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“He is wounded !” she said, in a hoarse I sought to dissuade her, but it was no usc; whisper.
she would not listen. “The letter-give me “ Yes; he was wounded—sorely wounded.” the letter," she repeated. What could I do? I
Her looks terrified me; the words would not placed it in her hand. come. “Wounded," she murmured, "wounded; She read it through slowly, with no change on my Henri wounded and suffering! I must go her fixed face. Then the hands relaxed their to him at once." And she rose.
convulsive grasp, and she fell back senseless. “No, no; you cannot.”
Not dead; and yet for her the bitterness of death “But I must, I will. When has he had pain, was past. Bertine’s bitter wailings did not and his mother not known how to soothe him! reach her ear; all the doctor's skill, all our Where is he, Renée ?”
efforts, failed to bring back consciousness to the "O Madame de l'Orme!"
stricken form. As I feared, the dart had struck “I tell you I will go, Renée. You think I am home. Through the long hours of that summer too weak. I am strong now. No journey will day we watched over her, I and Bertine, and for be too long, too difficult. Where is he, Renée ?” a time Nina and my mother; the din of many
"Where you cannot go. You cannot follow voices coming in from the busy crowded streets him where”
into that silent chamber falling dirge-like on our "But I tell you I will, Renée. Ah, he is a I
But they disturbed her not. She had prisoner too, then, my boy, my poor boy! But done with earth. At the solemn midnight hour that makes no difference. Prison doors have the last rites of human religion were administered been opened by a mother's tears: they will be over the breathing but senseless form, and before now. The Germans have hearts; they are good another day dawned her spirit had departed. fathers and loving sons. They will not refuse This was the first-fruits that we gathered of me all I shall ask-to share his captivity.” the fearful war-harvest, whose after-growth was
"But, dear Madame de l’Orme, how shall I so rank. I have recorded thus fully this one ear tell you, -he does not need you now.”
from its countless sheaves, because, while that She absolutely smiled. Not need me, not one alone was at that time mingled closely with need his mother! However well he may be our own daily lives, it is, alas! but a sample of cared for, no one can nurse my Henri like his thousands of kindred pictures; not, perhaps, of mother. Has he not said so a thousand times ?” the swift striking home of the poisoned dart, but
Would she never understand ? I must speak of the bitter grief and desolation. plainer, and yet I dreaded unspeakably the too Many were the hearts and homes even then probable effects of the shock. “ Madame de shrouded beneath the pall of grief; but I must not l'Orme," I said, “ listen to me. Let me tell you linger over them here. We had many acquaintwhat Léon says."
ances in Paris, but Madame de l'Orme had been She sat down, never taking her
my my mother's friend from girlhood, and her own face.
he was heading a charge bravely, and her son's death were heart-felt sorrows to nobly, when he went down. After the battle Léon sought him and found him. There was a priest with him too” (for that to me then was
CHAPTER VIII. the only construction of Léon's words; who else could help and comfort the dying?), "a good
THE TWO-EDGED SWORD. and holy man, and he spoke such comforting “The word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than words, Léon says. And they were with him to any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of
soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner the last.”
of the thoughts and intents of the heart."-HEB. iv. 12.
The entrance of thy words giveth light."-Ps. cxix. 130. She was beginning to understand. Never can I forget her look and tone, as she stretched The news of the double defeat of our armies, out her hand, saying, in a hoarse, strange voice, and the falling back of our troops on Metz and “Give me the letter-Léon's letter !”
Chalons, was followed by a burst of popular in
dignation, which resulted in a change of the scapegoat is one, and not the least, of the many Ollivier ministry, obnoxious now as the origi- causes of the inconsistencies and follies of the nators of the war. The people of Paris had French people. A fault not seen can never be already forgotten how they had themselves cla- repented of, and a fault not repented of cannot moured for it.
be corrected. The French people never admit I often thought in those days of the lovely that they have been wrong. That “the sove. lady on whose fair brow a crown was pressing reign people can do no wrong" is indeed their with such deadly weight, beneath whose feet the creed, and the onus of their errors must ever be pride and power of imperial glory were crum- borne by those who rule them. So now, forgetbling away. How does she look on those days ting the cries of exultation with which Paris had now from her quiet refuge on England's hospi- rung when the first notes of the trumpet were table shores? Can it be with regret ? Anxious heard, they complained plaintively that they had days and weary nights must those have been been deceived and forced into the war. But in when, to a wife's longings after an absent and suf- spite of that, France would yet be true to her old fering husband, a mother's yearning over a young traditions ; strenuous exertions had been made and delicately-nurtured boy, both exposed to the to supply deficiencies and remedy past errors, dangers and vicissitudes of war, were added the fresh contingents of troops were being daily sent crushing burdens and overwhelming responsi- on to the camp at Chalons, and all would be bilities of one to whose weak woman's hand it well. had fallen to guide the helm of state when the It is a sickening story of vain, baseless hope storm was raging, night closing round, and to dwell upon, when we recall how many high “ Breakers ahead!” the cry from alost.
