is soon told."

I found Mr. Belcher was not in the habit of talking about himself, and I liked him the better for it. Without pressing for a more particular account, I led the conversation to treat of the different countries he had visited, referring, by the way, to some principal objects of attraction. Here I touched an idiosyncrasy of my new friend.

"I never formed," he said, "any distinct 'plan' of travel. I never 'did' Paris in eight days, nor the gallery of the Louvre in half an hour, as they have been done by an acquaintance. I never opened a guide-book in my life; I never employed a commissionere, a valet, a courier, a cicerone, or a dragoman. My pleasure has been to let the remarkable—the beautiful—the interesting—burst upon me without introduction, and I have found my account in it. I have quitted the Val d'Arno, turned off from the Lake of Como, passed to the wrong side of Lake Leman and its romantic castles, pursuing my way, regardless of these well-worn attractions, while I beheld rarer—at least familiar scenes—and enjoyed with zest what was fresh and unhackneyed. No everlasting 'route'—no mercenary and dishonest landlords—no troops of travellers, travelling that they may become 'travelled'—but in place of all this, I saw every thing naturally—the country in its simplicity—the inhabitants in their simplicity—while, I trust, I have preserved my own simplicity. Indeed, I rather prefer what your tourist calls an 'uninteresting region.'"

"For that reason," I remarked, pleasantly, "you have come here to Calais to spend a few weeks; you must enjoy the barren sand-plain which extends all the way from this to St. Omer. How picturesque are those pollards scattered along the road, with here and there a superannuated windmill, looking like an ogre with three arms and no legs: then, to relieve the dreariness of the place, you have multitudes of miserable cabins, grouped into more miserable villages, to say nothing of the chateaux of dingy red, in which painters of the brick-dust school so much delight. Really, Mr. Belcher, you will have a capital field here!"

My new acquaintance shook his head a little seriously, as if deprecating further pleasantry.

"You are like the rest of them, I fear," he remarked, "a surface traveller; at least you will force me to believe so if you go on in this way. But come," he continued, "the storm threatens to last the morning; if you wish, I will help to make away with part of it, by recounting a little adventure which happened to me hard by those very pollards, which you are pleased to abuse so freely."

It is needless to add that I joyfully assented to the proposal, and was soon seated in Mr. Belcher's room before a cheerful fire—for he had managed even in Calais to procure one—when he commenced as follows:

"I think it was during the first season I was on the continent, that I visited St. Omer. After spending a day or two in that place, I concluded to walk to Calais, and set out one morning accordingly.

"The weather was fine; but after I had been a few hours on the road, the wind began to blow directly in my face, and soon enveloped me in a cloud of sand from which there seemed no escape, and which threatened actually to suffocate me. To avoid this I left the highway, but keeping what I supposed to be in the general direction of the road, I struck out into the adjacent fields. There was nothing for a considerable distance to repay me for this detour, except that I thus was rid of the sand. The country was barren and uninteresting, the cottages little better than hovels, and the whole scene uninviting. But I pushed on, not a whit discouraged; indeed my spirits rose as the prospect darkened, and like a valiant general invading a country for the purpose of conquering a peace, I resolved in some way to force an adventure before I reached Calais. I trudged along for hours, stopping occasionally for a draught of sour wine and a bit of bread. I made no inquiry about the main road, for I preferred to know nothing of it. In this way I proceeded, until it was almost night, when I spied, some half a mile distant, a cluster of trees surrounding a small tenement. I turned at once toward the spot, and coming up to it, found a cottage not differing in size or structure from those I had seen on the way, except that it appeared even more antiquated. It was, however, in perfect repair, and finely shaded by a variety of handsome trees, and flanked on one side by a neat garden. The door stood open and I entered. There was no one in the room. I called, but received no answer. I strayed out into the garden and walked through it. At the lower end was a small inclosure covered over at the top as if to protect it from the weather, and fenced on each side with open wire-work, looking through which, I beheld a small grave, overspread with mosses, and strewed with fresh-gathered white flowers. It bore no name or inscription, except the following simple but pathetic line;

"Enfant cherie, avec toi mes beaux jours sont passes.—1794."

Surprised by the appearance of fresh flowers upon a tomb which had been so long closed over its occupant, I turned, hoping to find some explanation of the mystery, in what I might see elsewhere, But there was nothing near to attract one's attention, nor was any person within sight.

