Page images
PDF
EPUB

at them and then at Lisette. Then taking the baby from its wearied mother's arms, she carried it herself to the house, beckoning to the rest to follow her. In a short time they were all seated round the fire in Madame Benoit's kitchen, with a good supper before them, which their long journey made very acceptable. Presently the master of the house came in, and it may easily be imagined that the story of Lisette's arrival was told him by at least half a dozen voices at once. He was scarcely less pleased than his wife, for they had both considered Lisette as their eldest child, and had brought her up from infancy, her own mother having died when she was only a year old. The farmer gave a kind welcome to the strangers, and pressed them to remain in his house till they had quite recovered from the fatigue of their journey. It may seem strange that people so well off as Lisette's uncle and aunt were should have had a brother who was only a poor weaver, but the fact was that their prosperity was of recent date. Benoit had been a farm-labourer until a few months after Lisette and her father had left their country; the death of a distant relation, who unexpectedly made him his heir, then placed him in possession of the farm he now held. Both he and his wife had felt much anxiety on account of their brother-in-law and his daughter; all their endeavours to learn something of their fate proved vain, and they had been obliged to conclude that they were dead when Lisette so suddenly arrived at their very

door. These good people were desirous that the Connels should spend some time under their roof, but Mark was unwilling to eat the bread of idleness ; and when he had enjoyed one day's rest, he went to the railway station, leaving his family at the farm for the present. By going across the fields he found that the railway was little more than a mile from Benoit's house. He had no difficulty in obtaining work, and in a few days his wife and children joined him, and settled in a comfortable lodging in a village very near the station. Lisette, of course, remained with her aunt and uncle, and Madame Benoit insisted on keeping Mark's eldest daughter Nelly to stay with her till she should have learned to speak French, which would be equally necessary, whether she lived with her father and mother, or went to service in the family of one of the neighbouring farmers. Nothing could exceed the attentive kindness of their new friends to the Connels ; it served, more than even the high wages Mark received for his labour, to reconcile them to living in a foreign country.

They are still in France, and though they talk of returning to Ireland, it is doubtful whether the older members of the family will ever do so, for Lisette is married to a wealthy farmer in the neighbourhood of Rouen, and her greatest desire is that her Irish friends should remain near her, and share in the prosperity of their adopted child.

A TALE OF TERROR.

I was once travelling in Calabria-a land of wicked people who, I believe, hate every one, and particularly the French; the reason why would take long to tell you. Suffice it to say that they murtally hate us, and that one gets on very badly when one falls into their hands. I had for a companion a young man with a face—my faith, like the gentleman that we saw at Kincy; you remember; and better still, perhaps- I don't say so to interest you, but because it is a fact. In these mountains the roads are precipices ; our horses got on with much difficulty ; my companion went first ; a path which appeared to him shorter and more practicable led us astray. It was my fault. Ought I to have trusted to a head only twenty years old ? Whilst daylight lasted we tried to find our way through the wood, but the more we tried the more bewildered we became, and it was pitch dark when we arrived at a very black-looking house. We entered, not without fear ; but what could we do? We found a whole family of colliers at table ; they immediately invited us to join them ; my young man did not wait to be pressed: there we were eating and drinking—he at least, for I was examining the place and the appearance of our hosts. Our hosts had quite the look of colliers, but the house you would have taken for an arsenal; there was nothing but guns, pistols, swords, knives, and cutlasses. Everything displeased me, and I saw very well that I displeased them. My companion, on the contrary, was quite one of the family; he laughed and talked with them, and, with an imprudence that I ought to have foreseen (but to what purpose if it was decreed), he told at once where we came from, where we were going, and that we were Frenchmen. Just imagine ! amongst our mortal enemies, alone, out of our road, so far from all human succour! and then, to omit nothing that might ruin us, he played the rich man, promised to give the next morning, as a remuneration to these people and to our guides, whatever they wished. Then he spoke of his portmanteau, begging them to take care of it, and to put it at the head of his bed ; he did not wish, he said, for any other pillow. Oh, youth, youth ! you are to be pitied ! Cousin, one would have thought we carried the crown diamonds. What caused him so much solicitude about this portmanteau was his mistress' letters. Supper over, they left us. Our hosts slept below, we in the upper room, where we had supped. A loft raised some seven or eight feet, which was reached by a ladder, was the resting-place that awaited us,—a sort of nest, into which we were to introduce ourselves by creeping under joists loaded with provisions for the year. My companion climbed up alone, and, already nearly asleep, laid himself down with his head upon the precious portmanteau. Having determined to sit up, I made a good fire, and seated myself by the side of it. The night, which had been undisturbed, was nearly over, and I began to reassure myself, when, about the time that I thought the break of day could not be very far off, I heard our host and his wife talking and disputing below; and putting my ear to the chimney, which communicated with the one in the lower room, I perfectly distinguished these words spoken by the husband : "Well, let us see, must they both be killed ?" To which the wife replied, “ Yes ;” and I heard no more. How shall I go on? I stood, scarcely breathing, my body cold as marble ; to have seen me, you could hardly have known if I were alive or dead. Good heavens! when I think of it now !-- We two, almost without weapons, against twelve or fifteen who had so many! and my companion dead with sleep and fatigue! To call him, or make a noise, I dared not : to escape alone was impossible ; the window was not high, but below were two great dogs howling like wolves. In what agony I was, imagine if you can. At the end of a long quarter of an hour I heard some one on the stairs, and through the crack of the door I saw the father, his lamp in one hand, and in the other one of his large knives. He came up, his wife after him-I was behind the door ; he opened it, but before he came in he put down the lamp, which his wife took. He then entered, barefoot, and from outside the woman said to him, in a low voice, “Softly, go softly." When he got to the ladder he mounted it, his knife between his teeth, and getting up as high as the bed the poor young man lying with his throat bare—with one hand he took his knife, and with the other-Oh! cousin-he seized a ham which hung from the ceiling, cut a slice from it, and retired as he had come. The door was closed again, the lamp disappeared, and I was left alone with

