The remainder of that week was spent by Henri and the Curé as actively and as successfully as the day in which they visited Echanbroignes. The numbers they enrolled exceeded their hopes, and they found among the people many more arms than they expected, though mostly of a very rude kind. The party separated on the Saturday night, with the understanding that they were to meet together at Done on the Tuesday evening, to proceed from thence to the attack of Saumur. Henri Larochejaquelin returned to Durbellière. The Curé of St. Laud went to his own parish, to perform mass among his own people on the following morning, and Jacques Chapeau, according to agreement, took up his quarters at the smith’s house in Echanbroignes.
On the following morning, he and Annot, and most of the young men and women of the village walked over to St. Laud’s to receive mass from Father Jerome, and to hear the discourse which he had promised to give respecting the duties of the people in the coming times.
The people, as in olden days, were crowded round the church about half-past ten o’clock; but the doors of the church were closed. The revolt in La Vendée had already gone far enough to prevent the possibility of the constitutional priests officiating in the churches to which they had been appointed by the National Assembly; but it had not yet gone far enough to enable the old nonjuring Cures to resume generally their own places in their own churches: the people, however, now crowded round the church of St. Laud’s, till they should learn where on that day Father Jerome would perform mass.
The church of St. Laud’s did not stand in any village, nor was it surrounded even by a cluster of cottages. It stood by itself on the side of a narrow little road, and was so completely surrounded by beech and flowering ash trees, that a stranger would not know that he was in the neighbourhood of a place of worship till it was immediately in front of him. Opposite to the door of the church and on the other side of the road, was a cross erected on a little mound; and at its foot a Capuchin monk in his arse brown frock, with his hood thrown back, and his eyes turned to heaven, was always kneeling: the effigy at least of one was doing so, for it was a painted wooden monk that was so perpetually at his prayers.
The church itself was small, but it boasted of a pretty grey tower; and on each side of the door of the church were two works of art, much celebrated in the neighbourhood. On the left side, beneath the window, a large niche was grated in with thick, rusty iron bars. It occupied the whole extent from the portico to the corner of the church, and from the ground to the window; and, within the bars, six monster demons — spirits of the unrepentent dead, the forms of wretches who had died without owning the name of their Saviour, were withering in the torments of hell-fire; awful indeed was the appearance of these figures; they were larger than human, and twisted into every variety of contortion which it was conceived possible that agony could assume. Their eyes were made to protrude from their faces, their fiery tongues were hanging from their scorched lips; the hairs of each demon stood on end and looked like agonized snakes; they were of various hideous colours; one was a dingy blue; another a horrid dirty yellow, as though perpetual jaundice were his punishment; another was a foul unhealthy green; a fourth was of a brick-dust colour; a fifth was fiery red, and he was leaping high as though to escape the flame; but in vain, for a huge blue flake of fire had caught him by the leg, and bound him fast; his fiery red hands were closed upon the bars, his tortured face was pressed against them, and his screeching mouth was stretched wide open so as to display two awful rows of red-hot teeth; the sixth a jet black devil, cowered in a corner and grinned, as though even there he had some pleasure in the misery of his companions.
The space occupied on the other side was much larger, for it was carried up so far as to darken a great portion of the window. That on the left represented the misery of hell — torment without hope. That on the right contained two tableaus: the lower one was purgatory, here four recumbent figures lay in the four corners, uncomfortably enough; for the bed of each figure was six sharp spikes, each of which perforated the occupier of it. But yet these dead men were not horrible to look at as those six other wretches; their eyes were turned on a round aperture above, the edge of which was all gilt and shining, for the glory of heaven shone into it. This aperture entered into paradise. Through the aperture the imaginative artist had made a spirit to be passing —-his head and shoulders were in paradise; these were also gilt and glorious, and on his shoulders two little seraphims were fixing wings; his nether parts below the aperture, were still brown and dingy, as were the four recumbent spirits who rested on their gridirons till the time should come that they also should be passed through.