"After taking a glance around, I returned to the cottage, and walking in, sat down to wait the arrival of the occupants. In a few minutes, I heard voices from the side of the house opposite the garden, and soon two persons, of the peasant class, evidently husband and wife, came in. The man was strong and robust, with the erect form and martial appearance acquired only by military service, and which the weight of nearly sixty years had not seemed to impair. His countenance was frank and manly, and his step firm. The woman appeared a few years younger, while the air of happy contentment which beamed in her face, put the ordinary encroachments of time at defiance. Altogether, I had never seen a couple so fitted to challenge observation and interest. They both stopped short on seeing me.

"I hastened to explain my situation, as that of a belated traveller, attracted by the sight of the cottage; and told them I was both hungry and tired, and desirous of the hospitality of their roof. I was made welcome at once.

"Louis Herbois, for that was his name, gave me a bluff, soldierly greeting, while Agathe, his wife, smiled her acquiescence. Supper was soon laid; I ate with a sharpened appetite, which evidently charmed my host, who encouraged me at intervals, as I began to flag.

"Supper concluded, I was glad to accept the offer of a bed—for I was exhausted with fatigue.

"I had been so engrossed with the repast, that curiosity was for the time suspended, and it was not again in action until I had said good-night to my entertainers, and found myself in the room where I was to sleep. This was an apartment of moderate size; the furniture was old and common, but neither dilapidated nor out of order; the bed was neatly covered; around the room were scattered several books of interest, and in one corner was a neat writing-desk, of antiquated appearance, with silver mounting, and handsomely inlaid; while some small articles of considerable value placed on a table in another corner, indicated at least occasional denizens very different from the peasant and his wife. Yet this could not be a rural resort for any family belonging to the town. There were but two other apartments in the house, and these were occupied. Nevertheless, I reasoned, these things can never have been brought here by the worthy people I have seen; and then—the little grave in the garden? who has watched the tomb for so many years, preserving the moss so green and the flowers so fresh—cherishing an affection which has triumphed over time? How intense, how sacred, how strange must be such devotion! I decided that some persons besides my host were concerned, in some way, in the history of the little dwelling, and with this conclusion I retired; and so, being fatigued by my day's travel, I soon fell asleep.

"I awoke about sunrise. Going to the window, I put aside the curtain, and looked out into the garden. Louis Herbois and his wife were there, renewing the garlands with fresh flowers, and watering the moss which was spread over the grave. It must be their own child, thought I, and yet—no—I will step out and ask them, and put an end to the mystery. I met the good people coming in: they inquired if I had rested well, and said that breakfast would soon be ready. 'You do not forget your little one,' I said to the old fellow, at the same time pointing towards the inclosure. 'Monsieur mistakes,' replied he, crossing himself devoutly. 'Some dear friend, I suppose?' He looked at me earnestly: 'On voit bien, Monsieur, que vous etes un homme comme il faut. After you have breakfasted, you shall hear the story. 'Ah, there is then a story,' said I to myself, as I followed Louis Herbois into the cottage, where Agathe had preceded us, and sat down to an excellent breakfast. When it was concluded I asked for the promised narration. 'Let me see,' said Louis, 'Agathe, how long have we been married?' Agathe, matron as she was, actually blushed at the question, yet answered readily, without stopping to compute the time. 'Yes; true; very well;' resumed Louis. 'You must know, Monsieur, that my father was a soldier, and enrolled me, at an early age, in the same company with himself. Having been detailed, soon after, on service to one of the provinces, I was so severely wounded that I was thought to be permanently unfitted for duty, and was honorably dismissed with a life pension. Owing to the care and skill of a famous surgeon who attended me, and whom I was fortunate enough to interest, I was at last cured of my wounds, and very soon after I wandered away here, for no better reason, I believe, than that Agathe was in the neighborhood; for we had known each other from the time we were children. Very soon she and I were married, and we took this little place, and were as blessed as possible.

