The Golden Lion of Granpere
by Anthony Trollope
Up among the Vosges mountains in Lorraine, but just outside the old
half-German province of Alsace, about thirty miles distant from the
new and thoroughly French baths of Plombieres, there lies the village
of Granpere. Whatever may be said or thought here in England of the
late imperial rule in France, it must at any rate be admitted that
good roads were made under the Empire. Alsace, which twenty years ago
seems to have been somewhat behindhand in this respect, received her
full share of Napoleon's attention, and Granpere is now placed on an
excellent road which runs from the town of Remiremont on one line of
railway, to Colmar on another. The inhabitants of the Alsatian Ballon
hills and the open valleys among them seem to think that the
civilisation of great cities has been brought near enough to them, as
there is already a diligence running daily from Granpere to
Remiremont;—and at Remiremont you are on the railway, and, of course,
in the middle of everything.
And indeed an observant traveller will be led to think that a great
deal of what may most truly be called civilisation has found its way
in among the Ballons, whether it travelled thither by the new-
fangled railways and imperial routes, or found its passage along the
valley streams before imperial favours had been showered upon the
district. We are told that when Pastor Oberlin was appointed to his
cure as Protestant clergyman in the Ban de la Roche a little more
than one hundred years ago,—that was, in 1767,—this region was
densely dark and far behind in the world's running as regards all
progress. The people were ignorant, poor, half-starved, almost
savage, destitute of communication, and unable to produce from their
own soil enough food for their own sustenance. Of manufacturing
enterprise they understood nothing, and were only just far enough
advanced in knowledge for the Protestants to hate the Catholics, and
the Catholics to hate the Protestants. Then came that wonderful
clergyman, Pastor Oberlin,—he was indeed a wonderful clergyman,—
and made a great change. Since that there have been the two empires,
and Alsace has looked up in the world. Whether the thanks of the
people are more honestly due to Oberlin or to the late Emperor, the
author of this little story will not pretend to say; but he will
venture to express his opinion that at present the rural Alsatians are
a happy, prosperous people, with the burden on their shoulders of but
few paupers, and fewer gentlemen,—apparently a contented people, not
ambitious, given but little to politics. Protestants and Catholics
mingled without hatred or fanaticism, educated though not learned,
industrious though not energetic, quiet and peaceful, making linen and
cheese, growing potatoes, importing corn, coming into the world,
marrying, begetting children, and dying in the wholesome homespun
fashion which is so sweet to us in that mood of philosophy which
teaches us to love the country and to despise the town. Whether it be
better for a people to achieve an even level of prosperity, which is
shared by all, but which makes none eminent, or to encounter those
rough, ambitious, competitive strengths which produce both palaces and
poor-houses, shall not be matter of argument here; but the teller of
this story is disposed to think that the chance traveller, as long as
he tarries at Granpere, will insensibly and perhaps unconsciously
become an advocate of the former doctrine; he will be struck by the
comfort which he sees around him, and for a while will dispense with
wealth, luxury, scholarships, and fashion. Whether the inhabitants of
these hills and valleys will advance to farther progress now that they
are again to become German, is another question, which the writer will
not attempt to answer here.
Granpere in itself is a very pleasing village. Though the amount
of population and number of houses do not suffice to make it more than
a village, it covers so large a space of ground as almost to give it
a claim to town honours. It is perhaps a full mile in length; and
though it has but one street, there are buildings standing here and
there, back from the line, which make it seem to stretch beyond the
narrow confines of a single thoroughfare. In most French villages
some of the houses are high and spacious, but here they seem almost
all to be so. And many of them have been constructed after that
independent fashion which always gives to a house in a street a
character and importance of its own. They do not stand in a simple
line, each supported by the strength of its neighbour, but occupy
their own ground, facing this way or that as each may please,
presenting here a corner to the main street, and there an end. There
are little gardens, and big stables, and commodious barns; and
periodical paint with annual whitewash is not wanting. The unstinted
slates shine copiously under the sun, and over almost every other door
there is a large lettered board which indicates that the resident
within is a dealer in the linen which is produced throughout the
country. All these things together give to Granpere an air of
prosperity and comfort which is not at all checked by the fact that
there is in the place no mansion which we Englishmen would call the
gentleman's house, nothing approaching to the ascendancy of a parish
squire, no baron's castle, no manorial hall,—not even a chateau to
overshadow the modest roofs of the dealers in the linen of the Vosges.