Above the aperture was to be seen paradise in all its blazon of glory, numberless little golden-headen cherubims encircled a throne, on which was seated the beneficent majesty of Heaven. From the towers and roofs projected numerous brazen-mouthed instruments, which welcomed into everlasting joy the purified spirit which was ascending from purgatory.
Thus were paradise, purgatory and pandemonium represented at St. Laud’s, and abominable as such representations now appear to be, they had, to a certain extent, a salutary effect with the people who were in the habit of looking at them. That they were absolute accurate representations of the places represented, they never for a moment presumed to doubt; and if the joys of heaven, as displayed there, were not of much avail in adding to the zeal of the faithful, the horrors of hell were certainly most efficacious in frightening the people into compliance with the rules laid down for them, and in preventing them from neglecting their priests and religious duties.
The people were crowded round the church; some were kneeling with the wooden monk at the foot of the cross, and some round the bars of purgatory. Others were prostrated before the six condemned demons, and some sat by the road-side, on the roots of the trees, telling their beads. Many men were talking of the state of the times, and of the wars to come; some were foretelling misery and desolation, and others were speaking of the happy days about to return, when their King and their priests should have their own, and La Vendée should be the most honoured province in France.
They made a pretty scene, waiting there beneath the shade till their priest should come to lead them to some rural chapel. The bright colours worn by the women in their Sunday clothes, and the picturesque forms of the men, in their huge broad-brimmed flapping hats, harmonized well with the thick green foliage around them. They shewed no sign of impatience, they were quite content to wait there, and pray, or gossip, or make love to each other, till such time as Father Jerome should please to come; they had no idea that their time was badly spent in waiting for so good a man.
At any rate he came before they were tired, and with him came a man who was a stranger to them all, except to Jacques Chapeau. This man was but little, if anything, better dressed than themselves; he looked like one of their own farmers of the better days; certainly from his dress and manner he had no pretensions to be called a gentleman, and yet he walked and talked with Father Jerome as though he were his equal.
“God bless you, my children, God bless you,” said the Curé, in answer to the various greetings he received from his flock. “Follow me, my children, and we will worship God beneath the canopy of his holy throne,” and then turning to the stranger, he added: “the next time you visit me at St. Laud’s, M. d’Elbée, we shall, I doubt not, have our church again. I could now desire the people to force the doors for me, and no one would dare to hinder them; but I have been thrust from my altar and pulpit by a self-constituted vain authority — but yet by authority; and I will not resume them till I do so by the order of the King or of his servants.”
“I reverence the house of God,” replied M. d’Elbée, “because his spirit has sanctified it; but walls and pillars are not necessary to my worship; a cross beneath a rock is as perfect a church to them who have the will to worship, as though they had above them the towers of Notre Dame, or the dome of St. Peter’s.”
“You are right, my son; it is the heart that God regards; and where that is in earnest, his mercy will dispense with the outward symbols of our religion; but still it is our especial duty to preserve to his use everything which the piety of former ages has sanctified; to part willingly with nothing which appertains in any. way to His church. The best we have is too little for His glory. It should be our greatest honour to give to Him; it is through His great mercy that He receives our unworthy offerings. Come, my children, follow me; our altar is prepared above.”
The priest led the way through a little shaded path at the back of the church; behind a farmhouse and up a slight acclivity, on the side of which the rocks in different places appeared through the green turf, and the crowd followed him at a respectful distance.
“And who is that with Father Jerome — who is the stranger, M. Chapeau?” said one and another of them, crowding round Jacques — for it soon got abroad among them, that Jacques Chapeau had seen the stranger in some of his former military movements in La Vendée. Chapeau was walking beside his mistress, and was not at all sorry of the opportunity of shewing off.
“Who is he, indeed?” said Jacques. “Can it be that none of you know M. d’Elbée?”
“D’Elbée! — d’Elbée! — indeed; no, then, I never heard the name till this moment,” said one.
“Nor I,” said another; “but he must be a good man, or Father Jerome would not walk with him just before performing mass.”