"'In the mean time, great changes were going on at Paris. The revolution had begun, and soon swept every thing before it. But it did not matter with us. We rose with the birds, and went to rest with the sun, and no two could have been happier: am I not right, Agathe?' The old lady put her hand affectionately upon the shoulder of her husband, but said nothing. 'And we have never ceased being happy: we are always happy, are we not Agathe?' The tears stood in Agathe's eyes, and Louis Herbois went on. 'Well, the revolution was nothing to me, they were mad with it, and killed the king, and slew each other, until our dear Paris became a bedlam—still, as I said, it was nothing to me. To be sure, I went occasionally to Calais, where I heard a new language in every body's mouth, and much talk of Les hommes suspects, Mandats d'arrets, with shouts of Abas les aristocrates, and Vive la Republique—but I did not trouble myself about any of it; Agathe and I worked together in the field, and in the garden, and in the house—always together—always happy. One morning we went out to prune our vines, the door of the house was open, just as you found it yesterday; why should we ever shut the door? we were honest, and feared nobody; we stood—Agathe here on this side holding the vine; I, with my knife, on the other side, bending over to lop a sprout from it; when down came two young people—lad and lass—upon us, as fast as they could run; out of breath—agitated—and as frightened as two wood-pigeons. The young man flew to me, and catching hold of my arm begged me, pour l'amour de Dieu, to secrete his wife somewhere—anywhere—out of the reach of the gens-d'armes, who were pursuing them. I felt in ill-humor, for I had cut my finger just then; besides, I did not relish the mention of the gens-d'armes, so I replied plainly, that I would have nothing to do with persons who were suspects. Why should I thrust my own neck into the trap? they had better go about their business, and not trouble poor people. Bah! such a speech was not like Louis Herbois! but out it came, Heaven knows how, and no sooner had I finished than up runs the young creature, and seizing my moustache she cries, "My brave fellow, hie away, and crop off all this; none but men have a right to it; God grant you were not born in France; no Frenchman could give such an answer to a man imploring protection for his wife. Look at my husband—did he ask aid for himself? Do you think he would turn you off in this way, had you sought his assistance to save her?" pointing to Agathe, who stood trembling all the while like an aspen. "Ah! you have made a mistake, I see you repent, be quick; what will you do with us?" And she held me tight by the moustache until I should answer, while the husband stared upon me in a sort of breathless agony. I took another look at the little creature, while she kept fast hold of me, and saw that she was——eh bien! I see you understand me,' said Louis, interrupting himself, as he glanced towards his wife. 'My heart knocked loud enough, believe me, and there the dear little thing stood, her hand, as I was telling you, clenched fast in my moustache—ha! ha! ha!—and looking so full into my eyes, with her own clear bright blue gazers. "Mon Dieu—mon Dieu! Agathe we must help these pauvres enfans." "You are a Frenchman—I thought so," cried the little one, letting go my moustache and clapping her hands. "Oh! hasten, hasten, or we are lost!" "All in good time," said I, "for—" "No no," interrupted she, "they are almost upon us: in a moment we may be captured, and then Albert, oh, Albert, what will become of you?" So saying, she threw her arms about her husband, and clung to him as if nothing should part them. "Voilà bien les femmes; to the devil with my caution; come with me, and I will put you in a place where the whole Directory shall not find you, unless they pull my cottage down stone by stone." I hurried them to the house, and hid them in a private closet which, following out my soldier-like propensities, I had constructed in one end of the room, in a marvellously curious way. Not a soul but Agathe knew of it, and I disliked to give up the secret, but I hurried the young people in, and arranged the place, and went back to the vines and cut away harder than ever. In two minutes, up rode three dragoons with drawn swords, as fine looking troopers as one would ask for. I saw them reconnoitre the cottage, then spying me, they came towards us at a gallop. "What have you done with the Comte and Comtesse de Choissy?" said the leading horseman. "You had better hold your tongue," I retorted, "than be clattering away at random. What the devil do I know of the Comte and Comtesse de Choissy, as you call them?" "Look, you," said the dragoon, laying his hand on my shoulder; "the persons for whom I seek, are escaped prisoners; they were seen to come in the direction of this cottage; our captain watched them with his glass, and he swears they are here." "And look you, Monsieur Cavalier, I am an old soldier, as you see, if scars and hard service can prove one, and it seems to me you should take an old soldier's word. I have said all I have to say; there is my house, the doors are open—look for yourself: come Agathe, we must finish our morning's work." So saying, I set at the vines harder than ever. I looked neither one way nor the other, but kept clipping, clipping, thus standing between the dragoons and poor Agathe, who was frightened terribly, although she tried to seem as busy as I. The rider who was spokesman, stared for a minute without saying a word, and then broke out into a loud laugh. "An old soldier indeed!—a regular piece of steel! one has but to point a flint at you, and the sparks fly." He turned to his men: "Our captain was mistaken, evidently; this is a bon camarade; we may trust to him. We will take a turn through the cottage and push forward." With that he bid me good morning, and after looking around the house the party made off.

