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In the meantime the gamekeeper had come up- a huge man who could only speak very bad French. Folks said he was a German. He had a name no one could say a Dutch name fit to drive you out of the house; and, as he had to be called something, we called him Surto. This beast also began to hammer my poor father, who was writhing on the ground like a half-crushed worm.
I had stopped on a high rock from which I could see the two monsters at their cruel work. I picked up a stone as big as my head and threw it. The stone whistled through the air, just brushing against the gamekeeper's ear, and fell hard and heavy on Monsieur Robert's toes.
“Aïe!” he yelled, and turning saw me. Off went both barrels of his gun. The shot whizzed round me; but I plunged into the wood, and then it was, Catch me who can !
I was only a child, but I understood my danger. I hid myself in the depths of the woods and did not dare go back home. Shivering, almost dead with the cold, I ate my bit of bread crouching in a thicket and a little sheltered behind a rock. The bread was so hard that I had to break it with a stone. I softened it with my tears; for while eating it I was thinking of my father as I had seen him with his face all covered with blood, and dreading that he had been killed. And my mother, what would she think when I did not come back to the hut? And when she saw her poor man, her Pascal, crushed and bleeding? “Ah!” sighed I, looking at the stone I held, “ah, how happy this stone is. How I would like to be this stone, for then I would not suffer any more !” and my heart hurt me as if it was cut with a knife.
Twilight was coming on. In winter it does not last long: the night comes all at once. The wind blew sharper and sharper. Far off on the edge of the sky a long red line streaked the gray clouds and showed that the sun was setting. Then the sky and plains and mountains, which all day long had been dull gray, turned to a violet; while the trees and the naked bushes and the rocks took a reddish tone. The wind dropped a moment, paying honor to the setting sun; a fox barked on the opposite slope, and then suddenly all was dark.
I ventured out of my lair and climbed the bushy side of the ravine. Just as I reached the top, br-r-rou! a covey of partridges flew off from right under my feet with a sound like a load of cobblestones tumbling out of a cart. The start they
gave me was soon over; and then, shivering and blue with the cold, I went down into the plain.
At almost every step I halted and looked around. The smallest rock, a tuft of thyme, a live-oak bush, seemed a crouching man on the outlook — perhaps Surto with his gun ! I was more afraid of that man than of all the wolves on the mountains put together. Although the wind still roared and howled, the stones rattling under my feet seemed to me to make a tremendous noise. The night was very dark - not a star to be seen; the dull-gray sky still spread over everything. Yet I could see pretty well around me. We, the
We, the poor, the very poor, can see in the dark. The flocks were all in their folds, it was so cold. But as I went along the slope above the Nesque, not far above the Château, it seemed to me that I could hear the pigs grunting; and I certainly could see the light carried by the swine-herd - so it must have been about pig-feeding time.
I had but a few steps more to take in order to reach the high rock from which I had thrown the stone at Monsieur Robert. I was burning to get there, that I might know whether or not my father was lying dead at the bottom of the ravine, beaten to death by those two beasts. I walked softly along, but the little stones still made too much noise under my feet, and I got down and crawled silently on all-fours. I reached the overhang of the rock and craned over into the ravine. I stared and stared until I could see no more, but all that I could make out was a long black line and a long white line coasting the foot of the mountain. The giant oaks which bordered the Nesque made the black line, and the white line was the dry bed of the watercourse with its smooth white stones.
When I was quite certain that my father was not lying there, to be food for the wolves, I drew softly back on hands and knees. Still filled with dread, I went down into the ravine through the holly and thorny scrub-oak bushes, pushing through the thickets, for I did not want to follow any beaten path to the Nesque. I was afraid of the great monster of a gamekeeper who somewhere, I was sure, was watching for me as if I had been a fox; and I thought that the whistling of the wind and the rattling of the whirling leaves would keep any one from hearing the noise of the holly and the thorny oak bushes which caught hold of me, and of the stones which rattled down under my feet.
When I reached the border of the Nesque I looked out between two tufts of bushes to right and to left, but neither saw nor heard anything out of the way. And, what gave me still more comfort, lying there where I had kicked them off, so that I might run the faster, were my sabots! Then - believe me or no as best pleases you — in order to give myself courage, I made the sign of the cross upon my breast and said the only prayer my mother had taught me:
“Great Saint John of the golden mouth,
Watch over the sleeping child.
and then I felt that I would be cared for, and was safe!