“You are right there, Jean,” said Jacques, “M. d’Elbée is a good man; he has as much religion as though he were a priest himself.”
“And he must be a thorough royalist,” said another, “or Father Jerome wouldn’t walk with him at all.”
“You are right, too, my friend; M. d’Elbée is a great royalist. He is the especial friend of our good Cathelineau.”
“The friend of Cathelineau and of Father Jerome,” said a fourth, “then I am sure M. d’Elbée must be something out of the common way.”
“You are right again, he is very much out of the common way, he is one of our great generals,” said Chapeau.
“One of our great generals, is he,” said two or three at once. “I knew he was going to Saumur,” said Jean, “or Father Jerome wouldn’t have walked so peaceable with him, great as he may be.”
“But if he is a great general,” said Annot, “why has he no lace upon his coat; why doesn’t he wear a sword and look smart like M. Larochejaquelin? At any rate he is a very shabby general.”
“He has a terrible long nose too,” said another girl. “And he has not a morsel of starch in his shirt ruffles, I declare,” said a third, who officiated as laundress to the Mayor of Echanbroignes.
“I’m sure the republicans will never be afraid of such a general as he is. You are joking with us now, Jacques. I am sure he is not a general; he is more like a grocer from Nantes.”
“And is not Cathelineau like a postilion?” said Jacques, “and I hope you will allow he is a great soldier. You know nothing of these things yet, Annot. M. Larochejaquelin is so smart because he is a young nobleman; not because he is a general.”
“And is not M. d’Elbée a nobleman?” said one of the girls.
“Not a bit of it,” said Chapeau.
“Well, I think the generals should all be noblemen; I declare,” said the laundress, “M. Larochejaquelin did look so nice last Wednesday, when he was getting off his horse.”
“That is all; but Cathelineau,” said Annot, “he is the finest fellow of them all. I’d sooner have Cathelinean for my lover, than the Duc de Chartres, and he’s the king’s cousin.”
“You are a foolish girl, Annot,” said Chapeau. “You might as well want the picture of St. John out of the church window down yonder, and take that for your lover, as Cathelineau. Don’t you know he’s the Saint of Anjou?”
“He might marry a wife, and have a house full of children, for all that; that’s the difference between being a saint and a priest; there’s no harm in being in love with a saint, and I am very much in love with Cathelineau.”
“Why, you little ninny, you never saw him,” said Chapean.
“No matter,” said Annot; “ninny, or no ninny, I’ll go where I’m like to see him; and I’m sure I’ll never bear the sight of another man afterwards; the dear, good, sweet Cathelineau, with his curly hair, and fine whiskers, and black bright eyes; he’s better than all the noblemen: I declare I dreamed of him these last two nights.”
Chapeau left the side of his mistress, muttering something about stupid foolish chits of girls, and continued his description of M. d’Elbée to the men.
“Indeed he is a very great general. I don’t know very well where he came from, but I believe somewhere down in the Marais, from his being such a friend of M. Charette; but he has been fighting against the republicans this long time, even before Cathelineau began, I believe, though I don’t exactly know where. I know he was made a prisoner in Paris, and nearly killed there by some of those bloody-minded rebels; then he escaped, and he was at the siege of Machecoult, and got honourably wounded, and was left for dead: and then he was at Thouars — no, not at Thouars; we heard he was coming, but he didn’t come; but he was at Fontenay, and that’s where I first saw him. M. Bonchamps brought him in and introduced him to M. de Lescure, and our M. Larochejaquelin, and I was astonished to see how much they made of him, for he was dressed just as he is now, and had no sword or anything. Well, as soon as he came in they all went to work talking, and settling how Fontenay was to be attacked, for though its a little place, and not walled and fortified like Saumur, we had a deal of trouble with it; but before a word was spoken, M. d’Elbée stood up and said, ‘Brethren,’ said he, ‘let us ask the assistance of our Saviour:’ so down they went on their knees, and he said an awful long prayer, for all the world like a priest. And then again before we fired a shot, he bade all the soldiers kneel down, and down we went, the republicans firing at us all the time. The soldiers call him Old Providence, for they say he talks a deal about Providence when he is fighting.”