and noble hearts have eaten themselves out darWith the elasticity and buoyancy of tempera-ing its course. That the Prussians would pass
| ment, which is so marked a characteristic of our Metz, force the camp at Chalons, and reach Paris, nation, the people of Paris soon rallied from the was a wild improbability that every one scouted. shock, and talked with scornful pity of the fated Still preparations were being made for its defence, German hosts, who were being led on by the if such extremity could occur. General Trochu wily tactics of our generals to invade the sacred was appointed Governor of Paris a few days after soil of France. It was no retreat, that retrograde intelligence reached us of the investiture of Strasmovement of the whole line of our army from burg and the surrender of Fort Lichtenburg. the positions it had occupied, but a strategic But it was with strange inaccuracies and removement, a deep-laid plan, whose result would servations, mingled with statements worthy of a be certain triumph for France, equally certain darker name, that we were told of these things ruin and, if they persevered, annihilation to the in Paris. Those terrible fields of carnage round presumptuous Germans.
Metz on the bloody days of Gravelotte, Vionville, But the feeling against the Emperor was very and Mars-la-Tour, were represented to us as
rather strong; it was owned now that the army and victories than defeats; victories costing dearly military stores had been very far from reaching indeed, but tending to ultimate success. It the pitch of efficiency and preparedness the seemed strange certainly that the invading armies people had been taught to believe in, and all the should be allowed to advance, to bombard Strasblame was hurled remorselessly at the one devoted burg, and to sit down before Metz; but then we head. But that head, if a crowned one, was were told of strategic reasons, and beguiled with human, and as such capable of being betrayed vague rumours of apocryphal successes, in one of and deceived. Yet it would have been treason which thousands of Prussians were said to have to hint that in Paris then. And to me it seems been hurled in panic-stricken flight into the that habit of always shifting the blame and re- quarries of Jaucourt. Meanwhile our fleet was sponsibility of actions the results of which have blockading the northern ports of Germany, and been productive of disaster from their own shoul- the palm about to be carried off from England ders to the head of an individual or collective as mistress of the seas.
, a "
While these things were going on, and the the close of the month (August). When one meshes of Fate gathering imperceptibly around came, it was certainly not exactly "good news her, life in Paris went on as usual. The weather from a far country;" but ocean waves are not was hot and oppressive; my mother visibly greater barrier than the stern restrictions anck drooped under its effects and anxiety for Léon. necessities of war time. Postal and railway Uncle Lucien was full of contempt and anger
for communications within the invaded territories the failures and follies of the imperial govern- were necessarily much obstructed, and in the ment, but of hope for the future of France; in- other parts blocked up in measure by military tolerant of the slightest hint of eventual defeat; exigencies. So Léon's letter was none the less placing implicit credit in the illusive proclama- cup of cold water." tions of the existing ministry. Augustine was It was long, and full of interest to us, touching wholly averse to war for its own sake; besides, far more on his own life in camp and field than we looked upon him as already a priest, and on the state of affairs. Indeed, there was little therefore did not expect military enthusiasm from allusion to the latter. The letter, he said, might, , him. He was most kind and thoughtful for us by no very impossible chance, fall into the hands all, endeavouring in every way possible to supply of the enemy, therefore he could not speak freely. Léon's place, especially to my mother; but there He wrote from the neighbourhood of Chalons. was evidently an oppressive weight on his spirits Paris had already heard with astonishment that that he struggled vainly to throw off. At night the camp which was to be so insuperable a barrier I I could hear his step pacing up and down his in the Germans' path was to be broken up. Of room, which was above mine, far on into the course, for "strategic reasons.” Léon gave no morning. Victor was full of indignation at the clue as to their probable course, and dwelt little ill success of our arms, burning with passionate upon past reverses. But though the tone of his desire to see the stain effaced from them; only pre- letter was calm and cheerful, it was by no means vented by consideration for my mother from at reassuring. Not to me, at least. There was no once throwing up his studies and rallying round allusion to, or contradiction of, the postscript to the drooping banner of France. I partly sus his last letter. But I felt he augured ill for pected even then the reason of his daily absence the future. It may be that I am naturally prone from home in the hours that were wont to be his to look upon the dark side, for to Uncle Lucien leisure ones, and the object of the studies to which and Victor the letter was very encouraging. To he applied himself so closely. Nina was a shade mamma (and Nina too, I think) it was tidings, paler and more thoughtful, but in other respects good tidings, from Léon, and they cared for ,
