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SEDAN.

JEAN INGELOW

you would be quite safe, without doing anything Ah, knowing what bitter fruit may spring to deserve eternal life. And, of course, that from seeds heedlessly sown by careless hands in cannot be right. I am afraid it is only some of one unguarded moment or hour, we may well the false teaching of the Protestants. But, o watch and weigh our words and deeds. Life is Renée, I wish it were true. Those words, Come all too short, human love too fragile and too unto me, come unto me,' ring like sweet music in precious, for us to trifle, while it is yet our own, my ears; and my heart seems as if it must answer, with its fleeting bloom.

Lord, I come, I come.' It may be a delusion of the Evil One. May the blessed Mother keep our Léon, Renée, from the snare.' I must ask

CHAPTER IX.
Father Delille about it."
She did so, and the sophistries of human re-

“A name at which the world grew pale." ligiousness were brought to bear upon the sim

JOHNSON, plicity that is in Christ, and the timid, fainting “Oh, the silence that came next, the patience and long aching !" spirit led blindfold away from the pure waters of the Fountain of life. We were strictly en- How shall my feeble pen depict the story of that joined, on peril of our souls, not to meddle with bright autumn day in Paris, when the name that the Word of God, which, Father Delille told us- shall stand a warning beacon over the tide of time O sad perversion of truth !—was “a two-edged through all years to come, was borne from lip to sword,” wounding and bringing death to all un- lip in her streets ? SEDAN! skilled hands that dared to wield it. This, he Well might men, stunned and appalled by the said, was God's own testimony concerning his completeness of the catastrophe, wreathe their Word; and it was more in accordance with the pale lips with scornful smiles, and fiercely charge view we had been taught to take of God and his the authors of such a report with lying and madWord, so we received it as such. To Nina and But it was true, and truth strikes home at me and the rest of us it signified little then; our last. The hour came when incredulity gave place hearts and minds were full of other things; but to the rage of impassioned belief. Paris has gone the wistful look on my dear mother's face was mad before with less cause. The banner of France afterwards sadder and more constant.

lowered before the foe, her imperial diadem in Our anxiety for Léon had diminished; the un- the dust, the sword of her sovereign at the set reasoning confidence begotten by familiarity with of his victorious adversary, her honour tarnished, escaped dangers came over us, and we were all her glory departed, her name a byword and scorn influenced by the sanguine tone of the public among the nations, her brave soldiers betrayed papers and of society in general. Partly owing deceived-sacrificed-hemmed like deer in a posito the uncertainty of his own movements, and tion into which the folly and incapacity of their partly to the confusion that prevailed at that officers had led them, in which resistance was imtime in all official departments, Léon had not practicable, and battle massacre. An emperor, received any letters from us since he left home. an army, a fortress-one day the bulwark of This was a source of regret to us all; of bitter France, the next the spoil of the conqueror! but carefully hidden pain to Nina. Her lip One day the hope of a generous and too-confiding would quiver and her cheek pale whenever it nation, the next its shame and execration! was alluded to. I knew the reason. Neither But the dark details of that day, so fatal for the little note, which she had given me open to France, on which the death-knell of an empire enclose to him, in which, with childlike simplicity, was sounded, belong to the page of history, not she had asked forgiveness for the impatience and to these simple records of a few human lives that unkindness she so much regretted having shown went on amidst them. The historian will tell that last night, or the explanations and excuses how the day that saw France without an emperor she well knew I should give, would have been and without an army, saw her, too, high of heart seen by him.

and hope, rising phoenix-like from her own ashes,

ness.

strong to avenge, patient to endure, haughty in the name under which they had trembled and her humiliation. He will say too, perhaps, that cringed became a byword and a taunt, replaced it might have been better for her had she ceased by contemptuous terms full of bitter meaning. to carry on the fatal struggle begun by the ill. How the fair streets, and broad boulevards, and fated man who for twenty long years had been stately edifices, which owed their existence to her master; whom three times, by her own free Napoleon III., rang with voices hoarse with fierce will, she had chosen as such; whose broken yoke hatred, shouting, “A bas Badinguet;" a soubriquet she cast from her with such a passion of abhor- given to the fallen monarch in scornful allusion rence and contempt. And I think he would be to his flight from the fortress of Ham, in the right. But looking back, as I do, through the dress of a workman bearing that name. Yes; I dreary vista of the war-path, strewn with the will leave this for others to relate, and go back wrecks of so many lives and homes, could I, a to the aching hearts of our own sorrow-stricken woman, judge otherwise ? Not now, certainly, home. nor I think ever. So I will leave all this for Where was Léon? Ah! that was the question wiser heads, and calmer hearts, and abler pens. kept, for the most part, by each, for the sake of