“You may be sure that’s what makes Father Jerome so fond of him,” said Jean. “I knew he was a good man.”
“And he was a desperate fellow to fight afterwards,” continued Chapeau. “But he walked into the thick of the fighting just as he is now.”
“But he had a sword, or a gun, or a spear?” said Jean.
“Neither the one or the other; he was just as he is this minute, giving orders, and directing some of the men there who knew him well. Presently, he said to a young gentleman who was near him: ‘Lend me that sword a moment, will you?’ and he took it out of his hands, and made a rush through the gate of Fontenay, and I saw no more of him that day.”
“Why did you not rush after him, then, M. Chapeau?”
“Rush after him! Why, you simpleton; do you think in wars like that every man is to rush just where he pleases; you’ll soon be taught the difference. M. d’Elbée was a general, and might go where he liked; but I was a corporal under M. Henri, with ten men under me. We had to remain where we were, and cut off the republicans, if they showed their noses at a point in the street which we covered; it’s only the generals that go rushing about in that way. But here we are at Father Jerome’s altar. Well; I’m very hot. I’m sure its nearly half a league up here from the church.”
They had now come to a rude altar, constructed on a piece of rock, in front of which was a small space of green turf: the whole spot was closely surrounded by beech and ash-trees; so closely, indeed, that the sun hardly made its way into it, and the rocks around it rising up through the grass afforded ample accommodation for the people. In a moment, they were on their knees on the grass; some almost immediately before the altar; others kneeling against the rocks; others again with their heads and hands resting against the trunk of a huge beech-tree.
Hither had been brought the necessary appurtenances for the performance of mass. A small, but beautifully white cloth was spread upon a flat portion of the rock; bread was there, and a small quantum of wine; a little patina and a humble chalice. M. d’Elbée took his place among the crowd before the altar, and Father Jerome, having dressed himself in his robes, performed, with a fine, full, sonorous voice, the morning service of his church. When so occupied, he had no longer the look of the banished priest: his sacred vestments had not shared the decay which had fallen on his ordinary clothes. No bishop rising from his throne to bless the congregation assembled in his cathedral, could assume more dignity, or inspire more solemnity than the Curé of St. Laud, as he performed mass at his sylvan altar in La Vendée.
After mass was finished, the priest gave them an extempore discourse on the necessity of their absolutely submitting themselves to their teachers, spiritual masters, and pastors; and before he had finished, he turned their attention to the especial necessity of their obeying the leaders, now among them, in carrying on the war against the Republic, and as he concluded, he said:
“I rejoice at all times, my children, that you are an obedient and a docile people, content to accept the word of God from those whom he has sent to teach it to you — that you are not a stiff-necked generation, prone to follow your own vain conceits, or foolish enough to conceive that your little earthly knowledge can be superior to the wisdom which comes from above, as others are. I have always rejoiced at this, my children, for in it I have seen hope for you, when I could see none for others; but now also I rejoice greatly to see that you unite the courage of men to the docility of babes. Hitherto your lot has been that of peace, and if you have not enjoyed riches, you have at any rate been contented: another destiny is before you now — peace and content have left the country, and have been followed by robbery, confusion, and war. My children, you must, for a while, give over your accustomed peaceful duties; your hands — your hearts — all your energy, and all your courage, are required by God for his own purposes — yes, required by that Creator who gave you strength and energy — who gave you the power and the will to do great deeds for His holy name.
“His enemies are in the land: impious wretches — who do not hesitate to wage war against His throne — are endeavouring to destroy all that is good, and all that is holy in France. Do you not know, my children, that they have murdered your King? — and that they have imprisoned your Queen, and her son, who is now your King? Would you be content to remain quiet in your homes, while your King is lying in a prison, in hourly danger of death? They have excluded you from your churches, they have caused God’s holy houses to be closed; they have sent among you teachers who can only lead you astray — whose teaching can only bring you to the gates of hell. The enemies of the Lord are around you; and you are now required to take arms in your hands, to go out against them, and if needs be to give your blood — nay your life for your country, your King, and your Church.