"'"Well, Agathe, what's to be done now?" said I, when the dragoons were fairly out of sight. "We have made a fine business of it." "Ah, Louis," said she, "let us not think of the danger; we have saved two innocent lives, for innocent I know they are: what if we have perilled our own? Heaven will reward us." Nothing more was said, though we both thought a great deal, but we kept at our work as if nothing had happened. It was a long time before I dared let the fugitives come from their hiding-place; for I was afraid of that cursed glass of Monsieur le Capitaine. When I did open it I found my prisoners nearly dead with suspense. We held a council as to the best means for their concealment—for who would have had the heart to turn the young people adrift?—and it was finally settled that the comte and his wife should dress as peasants, and take what other means were necessary to alter their appearance, that they might pass as such without suspicion. This was no sooner resolved than carried out. Agathe was as busy as a bee, and in a few minutes had a dress ready for Victorine—we were to call her by her first name—who was now as lively as a creature could be, running about the room, looking into the glass, and making fun of her husband, who had in the mean time pulled on some of my clothes. After this, the young comte explained to me that his father had died a short time before, leaving him his title and immense estates, which, however, should he die childless, would pass to an uncle, a man unscrupulous and of bad reputation. This uncle was among the most conspicuous of the revolutionists. Through his agency the Comte de Choissy and his young wife, with whom he had been but a twelvemonth united, were arrested, and shortly after sentenced to death. They escaped from prison and the guillotine by the aid of a faithful domestic, and were almost at Calais when they discovered that they were pursued. By leaving the road and sending the carriage forward, they managed to gain the few moments which saved them. Their principal fear now was from the wicked designs of the uncle, for the Directory had too much on their hands to hunt out escaped prisoners who were not specially obnoxious. For some days the young people did not stir from the house, but were ever ready to resort to their hiding-place on the first alarm. There were, however, no signs of the gens-d'armes in the neighborhood. I went to Calais in a little while, and found, after much trouble, the old servant who was in the carriage when the comte and his wife deserted it. He had been permitted to pass on without being molested, so alert were the soldiers in pursuit of the fugitives; and he had brought the few effects which he could get together for his master on leaving Paris to a safe place; and to prevent suspicion, he himself had taken service with a respectable traiteur. By degrees, I managed to bring off every thing belonging to my guests, and we fitted up the little room in which you passed the night, as comfortably as possible, without having it excite remark from any one casually entering it. "Albert" was industrious, aiding me at my work, no matter what I was doing, and "Victorine," too, insisted upon helping my wife in whatever she did, here, there, and everywhere, the liveliest, the merriest, the most innocent creature I ever set eyes upon. But for all that, one could see that time hung heavy on the comte. He became thoughtful and triste, and like every man out of his proper place, he was restless and uneasy. Not so the dear wife: she declared she had never been so happy, that she had her Albert all to herself: wanted nothing more: if she but knew how to requite us, she would not wish the estates back again—she would live where she was, forever. Then her husband would throw his arms around her, and call her by endearing names, which would make the little thing look so serious, but at the same time so calm and satisfied and angel-like, that it seemed as if the divine soul of the Holy Virgin had taken possession of her, as she turned her eyes up to her husband and met his, looking lovingly down....'

"Here Louis Herbois stopped, and felt for his handkerchief, and blew his nose until the walls resounded, and wiped his eyes as if trying to remove something that was in them, and proceeded—

"'Any one to have seen her at different times would have sworn I had two little women for guests instead of one: so full of fun and mischief and all sorts of pranks; so lively, running hither and yon, teasing me, amusing Agathe, rallying her husband; but on the occasions I mention, so subdued, so thoughtful so—different from her other self: Ciel! she had all our hearts.