And the scenery round Granpere is very pleasant, though the
neighbouring hills never rise to the magnificence of mountains or
produce that grandeur which tourists desire when they travel in
search of the beauties of Nature. It is a spot to love if you know
it well, rather than to visit with hopes raised high, and to leave
with vivid impressions. There is water in abundance; a pretty lake
lying at the feet of sloping hills, rivulets running down from the
high upper lands and turning many a modest wheel in their course, a
waterfall or two here and there, and a so-called mountain summit
within an easy distance, from whence the sun may be seen to rise
among the Swiss mountains;—and distant perhaps three miles from the
village the main river which runs down the valley makes for itself a
wild ravine, just where the bridge on the new road to Munster crosses
the water, and helps to excuse the people of Granpere for claiming for
themselves a great object of natural attraction. The bridge and the
river and the ravine are very pretty, and perhaps justify all that the
villagers say of them when they sing to travellers the praises of
Whether it be the sale of linen that has produced the large inn at
Granpere, or the delicious air of the place, or the ravine and the
bridge, matters little to our story; but the fact of the inn matters
very much. There it is,—a roomy, commodious building, not easily
intelligible to a stranger, with its widely distributed parts,
standing like an inverted V, with its open side towards the main
road. On the ground-floor on one side are the large stables and
coach-house, with a billiard-room and cafe over them, and a long
balcony which runs round the building; and on the other side there
are kitchens and drinking-rooms, and over these the chamber for meals
and the bedrooms. All large, airy, and clean, though, perhaps, not
excellently well finished in their construction, and furnished with
but little pretence to French luxury. And behind the inn there are
gardens, by no means trim, and a dusty summer-house, which serves,
however, for the smoking of a cigar; and there is generally space and
plenty and goodwill. Either the linen, or the air, or the ravine, or,
as is more probable, the three combined, have produced a business, so
that the landlord of the Lion d'Or at Granpere is a thriving man.
The reader shall at once be introduced to the landlord, and
informed at the same time that, in so far as he may be interested in
this story, he will have to take up his abode at the Lion d'Or till it
be concluded; not as a guest staying loosely at his inn, but as one
who is concerned with all the innermost affairs of the household. He
will not simply eat his plate of soup, and drink his glass of wine,
and pass on, knowing and caring more for the servant than for the
servant's master, but he must content himself to sit at the
landlord's table, to converse very frequently with the landlord's
wife, to become very intimate with the landlord's son—whether on
loving or on unloving terms shall be left entirely to himself—and to
throw himself, with the sympathy of old friendship, into all the
troubles and all the joys of the landlord's niece. If the reader be
one who cannot take such a journey, and pass a month or two without
the society of persons whom he would define as ladies and gentlemen,
he had better be warned at once, and move on, not setting foot within
the Lion d'Or at Granpere.
Michel Voss, the landlord, in person was at this time a tall,
stout, active, and very handsome man, about fifty years of age. As
his son was already twenty-five—and was known to be so throughout the
commune—people were sure that Michel Voss was fifty or thereabouts;
but there was very little in his appearance to indicate so many
years. He was fat and burly to be sure; but then he was not fat to
lethargy, or burly with any sign of slowness. There was still the
spring of youth in his footstep, and when there was some weight to be
lifted, some heavy timber to be thrust here or there, some huge
lumbering vehicle to be hoisted in or out, there was no arm about the
place so strong as that of the master. His short, dark, curly
hair—that was always kept clipped round his head—was beginning to
show a tinge of gray, but the huge moustache on his upper lip was
still of a thorough brown, as was also the small morsel of beard
which he wore upon his chin. He had bright sharp brown eyes, a nose
slightly beaked, and a large mouth. He was on the whole a man of
good temper, just withal, and one who loved those who belonged to
him; but he chose to be master in his own house, and was apt to think
that his superior years enabled him to know what younger people wanted
better than they would know themselves. He was loved in his house and
respected in his village; but there was something in the beak of his
nose and the brightness of his eye which was apt to make those around
him afraid of him. And indeed Michel Voss could lose his temper and
become an angry man.