my reflections. As soon as day appeared, all the family, making a great noise, came to us as we had requested. They brought us something to

1

eat, and

assure

gave us a very clean and a very good breakfast, I you. Two capons formed part of it, of which we must, said our hostess, take away one and eat the other. When I saw them I understood the meaning of those terrible words, “Must they both be killed ?” And I think, cousin, you have enough penetration to guess now what they signified.

LUCY GRAY, OR SOLITUDE.
OFT I had heard of Lucy Gray :

And, when I crossed the wild,
I chanced to see, at break of day,

The solitary child.
No mate, no comrade Lucy knew;

She dwelt on a wide moor,-
The sweetest thing that ever grew

Beside a human door!
You yet may spy the fawn at play,
The hare

upon
the

green ;
But the sweet face of Lucy Gray

Will never more be seen.
To-night will be a stormy night,

You to the town must go;
And take a lantern, child, to light

Your mother through the snow.”
“ That, father! will I gladly do:

'Tis scarcely afternoon-
The minster-clock has just struck two,

And yonder is the moon.
At this the father raised his hook

And snapped a faggot band ;
He plied his work ;-and Lucy took

The lantern in her hand.
Not blither is the mountain roe :
With

many a wanton stroke
Her feet disperse the powdery snow,

That rises up like smoke.

The storm came on before its time;

She wandered up and down;
And many a hill did Lucy climb,

But never reached the town.
The wretched parents, all that night,

Went shouting far and wide :
But there was neither sound nor sight

To serve them for a guide.
At daybreak on a hill they stood,

That overlooked the moor ;
And thence they saw the bridge of wood,

A furlong from their door.
And, turning homeward, now they cried,

“ In heaven we all shall meet ! When in the snow the mother spied

The print of Lucy's feet.
Then downward from the steep hill's edge

They tracked the footmarks small :
And through the broken hawthorn edge,

And by the long stone wall :
And then an open field they crossed;

The marks were still the same;
They tracked them on, nor ever lost;

And to the bridge they came. They followed from the snowy bank,

The footmarks, one by one, Into the middle of the plank;

And further there were none !
Yet some maintain that to this day

She is a living child;
That you may see sweet Lucy Gray

Upon the lonesome wild.
O’er rough and smooth she trips along,

And never looks behind;
And sings a solitary song
That whistles in the wind.

WORDSWORTH.

« PreviousContinue »