"'Several months passed, much in the same manner. The comte by degrees gained courage, and often ventured away from the house. Twice he had been to the town, but his wife was in such terror during his absence, that he promised her he would not venture again. He continued meanwhile moody and ill at ease; it would be madness to leave his place of concealment; this he knew well enough; still he could not bring himself to be patient. Do not think, Monsieur, that the Comte de Choissy failed to love his wife just as ever: that was not it at all. A man is a man the world about; the comte felt as any body would feel who finds himself rusting away like an old musket, which has been tossed aside into some miserable cock-loft. I had seen the world and knew how it was with him. But what could be done? In Paris things were getting worse and worse. At first we had le Côté Gauche; les Montagnards; les Jacobines: then came les Patriotes de '93; and after that, les Patriotes par excellence, who were succeeded by les Patriotes plus patriotes que les patriotes: and then the devil was let loose in mad earnest; for what with les Bonnets-Rouges, les Enragés, les Terroristes, les Beveurs de Sang, and les Chevaliers du Poignard, Paris was converted into a more fitting abode for Satan than his old-fashioned country residence down below. Pardon Monsieur! I am getting warm; but it always stirs my blood when I recall those days. I see, too, I am getting from my story. Well: I tried to comfort the comte with such scraps of philosophy as I had picked up in my campaigns—for in the army, you must know, one learns many a good maxim—but I did little by that. The sweet young comtesse was the only one who could make him cheerful, and smile, and laugh, and seem happy in a natural way, for he loved her as tenderly as a man ever loved; besides, the comtesse had now a stronger claim than ever upon her husband. I fancy I can see her sitting there, her face bent over, employing her needle upon certain diminutive articles, whose use it is very easy to understand. Do you know, when she was at work on these, that she was serious—never playful—always serious; wearing the same expression as when she received from her husband a tender word? No: nothing could make her merry then. I used to sit and wonder how the self-same person could become so changed all in one minute. How the comte loved to look at her! his eyes were upon her wherever she was; not a word she spoke, not a step she took, not a motion of hers escaped him. Well, the time came at last, and by the blessing of God and the Holy Virgin, as beautiful a child as the world ever welcomed, was placed by my Agathe in the arms of the comtesse. Perhaps,' added Louis Herbois, in a lower voice, while speech seemed for the instant difficult, 'perhaps I have remembered this the better, because God willed it that we ourselves should be childless. When Agathe took the infant and laid it in the mother's bosom, the latter regarded it for a moment with an expression of intense fondness; then, raising her eyes to her husband, who stood over her, she laughed for joy.

"'Mother and daughter prospered apace. The little girl became the pet of the house; we all quarelled for her; but each had to submit in turn. How intelligent! what speaking eyes! what knowing looks! what innocently mischievous ways! mother and child! I wish you could have seen them. I soon marked a striking change: the young comtesse was now never herself a child. A gentle dignity distinguished her—new-born, it would seem—but natural. I am making my story a long one, but I could talk to you the whole day in this way. So, the months passed on—and the revolution did not abate; and the comte was sick at heart, and the comtesse was, as ever, cheerful, content, happy, and the little one could stand alone by a chair and call out to us all, wherever we were. The comte, notwithstanding his promise, could not resist his desire to learn more of what was going on than I could inform him of. I seldom went away, for when hawks are abroad, it is well to look after the brood: and as I had nothing to gain, and every thing to lose, by venturing out, I thought it best to stay at home. The comte, on the contrary, was anxious to know every thing. He had made several visits to Calais, first obtaining his wife's consent, although the agony she suffered seemed to fill his heart with remorse; this, however, was soon smothered by his renewed and unconquerable restlessness. One morning he was pleading with her for leave to go again, answering her expressions of fear with the fact that he had been often already without danger. "There is always a first time," said my Agathe, who was in the room. "And there is always a last time, too," said I, happening to enter at that moment. I did not know what they were talking about, and the words came out quite at random. The comtesse turned pale. "Albert," she said, "content yourself with your Victorine and our babe: go not away from us." The infant was standing by its mother's knee, and without understanding what was said, she repeated, "Papa—not go. The comte hesitated: "What a foreboding company—croakers every one of you—away with such presentiments of evil. Go I will, to show you how foolish you have all been;" and with that he snatched a kiss from his wife and the little one, and started off. The former called to him twice, "Albert, Albert!" and the baby in imitation, with its little voice said, "Papa, papa!" but the comte did not hear those precious tones of wife or child, and in a few minutes he was out of sight. I cannot say what was the matter with me; my spirit was troubled; the comtesse looked so desponding, and Agathe so triste, that I knew not what to do with myself. I did nothing for an hour, then I spoke to Agathe: "Wife, I am going across to the town." She said, "Ah, Louis, I almost wish you would go. See how the comtesse suffers. I am sure I shall feel easier myself." Then I told her to say nothing of where I had gone, and away I went. It did not take me long, for it seemed as if I ought to hasten. I got into the town, and having walked along till I came to the Rue de Paris, I was about turning down it when I saw a small concourse of people on the opposite corner; I crossed over and beheld the Comte de Choissy in the custody of four gens-d'armes, and surrounded by a number of "citizens." My first impulse was to rush to his assistance, but I reflected in time, and contented myself with joining the crowd. One of the soldiers had gone for a carriage, and the remainder were questioning him; the comte, however, would make no reply, except, "You have me prisoner, I have nothing to say, do what you will." I waited quietly for an opportunity of showing myself to him, but he did not look toward me. Presently I said to the man next me, "Neighbor, you crowd something too hard for good fellowship." The comte started a very little at the sound of my voice, but he did not immediately look up. Shortly he raised his head and fixed his eyes on me for an instant only, and then turned them upon others of the company with a look as indifferent as if he were a mere spectator. What a courageous dog! by Heaven, he never changed an iota, nor showed the slightest possible mark of recognition; still, I knew well enough he did recognize me, but I got no sign of it, neither did he look towards me again. Soon the carriage came up and he was hurried in by the gens-d'armes, and off they drove! I made some inquiries, and found that the comte was known, and that they were taking him to Paris.