“I greatly rejoice, my children, that you are an obedient people; I know that you will now do your utmost, and I know that you will succeed. The Lord will not desert His people when they combat for His glory, when they faithfully turn to Him for victory. You have been taught how He chose the Israelites as an especial people — how He loved and favoured them: as long as they were faithful and obedient He never deserted them. They conquered hosts ten times their numbers — they were victorious against armed warriors, and mighty giants. The Lord blinded their enemies so that they saw not; He blunted their weapons; He paralyzed their courage; chariots and horses did not avail them; nor strong walls, nor mighty men of battle. The Lord loved the Israelites, and as long as they were faithful and obedient, they prevailed against all their enemies.
“You, my children, are now God’s people; if you are truly faithful, you shall assuredly prevail; if you go out to battle firmly, absolutely, entirely trusting in the strength of His right hand — that right hand, that Almighty arm shall be on your side. And who then shall stand against you? — though tens, and hundreds of thousands swarm around you, they shall yield before you — they shall fall before you as the giant Goliath fell before the shepherd David.
“Be not afraid, therefore, my children: we will go together; we will remember that every man who falls on our side in this holy war, falls as he is doing Christ’s service, and that his death is to be envied, for it is a passport into Heaven. We will remember this in the hour of battle, when our enemies are before us, when death is staring us in the face, and remembering it, we shall not be afraid. If we die fighting truly in this cause, our immortal souls will be wafted off to paradise — to everlasting joy: if we live, it will be to receive, here in our own dear fields, the thanks of a grateful King, to feel that we have done our duty as Christians and as men, and to hear our children bless the days, when the courage of La Vendée restored the honour of France.”
Father Jerome’s exhortation had a strong effect upon the people; he knew and calculated their strength and their weakness — they were brave and credulous, and when he finished speaking, there was hardly one there who in the least doubted that the event of the war would be entirely successful: they felt that they were a chosen people, set apart for a good work — that glory and victory awaited them in the contest, and especially that they were about to fight under the immediate protection of the Almighty.
As soon as the service was over, they all left the little sylvan chapel by different paths, and in different directions; some went back to the church, some went off across the fields, some took a short cut to the road, but they all returned home without delay. Every man was to set out early on the morrow for the rendezvous, and the women were preparing to shed their tears and say their last farewell to their lovers, brothers, and husbands, before they started on so great an enterprise. They had all been gay enough during the morning — they became a little melancholy on their return home, but before the evening was far advanced, nothing was to be heard but sobs and vows, kisses and blessings.
Jacques Chapeau returned to Echanbroignes with the party of villagers who had gone from thence to hear Father Jerome, but he did not attach himself expressly to Annot, indeed he said not a word to her on the way, but addressed the benefit of his conversation to his male friends generally; to tell the truth, he was something offended at the warm admiration which his sweetheart had expressed for Cathelineau. He wasn’t exactly jealous of the postillion, for Annot had never seen him, and couldn’t, therefore, really love him; but he felt that she ought not to have talked about another man’s eyes and whiskers, even though that other man was a saint and a general. It was heartless, too, of Annot to say such things at such a time, just as he was going to leave her, on the eve of battle, and when he had left his own master, and all the glorious confusion and good living in-at Durbellière, merely that he might spend his last quiet day in her company.
It was base of her to say that she had dreamed twice of Cathelineau; and she was punished for it, for she had to walk home almost unnoticed. At first she was very angry, and kicked up the dust with her Sunday shoes in fine style; but before long her heart softened, and she watched anxiously for some word or look from Jacques on which she might base an attempt at a reconciliation. Jacques knew what she was about, and would not even look at her: he went on talking with Jean and Peter and the others, about the wars, and republicans and royalists, as though poor Annot Stein had not been there at all. From the chapel of St. Laud to the village of Echanbroignes, he did not speak a word to her, and when the four entered the old smith’s house, poor Annot was bursting with anger, and melting with love; she could not settle with herself whether he hated Chapeau or loved him most; she felt that she would have liked to poison him, only she knew that she could not live without him.