Our landlord had been twice married. By his first wife he had now
living a single son, George Voss, who at the time of our tale had
already reached his twenty-fifth year. George, however, did not at
this time live under his father's roof, having taken service for a
time with the landlady of another inn at Colmar. George Voss was
known to be a clever young man; many in those parts declared that he
was much more so than his father; and when he became clerk at the
Poste in Colmar, and after a year or two had taken into his hands
almost the entire management of that house—so that people began to
say that old-fashioned and wretched as it was, money might still be
made there—people began to say also that Michel Voss had been wrong
to allow his son to leave Granpere. But in truth there had been a
few words between the father and the son; and the two were so like
each other that the father found it difficult to rule, and the son
found it difficult to be ruled.
George Voss was very like his father, with this difference, as he
was often told by the old folk about Granpere, that he would never
fill his father's shoes. He was a smaller man, less tall by a couple
of inches, less broad in proportion across the shoulders, whose arm
would never be so strong, whose leg would never grace a tight stocking
with so full a development. But he had the same eye, bright and brown
and very quick, the same mouth, the same aquiline nose, the same broad
forehead and well-shaped chin, and the same look in his face which
made men know as by instinct that he would sooner command than obey.
So there had come to be a few words, and George Voss had gone away to
the house of a cousin of his mother's, and had taken to commanding
Not that there had been any quarrel between the father and the son;
nor indeed that George was aware that he had been in the least
disobedient to his parent. There was no recognised ambition for rule
in the breasts of either of them. It was simply this, that their
tempers were alike; and when on an occasion Michel told his son that
he would not allow a certain piece of folly which the son was, as he
thought, likely to commit, George declared that he would soon set that
matter right by leaving Granpere. Accordingly he did leave Granpere,
and became the right hand, and indeed the head, and backbone, and best
leg of his old cousin Madame Faragon of the Poste at Colmar. Now the
matter on which these few words occurred was a question of
love—whether George Voss should fall in love with and marry his
step-mother's niece Marie Bromar. But before anything farther can be
said of these few words, Madame Voss and her niece must be introduced
to the reader.
Madame Voss was nearly twenty years younger than her husband, and
had now been a wife some five or six years. She had been brought
from Epinal, where she had lived with a married sister, a widow, much
older than herself—in parting from whom on her marriage there had
been much tribulation. 'Should anything happen to Marie,' she had
said to Michel Voss, before she gave him her troth, 'you will let
Minnie Bromar come to me?' Michel Voss, who was then hotly in love
with his hoped-for bride—hotly in love in spite of his four-
and-forty years—gave the required promise. The said 'something'
which had been suspected had happened. Madame Bromar had died, and
Minnie Bromar her daughter—or Marie as she was always afterwards
called—had at once been taken into the house at Granpere. Michel
never thought twice about it when he was reminded of his promise. 'If
I hadn't promised at all, she should come the same,' he said. 'The
house is big enough for a dozen more yet.' In saying this he perhaps
alluded to a little baby that then lay in a cradle in his wife's room,
by means of which at that time Madame Voss was able to make her big
husband do pretty nearly anything that she pleased. So Marie Bromar,
then just fifteen years of age, was brought over from Epinal to
Granpere, and the house certainly was not felt to be too small because
she was there. Marie soon learned the ways and wishes of her burly,
soft-hearted uncle; would fill his pipe for him, and hand him his
soup, and bring his slippers, and put her soft arm round his neck, and
became a favourite. She was only a child when she came, and Michel
thought it was very pleasant; but in five years' time she was a woman,
and Michel was forced to reflect that it would not be well that there
should be another marriage and another family in the house while he
was so young himself,—there was at this time a third baby in the
cradle,—and then Marie Bromar had not a franc of dot. Marie was the
sweetest eldest daughter in the world, but he could not think it right
that his son should marry a wife before he had done a stroke for
himself in the world. Prudence made it absolutely necessary that he
should say a word to his son.