"'It seems that he had been observed by a spy of the uncle during one of his visits to the town, and although he was not tracked to his home—for he was always very cautious in his movements—yet a strict watch was kept for his next appearance. I went to see the old domestic, but he knew not so much as I. My steps were next turned homeward. What a walk that was for me? How could I enter my house the bearer of such tidings! "Bon Dieu! ah, bon Dieu," I exclaimed, "ayez pitie!" and I stopped under a hedge and got down on my knees and said a prayer, and then I began crying like a child. I said my prayer again, and walked slowly on; then I saw the house, and Agathe in the garden, and the comtesse with the little one standing in the door—looking—looking. I came up—"Albert—where is Albert? where is my husband?" I made no answer. "Tell me," she said, almost fiercely, taking hold of my arm. I opened my mouth and essayed to speak, but although my lips moved I did not get out a syllable. I thought I might whisper it, so I tried to do so, but I could not whisper! The comtesse shrieked, the child began to cry, and Agathe came running in. "Come with me," said I to my wife, and I went into our chamber and told her the whole, and bid her go to the comtesse and tell the truth, for I could not. My dear Agathe went out half dead. I sat still in my chamber; presently the door opened, and the comtesse stood on the threshold. Her eyes were lighted up with fire, her countenance was terribly agitated, her whole frame trembled: "And you are the wretch base enough to let him be carried off to be butchered before your eyes without lifting voice or hand against it, without interposing one word—one look, one thought! Cowardly recreant!" she screamed, and fell back in the arms of my wife in violent convulsions; the infant looked on with wondering eyes and followed us as we laid the comtesse on the bed, and then put her little hand on her mother's cheek, and said softly, "Mamma." In a few minutes the comtesse began to recover. She opened her eyes with an expression of intense pain, gave a glance at Agathe and me, and then observing her child, she took it, and pressed it to her breast and sobbed. Shortly she spoke to me, and oh, with what a mournful voice and look: "Louis, forgive me; I said I knew not what; I was beside myself. You have never merited aught from me but gratitude; will you forgive me?" I cried as if I were a baby. Agathe too went on so that I feared she could never be reconciled to the dreadful calamity—for myself, I was well nigh mad. I could but commend the comtesse to the Great God and hasten out of her sight. Five wretched and wearisome days were spent. The character of the comtesse meantime displayed itself. Instead of sinking under the weight of this sorrowful event, she summoned resolution to endure it. She was devoted to her child; she assumed a cheerful air when caressing it; she even tried to busy herself in her ordinary occupations; but I could not be deceived, I knew the iron had entered her soul. All these heroic signs were only evidences of what she really suffered. Did I not watch her closely? and when the comtesse, folding her infant to her breast, raised her eyes to heaven as if in gratitude that it was left to her, I fancied there was an expression which seemed to say, "Why were not all taken?" The little one, unconscious of its loss, would talk in intervals about "papa;" and when the mother, pained by the innocent prattle, grew sad of countenance, the child would creep into her lap, and putting its slender fingers upon her eyes, her lips, and over her face, would say, "Am I not good, mamma? I am not naughty; I am good, mamma."