They will tell how, on the 4th of September, the other, within the pale, grief-set lips, but two days after the surrender of Sedan, a revolu- echoing ever in the depth of each burdened, tion took place in Paris, the Emperor was deposed, loving heart. the republic declared, a provisional government And that question met no answer. For in the for the defence of Paris, with General Trochu at overwhelming disaster of a nation there was little its head, appointed, and energetic measures at reck of individual anxiety and sorrow by those once commenced for the defence of the city. in power; in the wild excitement and confusion

They will tell, too, how a deputation from the that prevailed in council and camp little place old ministry waited upon the Empress at the but for one thought—the defence of the queenly Tuileries palace, and, placing before her a paper city, on which the enemy was marching unfettered, ready drawn up, informed her that all hope for unchecked, passing disdainfully by, or investing her and hers was over, her husband a captive, with small detachments of his vast hosts, the her son a fugitive, herself the object of a people's fortresses on which we had counted so much. hatred and indignation ! And how the trem- So still we asked, “Where was Léon?” Unbling hand of the unhappy lady signed the docu- answered, uncheered. Was he, our noble gallant ment, how she gazed once more from the windows soldier, a captive in a foreign and hostile land, of her palace-home-hers no longer--and then or stretched on a bed of pain and weakness in went forth--she, the gay, beautiful, brilliant hospital or ambulance, with no familiar face to Eugénie, the star of her own and other courts for bend over him, no loving hand to minister to his eighteen years of splendid prosperity—on foot wants; or, like poor Henri de l’Orme, lying cold and a fugitive amongst an angry and frantic crowd, in a soldier's blood-stained grave? O the keen, escaping from her own fair capital, the scene of sharp agony of suspense of those first days, while so many pomps and pageants--ay, of so many yet a chance remained of tidings reaching us! hopes and fears, so many joys and sorrows-by the deep, dull anguish of waiting through assuming the lowly guise of a Norman peasant, long weary months when that chance was past, and reaching at last, a lonely, sorrow-stricken and our fears mocked our hopes! What words exile, the shores she had last landed on amidst may tell it out? the pride of imperial state.

At first, we hoped against hope that his regiThey will tell, too, how the passionate pain of ment had not been amongst those that had fought the people vented itself in the senseless disfigure- and surrendered at Sedan. But before the melanment of buildings, and windows, and whatever choly remnants of the brilliant army that had bore the emblem of the hated government, and left Paris returned, broken and shattered like the the then still more hated man under whose sway hopes that had followed it, that uncertainty, at France had been led smiling to her doom ; how least, was set at rest. In one of those splendid charges of heroic despair, in which the flower of had for the remorseful sorrow that she evidently the French cavalry had been scattered - like felt. But that night, the sight of her pale, mournspring-blossoms by a storm-wind — before the ful face haunted me after I had bidden her gooddeadly blast of the German artillery, Léon's regi- night, and I could not rest. Of course all noticed ment had nobly played its part. Not many of her worn looks, but her manner was so calm and that devoted band rode back out of the smoke quiet, she spoke so composedly of Léon,—with that veiled the slopes up which they had so gal- grave concern indeed, but with no outward agitalantly dashed-slopes green and smooth, and fair tion,--that it is no wonder all, but my mother with ferns and flowers, ere the battle smoke veiled and myself, ascribed their cause to bodily indisthem; crimsoned, and ghastly, and death-strewn position. when that veil was lifted again. This, at least, I tried to sleep that night, but in vain, and at we knew. But this was all,

last yielded to the impulse that had been upon And when the dark story was told of the me from the time I had left Nina. Wrapping miseries, and horrors, and humiliations to which myself in my dressing-gown, I stole softly through the prisoners were subjected by their exulting the room in which my mother was sleeping captors, our tortured hearts almost turned rather quietly, as was usual with her till the early mornto the grave's unbroken rest. There, at least, ing hours. Nina was not in the habit of locking our beloved one's generous spirit would not be her door, and I told myself I would only go tormented by dishonour and chains. But the quietly in and see if she were sleeping; if not, I love of life! What, save Faith's anchor within would excuse my midnight visit under the plea the veil, can overcome it in these loving, sinful, of anxiety about her pale looks. I had little fear sorrowing hearts of ours ? For ourselves and for of a rebuff; she had been gentle enough of late, those who are our dearer selves. So we clung poor child, tenaciously, desperately, with hearts faint and