With one spring I reached and put on my sabots, and then flew like lightning through the stubble and brush and climbed steep slopes like a lizard. I slipped through the olive-orchards, carefully keeping away from the paths, and as far as I could from the Château, the gleaming windows of which I could see on the heights above. Suddenly all the dogs at the Château began to bark together, and as I feared that they had heard or scented me, I went off still farther over the hills of the Engarrouïnes, so that I might be quite safe from the gamekeeper outside the lines of the estate.
But our hut still was far away, and I knew that if I went there I should be caught; if not that night, certainly the next day. Still I longed to see my father, to comfort my mother. It seemed as if I could hear her calling me, - “Pascalet! Pascalet!"
In spite of the dark night my eyes could make out far off on the hill of La Garde something black between the woods and the olive-orchards; something that looked like a heap of stones. It was our forlorn hut - laid up of stones without mortar and roofed with stone slabs. In my heart I seemed to see inside of it our one room, our oat-straw beds, the pot hanging by its pot-hooks and chain from the beam, the big block behind the door on which my father chopped the bread and which also was our table. I longed for our little hut and all in it; but fear, my great fear of the gamekeeper, for a long while held me still.
At last I was able to screw up my courage and go on. Keeping out of the path, and taking a big stone in each hand, I went forward slowly and step by step. Now and then I stopped and listened. Feeling my way, dodging from one stone wall to another, I got at last behind the hut. Softly I crept up to the hole stuffed with grass that served us for a window, and pushing in the grass and leaning my head forward I called, "Mother! mother!”
No one answered — there was no one there!
Then my blood grow cold within me. I thought that both my father and my mother had been killed. I ran round to the door of the hut. It was wide open. The gamekeeper was nothing to me then! I called out at the top of my voice: “Mother! Father! Where are you? It is your Pascalet!” and my sorrow so hurt me that I rolled on the ground in such a passion of crying as I never before had known.
For more than an hour I lay there while I sobbed and groaned. At last, tired out, desperate, raging because I was too weak to revenge myself against those who had caused my bitter pain, I got on my feet again, while a dark thought came into my mind. The pond, the big pond that watered all the fields of the Château, was before me among the olive-trees. Only a month before I had seen the body of pretty Agatha of Malemort drawn out of its waters — a girl, not twenty years old, who had drowned herself there because of some trouble I could not understand. I ran off as if crazy, my arms spread wide open as though to embrace some one; and when, through the trees, I saw the pond glittering I thought I saw Paradise. As I came within a few steps of the edge I closed my eyes, took three jumps, one after the other and — pataflou! I was in the middle of the pond! Pascal stopped, yawned, and stretched himself.
“Well, it's getting late — and I have n't yet watered the mule. I'll tell you the rest to-morrow. Right about face! March !” – and he was off.
As I walked home beside my grandfather, holding his hand, I asked him: “But Pascal did n't really drown himself, did he ?”
Have patience, little one,” my grandfather answered. “ To-morrow we shall know.”
MAXWELL GRAY, pseudonym of Mary G. Tuttiett, a clever English novelist, born at Newport, Isle of Wight, 18—, and resides there. She is the daughter of a physician. She has written: “The Broken Tryst” (1879); “The Silence of Dean Maitland," her best-known work (1886); “The Reproach of Annesley" (1889); “In the Heart of the Storm” (1891); “The Last Sentence” (1894); "A Costly Freak” (1894); "Ribstone Pippins” (1898).
(From "The Reproach of Annesley.") ALICE passed slowly along beneath the vast vibrating roof, awed and refreshed by the deep calm, her heart awake to the lightest beating of the mighty pulses of Nature.
The rest of the party had gone to spend the day at the Saut du Doubs in the mountain height above, passing along through the wood and by the cliff-walled river. Alice, still tired from her last mountain climb, had remained in the village to bear Mrs. Annesley company, and had now left her, quiet with her desk and books, to meet the others on their homeward way.
She had set out full early, and therefore loitered, not wishing to walk too far. It was the last time, she reflected with pleasure, that she should meet Paul. He had, on arriving at Bourget the night before, announced that he had but one more day to spend in Switzerland, because affairs required his return home. It pained her that he had shown so little consideration and good taste as to remain with them after what had passed in the boat, when she gave him that distinct and final refusal, and he, in his passion, charged her with loving his cousin, a charge met by an indignant silence which confirmed his suspicions. His conduct in thus taking her by surprise, and almost obliging her to go in the boat alone with him, had distressed her beyond measure; she could never again feel the old, warm friendship