"'Five days were passed in this way; on the morning of the sixth, we were startled by the comtesse, who, in manifest terror came to us holding her child, which was screaming as if suffering acute pain: its eyes were bloodshot and gleamed with an unnatural brilliancy, its pulse rapid, and head so hot that it almost burned me to feel of it. Presently it became quiet for a few minutes, but soon the screams were renewed. Alas! what could we do? Agathe and I tried every thing that occurred to us, but to no purpose: the pains in the head became so intense that the poor thing would shriek as if some one was piercing her with a knife, then she would lay in a lethargy, and again start and scream until exhausted. Not for a moment did the comtesse allow her darling to be out of her arms. For two days and two nights she neither took rest nor food; absorbed wholly in her child's sufferings, she would not for a moment be diverted from them. Agathe too watched night and day. On the third night the child appeared much easier, and the comtesse bade Agathe go and get some rest. She came and laid down for a little time and at last fell asleep; when she awoke it was daylight; she knocked at the door of the comtesse—all was still;—she opened it and went in. The comtesse, exhausted by long watching, had fallen asleep in her chair, with her little girl in her arms. The child had sunk into a dull lethargic state never to be broken. Alas! Monsieur—alas! the little one was dead! Agathe ran and called me. I came in. What a spectacle!... Which of us should arouse the unhappy comtesse? or should we disturb her? Were it not better gently to withdraw the dead child and leave the mother to her repose? We thought so. I stepped forward, but courage failed me. I did not dare furtively to abstract the precious burden from the jealous arms which even in slumber were clasped tightly around it. Oh! my God!... While we were standing the comtesse opened her eyes: her first motion was to draw the child closer to her heart—then to look at us—then at the little one. She saw the whole. She had endured so much that this last stroke scarcely added to her wretchedness. She allowed me to take the child, and Agathe to conduct her to the couch and assist her upon it. She had held out to the point of absolute exhaustion, and when once she had yielded she was unable to recall her strength. She remained in her bed quite passive, while Agathe nursed her without intermission. I dug a little grave in the garden yonder, and Agathe and I laid the child in it. The mother shed no tears; when from her bed she saw us carry it away she looked mournfully on, and as we went out she whispered, "Mes beaux jours sont passés." Soon the grave was filled up and flowers scattered over it, and we came back to the cottage. As I drew near her room I beheld the comtesse at the window, supporting herself by a chair, regarding the grave with an earnest longing gaze which I cannot bear to recall. As I passed, her eye met mine,—such a look of quiet enduring anguish, which combined in one expression a world of untold agonies! Oh! I never could endure a second look like that. I rushed into the house: Agathe was already in. I called to her to come to me, for I could not enter that room again. "Wife," I said, "I am going to Paris. Do not say one word. God will protect us. Comfort the comtesse. Agathe, if I never return, remember—it is on a holy errand—adieu." I was off before Agathe could reply. I ran till I came to the main road, there I was forced to sit down and rest. At last I saw a wagoner going forward; part of the way I rode with him, and a part I found a faster conveyance. At night I walked by myself.