Very cautiously I turned the handle of the weary with the sickness of hope deferred, to the door, which opened noiselessly. It was a bright belief that our Léon was yet of us. Then, and moonlight night, and the room was flooded with through the weary months that followed,

silver light. My eye rested first upon Nina's My mother bowed her head meekly as before empty bed, then upon a white figure crouching a blow waited and watched for; but she drooped on the floor by the window. So silently had the as one who had received a mortal wound.

door opened that she did not hear it, even in the And Nina! Ah! poor Nina, upon her the midnight stillness. She sat with her brow restblow fell heaviest. We had parted from him, ing against the glass, her dark hair falling loosely against whose name was written "Missing," with around her, but with her day-dress untouched. . fond embraces, and tender tears, and loving words Fearing to startle her, I pushed a chair as I —with whispered prayers and blessings ; she with crossed the floor towards her, but she did not heartless levity, and cruel scorn, and unjust re

Then I spoke her name.

She turned her proaches. The last looks and words we had given head and looked up in my face, with such a look him were of affection and hope-hers, of bitter- of agony in the large mournful eyes, and on the ness and passion. And he had never known how fair face which gleamed snow-white in the pale she regretted them !

brightness of the moonbeams. My heart ached for the unhappy child, as she “Nina," I said, kneeling beside her—“ Nina, went about with white fixed face, mechanically my poor darling, what is it?" performing all the customary routine of ordinary She turned towards me, looked 'full into my life, in the long anxious days of that first week in face for a moment, then laid her head on my September. But not till the night on which breast with the wailing cry, “O Renée, Renée !" Augustine brought in the copy of the Journel My tears fell thick and fast on the bright young Officiel, in which Léon's regiment was named as head bowed so low with its weight of sorrow. one that had taken part in the last desperate But none dimmed the calm steady eyes that struggle, did I fully know how great a cause she looked despairingly up into the clear bright sky.

move.

my life?"

"My Nina,” I said at last, "you must not ledged purpose of giving him pain, but out of grieve so terribly. Our Léon may yet be restored the strong love of teasing and testing the ento us.”

durance of those who loved her, only the more “To you, yes,” she said slowly and with the fully developed by his too great readiness to same fixed look; “to me never.”

excuse and forget all her unkindness when she “Nina, what do you mean? Are you ill ?” smiled upon him once more. She had often I exclaimed in terror at her strange looks and wept, she said, in the quiet of her own room, voice.

when she remembered how she had wounded and “Ill! yes--at heart. O Renée!" she moaned, slighted him during the day, and resolved not to “how shall I bear it, how shall I bear to live out do so again. But she knew of no higher strength

than her own, poor child—the power of old habit “Nina, dearest, I cannot understand you. If was too strong upon her—and the very pain she Léon is spared to us, as we may at least hope felt at his approaching departure made her more he is, why do you say he would not be restored wayward. He should not think she cared, she to you?” O Nina, you do not know how he told herself, even when her foolish little heart loves you!"

sank at the thought of the dangers into which he "I know how he did love me," she said; “how was going. And that last evening, when he told he would have loved me alwavs but for mv own her of his love, she cast it from her, spurned it, wicked folly."

denied her own for him. “But, Nina, if Léon yet lives, wherever he It happened thus. After my mother had remay be, he loves you still: nothing but death tired that evening, she and Léon had been left could take his love from you.”

in the drawing-room alone. He alluded, after “ There are things worse than death,” she a time, to his coming absence, and rejoiced at said in the same decided, bitter tone. “Renée, her being at home that evening, possibly his I must tell you all. The memory of that last last with us. She immediately spoke of her night has been eating like fire into my heart and intended visit to Madame de Salmy next day. brain ever since Léon went away. No; loose Very gently and delicately he begged her not to me-do not touch me while I tell you; you go, for his sake and for her own. As I have bewill hate me when I have done, or despise me fore said, he disliked and distrusted that lady. as he does now, if indeed he lives.” And she Nina's pride at once took fire, though, as she shook herself free from my encircling arms, and afterwards saw too plainly, there was nothing in sat upright gazing out into the night, while, in Léon's words to warrant it, and certainly no sentences short and broken with pain, she unbur- assumption of a guardian's authority; it was dened her heart of the secret that had preyed mainly for his own sake he asked her to remain. upon it so long.