She hurried into her little sleeping place, and had a long debate with herself whether she should instantly go to bed and pray that Jacques might be killed at Saumur, or whether she should array herself in all her charms, and literally dazzle her lover into fondness and obedience by her beauty and graces — after many tears the latter alternative was decided on.
It was a lovely summer evening, and at about eight o’clock hardly a person in the whole village was to be found within doors; the elderly were sitting smoking at their doors, husbands were saying a thousand last words to their weeping wives, young men were sharpening their swords, and preparing their little kit for the morrow’s march, and the girls were helping them; but everything was done in the open air. Jean and Peter Stein were secretly preparing for a stolen march to Saumur; for their father was still inexorable, and they were determined not to be left behind when all the world was fighting for glory. Old Michael was smoking at his ease, and Jacques was standing talking to him, wondering in his heart whether Annot could be really angry with him, when that young lady reappeared in the kitchen.
“Where have you been, Annot?” said Michael Stein, “you didn’t get your supper, yet child.”
“I was sick with the heat, father; walking home from St. Laud’s.”
“I would not have you sick tonight, Annot, and our friends leaving us before sun-rise tomorrow. Here is M. Chapeau complaining you are a bad hostess.”
“M. Chapeau has enough to think of tonight, without my teasing him,” said Annot; “great soldiers like him have not time to talk to silly girls. I will walk across the green to Dame Rouel’s, father; I shall be back before sunset.”
And Annot went out across the green, at the corner of which stood the smith’s forge. Jacques Chapeau was not slow to follow her, and Dame Rouel did not see much of either of them that evening.
“Annot,” said Jacques, calling to his sweetheart, who perseveringly looked straight before her, determined not to know that she was followed. “Annot, stop awhile. You are not in such a hurry, are you, to see Dame Rouel?”
“Ah, M. Chapeau, is that you? — in a hurry to see Dame Rouel. No — I’m in no particular hurry.”
“Will you take a turn down to the mill, then, Annot? Heaven knows when you and I may walk to the old mill again; it may be long enough before I see Echanbroignes again.”
Annot made no answer, but she turned into the little path which led through the fields to the mill.
“I suppose it may,” said she, determined, if possible, that the amende should be made by Jacques and not by herself.
“I see you are indifferent about that,” said Jacques, with a soft and sentimental look, which nearly melted Annot; “well, when you hear of my death, you will sometimes think of me, will you not?”
“Oh, I will, M. Chapeau! Of course I’ll think of you, and of all my friends.”
Jacques walked on a few minutes or two in silence, cutting off the heads of the blue-bells with his little cane. “I am not different to you then from any one else, eh, Annot?” said he.
“How different, M. Chapeau?”
“You will think as much of young Boullin, the baker?”
“I don’t like young Boullin, the baker, and I don’t thank you for mentioning his name one bit.”
“Well! people say you are very partial to young Boullin.”
“People lie — they always do; everybody tries to tease and plague me now. You and Jean, and father, and that old fool, Rouel, are all alike,” and Annot gave symptoms of hysterical tears.
Jacques was again silent for awhile, but he had commenced walking very near to his companion, and she did not appear to resent it. After a while he said: “You are not glad that I’m going, Annot?”
“You would not have me sorry that you are going to fight with all the other brave men, would you?”
“Is that all I am to get from you, after all? is that all the regard you have for me? very well, Annot — it is well at any rate we should understand each other. They were right, I find, when they told me that you were such a coquette, you would have a dozen lovers at the same time.”
“And they were right, I find, when they told me you were too fond of yourself ever to love any girl truly.”
“Oh, Annot! and is it come to this? I’m sorry I ever came to Echanbroignes. I’m sorry I ever saw you.”