Madame Voss was certainly nearly twenty years younger than her
husband, and yet the pair did not look to be ill-sorted. Michel was
so handsome, strong, and hale; and Madame Voss, though she was a
comely woman,—though when she was brought home a bride to Granpere
the neighbours had all declared that she was very handsome,—carried
with her a look of more years than she really possessed. She had
borne many of a woman's cares, and had known much of woman's sorrows
before she had become wife to Michel Voss; and then when the babes
came, and she had settled down as mistress of that large household,
and taught herself to regard George Voss and Marie Bromar almost as
her own children, all idea that she was much younger than her husband
departed from her. She was a woman who desired to excel her husband
in nothing,—if only she might be considered to be in some things his
equal. There was no feeling in the village that Michel Voss had
brought home a young wife and had made a fool of himself. He was a man
entitled to have a wife much younger than himself. Madame Voss in
those days always wore a white cap and a dark stuff gown, which was
changed on Sundays for one of black silk, and brown mittens on her
hands, and she went about the house in soft carpet shoes. She was a
conscientious, useful, but not an enterprising woman; loving her
husband much and fearing him somewhat; liking to have her own way in
certain small matters, but willing to be led in other things so long
as those were surrendered to her; careful with her children, the care
of whom seemed to deprive her of the power of caring for the business
of the inn; kind to her niece, good-humoured in her house, and
satisfied with the world at large as long as she might always be
allowed to entertain M. le Cure at dinner on Sundays. Michel Voss,
Protestant though he was, had not the slightest objection to giving M.
le Cure his Sunday dinner, on condition that M. le Cure on these
occasions would confine his conversation to open subjects. M. le Cure
was quite willing to eat his dinner and give no offence.
A word too must be said of Marie Bromar before we begin our story.
Marie Bromar is the heroine of this little tale; and the reader must
be made to have some idea of her as she would have appeared before
him had he seen her standing near her uncle in the long room upstairs
of the hotel at Granpere. Marie had been fifteen when she was brought
from Epinal to Granpere, and had then been a child; but she had now
reached her twentieth birthday, and was a woman. She was not above
the middle height, and might seem to be less indeed in that house,
because her aunt and her uncle were tall; but she was straight, well
made, and very active. She was strong and liked to use her strength,
and was very keen about all the work of the house. During the five
years of her residence at Granpere she had thoroughly learned the
mysteries of her uncle's trade. She knew good wine from bad by the
perfume; she knew whether bread was the full weight by the touch; with
a glance of her eye she could tell whether the cheese and butter were
what they ought to be; in a matter of poultry no woman in all the
commune could take her in; she was great in judging eggs; knew well
the quality of linen; and was even able to calculate how long the hay
should last, and what should be the consumption of corn in the
stables. Michel Voss was well aware before Marie had been a year
beneath his roof that she well earned the morsel she ate and the drop
she drank; and when she had been there five years he was ready to
swear that she was the cleverest girl in Lorraine or Alsace. And she
was very pretty, with rich brown hair that would not allow itself to
be brushed out of its crisp half-curls in front, and which she always
wore cut short behind, curling round her straight, well-formed neck.
Her eyes were gray, with a strong shade indeed of green, but were
very bright and pleasant, full of intelligence, telling stories by
their glances of her whole inward disposition, of her activity,
quickness, and desire to have a hand in everything that was being
done. Her father Jean Bromar had come from the same stock with Michel
Voss, and she, too, had something of that aquiline nose which gave to
the innkeeper and his son the look which made men dislike to
contradict them. Her mouth was large, but her teeth were very white
and perfect, and her smile was the sweetest thing that ever was seen.