"'I had a cousin in Paris, Maurice Herbois, with whom in old times I had been on companionable terms. He was a smith, and had done well at the trade until the revolution broke out, since then I had heard nothing from him. He was a shrewd fellow, and I thought he would be likely to keep near the top of the wheel. But I had a perilous time after getting into Paris before I could find him. I learned as many of the canaille watchwords by heart as I could. I thought they would serve me if I was questioned; but my dangers thickened, until I was at last laid hold of, for not giving satisfactory answers, as un homme sans aveu, and was on the point of being conveyed to a maison d'arret, when I mentioned the name of Maurice Herbois as a person who could speak in my favor. "What," said one, "le Citoyen Herbois?" "The very same," said I, "and little thanks will you get from him for slandering his cousin with a charge of incivisme." There was a general shout at this, and off we hurried to find Maurice. I had answered nothing of whence I came or where I was going, which was the reason I had at length got into trouble. I knew Maurice to be a true fellow, revolution or no revolution, and so determined to hold my peace till I should meet him. I found that he had been rapidly advanced by the tide of affairs, which had set him forward whether he would or no. Indeed Maurice was no insignificant fellow at any rate. The noise of the men who carried me along, soon brought him out. I spoke first: "Maurice, my dear cousin, I am glad to find you; but before we can shake hands, you must first certify my—loyalty," I was about to say, but bit my tongue, and got out "civisme." "My friends," said Maurice, "this is my cousin Louis Herbois, once a valiant soldier, now a brave and incorruptible citoyen. He is trustworthy; he comes to visit me; I vouch for him." This was so satisfactory, that we were greeted with huzzas, and then I went in with Maurice. I need not tell you how much passed between us. In short, we talked till our tongues were tired. I found my cousin as I expected, true as a piece of his own steel. He had been carried along, in spite of himself, in the course of revolution, and had become a great man as the best chance of saving his head. I told him my whole story, and the object of my visit. "A fruitless errand, Louis," said he; "I know the case; and where personal malice is added to the ordinary motive for prosecution, there is no escape. Poor fellow, I wish I could help him; but the uncle, he is in power: ah! there is no help for it." Suddenly a new thought struck him. "Louis, did you come by the Hotel de Ville?" "Yes." "What was going on?" "I looked neither right nor left; I don't know." "Well, what did you hear?" "I heard a cry of Vive Tallien! with strange noises, and shouts, and yells; and somebody said that the National Guards were disbanding, and had forsaken Robespierre; and the people were surrounding the Hotel de Ville." "Then, Dieu merci, there is hope. You are in the nick of time; let us out. If Robespierre falls, you may rescue the comte. He is in the Rue St. Martin; in the same prison is Madame de Fontenay, the friend of Tallien, whom Robespierre has incarcerated. The former will proceed thither as soon as Robespierre is disposed of, to free Madame; there will be confusion and much tumult. I know the keeper: I must be cautious; but I will discover where the comte and the lady are secured. Then I will leave you with the jailer; the crisis cannot be delayed another day. Wait till you hear them coming, then shout Vive Tallien! run about, dance around like a crazy man—hasten the jailer to release Madame, and do you manage to rescue the comte—then be off instantly; don't come here again; strike into the country while the confusion prevails. Come; let us go this minute." And I did go. I found Maurice's introduction potent with the keeper, and what was better, I found the keeper to be an old companion in arms, who had belonged to the same company with me. We embraced; we were like two brothers; nothing could have happened better. I learned from him all I cared to know. I staid hour after hour; just as I was in despair at the delay, I heard the expected advance. I found my fellow-soldier understood what it meant. I began to shout Vive Tallien! as loud as I could cry. In a fit of enthusiasm I snatched the keys from the hands of the keeper, as if to liberate the lady, while my comrade opened the doors to the company. I hied first to the comte's room. In one instant the door was unlocked. "Quick!" I whispered; "follow me—do as I do. Shout, huzza; jump this way and that—but stick close to me." In another minute I had unbolted the door of Madame de Fontenay, making as much noise as I could get from my lungs—the comte keeping very good time to my music. So, while we were shouting Vive Tallien! at the top of our voices, Tallien himself rushed in with a large party. I took the opportunity to gain the street, and without so much as thanking my comrade for his attentions, I glided into an unfrequented lane, the comte at my heels; and I did not stop, nor look around, nor speak, till I found myself under cover of an old windmill near St. Denis, where I used to play when I was a boy. There I came to a halt, and seizing the comte in my arms, I embraced him a thousand times. I look some provisions from my pouch, which my cousin had provided, and bade him eat, for we should stand in need of food. We then proceeded, avoiding the main road, and getting a ride whenever we could, but never wasting a moment—not a moment. I told the comte what had happened, and that he must hasten if he would see his wife alive. At last we came near our house. The comte could scarcely contain himself; he ran before me: I could not keep up with him. How my heart was filled with foreboding!—how I dreaded to come nearer!—but apprehension was soon at an end. There was my little cottage, and in the doorway, leaning for support against the side, stood the comtesse, gazing on vacancy—the picture of despair and desolation. At the sight of her husband, she threw out her hands and tried to advance: she was too feeble, and would have fallen had he not the same moment folded her in his arms.

"'Bien Monsieur!' continued Louis Herbois, after clearing his voice, 'the worst of the story is told. The comtesse was gradually restored to health, and the comte was content to remain quietly with us till the storm swept past; but the lady never recovered the bright spirits which she before displayed, and the comte himself could never speak of the little one whom he kissed for the last time on that fatal morning, without the deepest emotion. It seems to have been destined that this should be their only affliction. The uncle was beheaded in one of the sudden changes of parties the succeeding year, and in due time the comte regained his estates. Sons and daughters were born to them, and their family have grown up in unbroken numbers. The comte and comtesse can scarcely yet be called old, their health and vigor remain, and they enjoy still those blessings which a kind Providence is pleased to bestow on the most favored. But the Comtesse de Choissy will never forget the child which lies there. Twice a year, accompanied by the comte, she visits the cottage. She lays with her own hands fresh flowers over the little grave, and waters the moss which overspreads it; and the tears stand in her eyes when she looks upon the spot where we buried her first-born. We have engaged that every morning we will renew the flowers, and preserve the mosses always green. It is a holy office, consecrated by holy feelings. Ah! life is a strange business: we may not be always serious, we cannot be always gay. God grant, Monsieur, that in heaven we may all be happy!'

"I have given you the whole story," said Mr. Belcher, after a short pause; "but look, the sun is out; let us go to the Courtgain."