“And if you are, M. Chapeau, I’m sure I’m sorry enough I ever saw you;” and Annot again increased the distance between her and her lover.
They walked on from hence in silence till they came to the little mill, and each stood gazing on the stream, which ran gurgling down beneath the ash and willow-trees, which dipped their boughs in its waters.
“How kind you were, the last time we were here together,” said Jacques; “how kind and generous you were then; you are very different now.”
“And you are very different, too, M. Chapeau; much more different than I am; it’s all your own fault; you choose to give yourself airs, and I won’t put up with it, and I believe we may as well part.”
“Give myself airs! No; but it’s you give yourself airs, and say things which cut me to the heart — things which I can’t bear; and, therefore, perhaps, we may as well part:” and Jacques assumed a most melancholy aspect, as he added, “So, good bye, Annot; there’s my hand. I wouldn’t, at any rate, part anything but friends after all.”
“Good bye,” said poor Annot, putting out her hand to her lover, and sobbing violently. “Good bye; I’m sure I never thought it would come to this. I’m sure I gave up everybody and everything for your sake.”
“Well; and didn’t I give up everybody, too. Haven’t I come all the way over here week after week, when people wondered what made me leave Durbellière so much; and wasn’t it all for love of you? Oh, Annot! Annot!” and even the manly dignity of M. Chapeau succumbed to tears.
“It’s no good talking,” said she, greatly softened; “for you can’t have loved me, and treated me as you did this day, letting me walk all alone from St. Laud, without so much as a word or a look; and that before all the people: and I that went merely to walk back with you. Oh! I could have died on the roadside to find myself treated in such a way.”
“And what must I have felt to hear you talking as you did before them all? Do you think I felt nothing?”
“Talking, Jacques; what talk?”
“Why; saying that you loved Cathelineau better than any one. That he was the only man you admired; that you dreamed of him always, and I don’t know how much more about his eyes and whiskers.”
“Why now, Jacques; you don’t mean to be jealous?”
“Jealous; no I’m not jealous.”
“Jealous of a man you know I never saw,” said Annot, smiling through her tears.
“Jealous. No, I tell you I’m not jealous; but still, one doesn’t like to hear one’s mistress talking of another man’s eyes, and whiskers, and those sort of things; no man would like it, Annot; though I care about it as little myself as any man.”
“But don’t you know Cathelineau is a saint, Jacques?”
“Oh! but you said saints might marry, and have a lot of children, and so they may.”
“But I never saw Cathelineau, Jacques,” and she put her hand upon his arm.
And you are not in love with him, Annot?”
“How can I be in love with a man I never put eyes on?”
“And you won’t say again, that you’d like to have him for a lover?”
“That was only my little joke, Jacques. Surely, a girl may joke sometimes.”
“And you do love me, don’t you?” and Jacques now got very close to his mistress.
“Ah! but why did you let me walk home all the way by myself? You know I love you dearly; but you must beg my pardon for that, before I’ll ever tell you so again.”
And Jacques did beg her pardon in a manner of his own twenty times, sitting by the gurgling mill-stream, and to tell the truth Annot seemed well pleased with the way in which he did it; and then when the fountain of her love was opened, and the sluice gate of her displeasure removed, she told him how she would pray for him till he came back safe from the wars; how she would never speak a word to mortal man in the way of courting, till he came back to make her his wife; how she would grieve, should he be wounded; how she would die, should he be killed in battle: and then she gave him a little charm, which she had worked for him, and put it round his neck, and told him she had taken it with her to St. Laud, to give it him there beneath the cross, only he had gone away from her, so that she couldn’t do so: and then Jacques begged pardon again and again in his own queer way; and then, having sat there by the mill-stream till the last red streak of sunlight was gone, they returned home to the village, and Annot told her father that Dame Rouel had been so very pressing, she had made them stay there to eat bread and cheese. And so Annot, at last, went to bed without her supper, and dreamed not of Cathelineau, but of her own lover, Jacques Chapeau.
Last updated Sunday, March 27, 2016 at 12:01