Passionately she questioned his right to interI am not going to record here the sacred con- fere with her movements; and then--not wisely, fidences of that hour in the very words poor perhaps, but from the fulness of his noble, tender Nina used in the passionate anguish of her bitter heart-Léon told her of his love. And she, self-reproach. It is enough to say that the cap- yielding to a reckless impulse of temper, rejected ricious, wilful temper fostered in her character it, scorned it, and left the room with light words during the petted, unrestrained childhood, un- of bitter mockery. checked by herself in her thoughtless, wayward “Now, Renée, hate me if you will," she said, girlhood, had led her that night to a pitch of when her painful story was finished; "you canfolly and cruelty which would only too probably not hate me more than I loathe and despise east a dark shadow over her whole life. She had myself. Oh! why, why did I do it? Why, long known how great was her power over Léon, when I had done it, did I let him go without a and delighted to exercise it, until it had become word of forgiveness ?" she moaned, as I drew a habit with her to do so on almost every oppor- her slight figure back into my arms, and pressed tunity; not with the deliberate and acknow- | it to my heart. I could not speak; what com

as

over.

the grave

a

fort that I could give could possibly soothe such Madame de Salmy's, when he went, that I grieve pain as hers?—for the arrow that was rankling That is as nothing to the rest-nothing, in her heart was a poisoned one. Love may nothing. Oh, those cruel, mocking words! the soothe sorrow, tenderness alleviate suffering, sym- last I spoke to him—the last! Ah, Renée, how pathy soften bereavement; but under what earthly often have you told me that a time might come name is a balm found for remorse?

when penitence, and tears, and caresses would be At last I said, " Nina, dearest, I too have a in vain, when some reckless word or wilful deed, confession to make-I too have a bitter, unavail- spoken or done in thoughtless levity, would bear ing regret pressing heavily on my heart." bitter, bitter fruit! But I would not heed you.

"You, Renée !” she said, looking up search And now all my love, and regrets, and tears are ingly into my face.

but as roses and spring rain upon

of “Yes. Nina, the morning after-after what buried hope--all in vain for what lies beneath it. you

have told me of_before you went to Meudon, Well, never was punishment more deserved." would you not have given anything to have re- “But, Nina dearest, our hope is strong and mained at home?”

living, not buried. Léon may even now be safe Ah! yes, then ; but it was too late.” and unharmed in Germany. Many think the

“Not quite. O Nina, the expression of your war will soon be over, and then we shall have eyes when I went to hasten your preparations, him back, and all will be set right." and when you left the room with the De Salmys, She shook her head with a despairing look. has haunted me ever since."

Suddenly I thought of Léon's last message to She half smiled. “Ah, Renée, you have so her, and I gave it. In her hysterical distress the often saved me from the consequences of some day after his departure, I had not ventured to wilful freak I have been bent on following! I give it all; but now was, I felt, the time. “Nina," know that morning I had a wild, vague hope you I said solemnly, "listen to me. I have a message might save me even then from paining Léon more from Léon, to be given you if he fell. He would than I had done.”

wish it given now.

His last words to me were: "And so I might have done, Nina-I might, Say farewell for me to Nina, Renée, and tell but I did not. Nay, do not interrupt me. I her to forget what passed the other night, as have helped to bring this sorrow on you, my I shall. And if I should fall, tell her I loved poor darling. A few loving, persuasive words to her to the last. Nothing can change that. You you, a few explanations and apologies to Madame will care for and protect her, whatever may hapde Salmy, and you would have remained at home. pen, for my sake.' His last thoughts were of Léon and you would have met again--you would you, Nina-of you, not of your fault. Nina, have parted heart to heart. But I had seen his do not doubt the strength and tenderness of his pain the night before, my spirit was chafed and love! Trust him; do not wrong his true, noble angry, and I would not speak these words; heart by doubting him. If he lives, wherever be would not till it was too late. So, Nina, your may be, he loves you still; if not, his last earthly sorrow is my sorrow, your remorse mine too. thoughts were of you, I know.” Darling, do not seek to bear it alone, as though She burst into tears. For a long time she it were unshared. Let us bear it together.” wept unrestrainedly, while I spoke of Léon, of

She pressed her cold lips to my face. “Dear the words he had spoken that unbappy evening; Renée, you are not to blame. Had you asked how he had defended and excused her, and beme to stay, as perhaps I hoped you would have lieved in her in spite of all. Faster and heavier done, I might have acted just the same. I do

fell her tears; but I knew they would relieve her not know, However that may be, I only am overburdened heart, and did not seek to check to blame. How could you think that any rea- them, until nature was utterly exhausted. Then soning or persuasion would avail with one so she let me undress her like a child, and settle wilfui as I? No, Renée, you must not think her in her bed.

Only once she spoke, and then thus. And it is not my being away, even at she said, " If he had only known that I lovel

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