, much like her old self, except that she cared less nothing more. I have that letter still, almost for going out, and was, I was sure, struggling worn out by constant reading through the weary for the mastery over her wilful temper. Arnaud months that followed its receipt. was still our pet and plaything, though every One part I must copy here, the one in which inch a soldier in his own estimation, and asking Léon speaks of the death of poor Henri de l'Orme. constantly, Would the Prussians come to Paris ? He says--"Our losses have, of course, been if so, he and all the schoolboys of the city were severe, and many a familiar and friendly face is going to form companies and regiments, and have missing from my own battalion. Some are lying officers, and help to drive them away. Poor maimed and suffering in hospital beds, others child! he was too young to remember the father under the blood-stained turf of the fields on which of whom war had deprived us, therefore could they fell. The loss of more than one has lest a the less understand why we should all be so grave sore spot
heart. But over none have I and so anxious about Léon.
grieved as over poor Henri de l'Orme. His Léon's regiment was, we believed, at or near poor mother, how will she have borne it! It Chalons, with M-Mahon, but whether he could was a hard task for you, my poor Renée, to receive our letters or not was very doubtful, and be the bearer of such tidings. I could scarcely we watched in vain for any from him till towards have given it to you, knowing how faithfully you
would perform it, whatever it might cost you, if everlasting life;' 'Verily, verily, I say unto you,
, I asked it of you; but there is a sacredness in He that heareth my word, and believeth on him the last requests of the dying, and he named that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not
, you. I must tell you what I can of him; his come into condemnation; but is passed from death mother will hunger to know all that can be unto life;' 'I am the resurrection and the life, told.
he that believeth in me, though he were dead, "I did not see him fall, but after the fight yet shall he live;' then, after a slight pause, was done he was missing, and Pierre Duvanse
Come unto me,
that labour and are heavy told me he saw him go down in the last despe- laden, and I will give you rest;' and, 'Him that rate charge his regiment had made. Pierre was cometh unto me, I will in no wise cast out.' wounded in the foot slightly, but sufficiently to There were more, but the wind died down into prevent his walking; so, having impatiently lis- one of those strange hushes, and I could not tened to his rambling descriptions as to the way catch the rest. But I cannot tell you the wonI must take to reach the spot, I set out in search derful sweetness and power with which they of him.
came, as the speaker uttered them in deep, earnest, “I will not divell upon the horrors of that solemn tones, dwelling strongly on the words I field of death. Even did I wish to depict half have marked. And they came from a spot a of them, language would fail me. The night little distance off, near three bushes. It was the was wild and cloudy. Thick banks of heavy one I sought. whitish-gray clouds drifted drearily across the “I went at once towards it. Just then the sky, and the pale sickly light of the half-obscured moon shone hazily out through a rift in the wrack moon rested weirdly on the upturned faces of the of clouds, and by her light I saw two figures on dead, on the quivering forms of the living. Ever the ground near them. One was a young man, and anon a gust of wind swept by with a shriek in the uniform of a German officer; and on his
: ing, sobbing sound, dying suddenly away into breast, pale in its death agony, was pillowed the a low dirge-like wail, and followed by an awful fair young face of Henri de l'Orme, looking like hush of stillness, broken only by the groans of -oh, so like—his mother's. the wounded, the heavy tread and subdued voices “I knelt down beside him, and took his cold of the ambulance and burying parties. My heart hand in mine. He knew me at once. "Oh, was wrung as I pressed on in haste, lest what I Léon,' he murmured, my mother-my put sought might not be found. Already many mother.' His supporter, by a mute gestare, heads, carried proudly in health and hope that offered his place to me; but Henri perceired it, morning, had been laid to rest on their last pil- and said with an earnestness that sent the lifelows, and covered with earth's last covering. It blood welling in streams from his side, ' Don't was no easy task, in the dim light, on the undu- go; stay with me to the last.' So he stayed. lating plain, to find the spot I sought; low, “Henri was shot through the lungs; and with stunted bushes were scattered here and there, every gasping word he uttered his life ebbed faster everywhere. I had been directed to a group of away. 'Send my love-to my mother-ny three, near a low stone wall. At last I found dearest, dying love-and a lock of—my hair. the latter, and leaned against it a moment while I Ask Renée to tell her—to break this—tenderly looked round for the other landmarks. A voice -and to comfort her.' Then he looked up
from caught my ear in a different direction from that my face into that of the stranger-a noble, manly in which I was looking. It came with the wind, face—that bent over him with a look of almost and I distinctly caught the words, spoken in romanly tenderness, and whispered, “Nor-tell fluent French, with only a slight foreign accent- me more-words of Jesus.' • God so loved the world that he gave his only " And sweet and wonderful were the words begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him that fell upon his dying ear. I cannot write
, should not perish, but have everlasting life.' The them here, my time is failing, but they were the Lord Jesus says: 'He that believeth on me bath words of the Lord Christ himself, words such
as human lips never spoke, human love never "I will indeed.' prompted-words to live upon and to die upon. "Amen,' he replied ; 'and may He who is Why have we not known them from our child- "the way, the truth, and the life," bring you into hood? This I know, no earthly power or priestly the fulness of his grace and peace.' So with authority shall shut up those words under its another warm hand-grasp we parted. Ever to seal from my heart again. Dearest mother, and meet again on earth, I wonder? We met for one all, read God's words for yourselves. You little short hour on the field red with the blood of his know how different is God's truth from the sys- countrymen and mine, shed in deadly strife; yet tem man has imposed upon us as such. To the then and there I loved him. Stranger and foe! parting spirit of Henri de l'Orme those words yet I loved him. Loved him for the tenderness were life and peace, I am well assured.
he showed to that dear dying boy; for the holy "Tell me more of the words of Jesus,' were words of grace and comfort he spoke; still more the last words he spoke; but a look of rest and by the power of the strange electric thrill of peace and joyful surprise remained upon his pale fellow-feeling and sympathy that awoke towards features even when the spirit ceased to look forth him in my heart. And one of these days, perfrom those dark speaking eyes. Then we laid haps, I may find myself face to face with him in him gently down, and stood face to face, foes and the ranks, bound in honour to send my steel yet friends.
into the heart in which I would fain hold a Tears filled the kind eyes of the stranger as friend's place. Such is war. We exchanged I told him brokenly of the widowed mother, cards; and my hope is, when this struggle is I , whose only son he had so tenderly cared for and over, to meet once more on earth.” comforted. A few moments we stood over the Vain hope! In the quiet churchyard of a dead, and at my earnest request he repeated again little village among the Vosges mountains is a and again the words that I had first heard, and grassy mound. Beneath it, far away from home others like them. What passed besides I cannot and kindred, with a French bullet in the breast, stay to repeat. Then I wrapped poor Henri's lies all that is mortal of a young German officer, body in my cloak, and we bore him between us “the only son of his mother," and she too “ a towards a burying party that were at work some widow.” And the name cut on the rudely carvel distance off. In one end of the long, narrow cross that stands at its head is the same as the trench in which the sons of France and of the one borne by the card Léon treasured so careGerman fatherland lie together in the last long fully. sleep, we laid him with our own hands, standing
Léon's letter ended abruptly here, without any side by side till the soldier's rough grave was of the special messages of loving inquiry and filled in.
affection with which he concluded the last. It " Then the young German turned to depart, had evidently been folded and sealed in haste,
, but ere he did so he held out his hand, saying which accounted for it. As it was, it had been solemnly, 'In death all are equal; in Christ all written in the brief hours which should have are one. Our next meeting will probably be in been given to sleep. his
presence. Shall we not part friends in him?' Mamma was rather troubled at first at the “Yes,' I replied, warmly grasping the offered idea of Léon's presuming to follow the advice of
I hand; I shall never forget your kindness to my a stranger, and doubtless a heretic, in opposition poor friend, nor the wonderful words you have to the tenets of the Church, by reading the Scripspoken.'
tures for himself; but next day she said, “ Renée, “My Master's words, not mine,' he said; these are wonderful words in Léon's letter. So 'the words that he speaks are indeed spirit and sweet, and loving, and strong. But I am afraid life—" In them ye have eternal life.” Will you they cannot be truly those of the Lord Christ. not obey his command to "search the Scriptures" You see there is nothing said about what we for yourself? He gives it, because, he says, must do to get that life. It would seem as they testify of me.
though, if you just simply believed those words,