Marie Bromar was a pretty girl, and George Voss, had he lived so near
to her and not have fallen in love with her, must have been cold
At the end of these five years Marie had become a woman, and was
known by all around her to be a woman much stronger, both in person
and in purpose, than her aunt; but she maintained, almost
unconsciously, many of the ways in the house which she had assumed
when she first entered it. Then she had always been on foot, to be
everybody's messenger,—and so she was now. When her uncle and aunt
were at their meals she was always up and about,—attending them,
attending the public guests, attending the whole house. And it
seemed as though she herself never sat down to eat or drink. Indeed,
it was rare enough to find her seated at all. She would have a cup of
coffee standing up at the little desk near the public window when she
kept her books, or would take a morsel of meat as she helped to remove
the dishes. She would stand sometimes for a minute leaning on the
back of her uncle's chair as he sat at his supper, and would say, when
he bade her to take her chair and eat with them, that she preferred
picking and stealing. In all things she worshipped her uncle,
observing his movements, caring for his wants, and carrying out his
plans. She did not worship her aunt, but she so served Madame Voss
that had she been withdrawn from the household Madame Voss would have
found herself altogether unable to provide for its wants. Thus Marie
Bromar had become the guardian angel of the Lion d'Or at Granpere.
There must be a word or two more said of the difference between
George Voss and his father which had ended in sending George to
Colmar; a word or two about that, and a word also of what occurred
between George and Marie. Then we shall be able to commence our
story without farther reference to things past. As Michel Voss was a
just, affectionate, and intelligent man, he would not probably have
objected to a marriage between the two young people, had the
proposition for such a marriage been first submitted to him, with a
proper amount of attention to his judgment and controlling power. But
the idea was introduced to him in a manner which taught him to think
that there was to be a clandestine love affair. To him George was
still a boy, and Marie not much more than a child, and—without much
thinking—he felt that the thing was improper.
'I won't have it, George,' he had said.
'Won't have what, father?'
'Never mind. You know. If you can't get over it in any other way,
you had better go away. You must do something for yourself before
you can think of marrying.'
'I am not thinking of marrying.'
'Then what were you thinking of when I saw you with Marie? I won't
have it for her sake, and I won't have it for mine, and I won't have
it for your own. You had better go away for a while.'
'I'll go away to-morrow if you wish it, father.' Michel had turned
away, not saying another word; and on the following day George did go
away, hardly waiting an hour to set in order his part of his father's
business. For it must be known that George had not been an idler in
his father's establishment. There was a trade of wood- cutting upon
the mountain-side, with a saw-mill turned by water beneath, over which
George had presided almost since he had left the school of the
commune. When his father told him that he was bound to do something
before he got married, he could not have intended to accuse him of
having been hitherto idle. Of the wood-cutting and the saw-mill
George knew as much as Marie did of the poultry and the linen. Michel
was wrong, probably, in his attempt to separate them. The house was
large enough, or if not, there was still room for another house to be
built in Granpere. They would have done well as man and wife. But
then the head of a household naturally objects to seeing the boys and
girls belonging to him making love under his nose without any
reference to his opinion. 'Things were not made so easy for me,' he
says to himself, and feels it to be a sort of duty to take care that
the course of love shall not run altogether smooth. George, no doubt,
was too abrupt with his father; or perhaps it might be the case that
he was not sorry to take an opportunity of leaving for a while
Granpere and Marie Bromar. It might be well to see the world; and
though Marie Bromar was bright and pretty, it might be that there were
others abroad brighter and prettier.
His father had spoken to him on one fine September afternoon, and
within an hour George was with the men who were stripping bark from
the great pine logs up on the side of the mountain. With them, and
with two or three others who were engaged at the saw-mills, he
remained till the night was dark. Then he came down and told
something of his intentions to his stepmother. He was going to
Colmar on the morrow with a horse and small cart, and would take with
him what clothes he had ready. He did not speak to Marie that night,
but he said something to his father about the timber and the mill.
Gaspar Muntz, the head woodsman, knew, he said, all about the
business. Gaspar could carry on the work till it would suit Michel
Voss himself to see how things were going on. Michel Voss was sore
and angry, but he said nothing. He sent to his son a couple of
hundred francs by his wife, but said no word of explanation even to
her. On the following morning George was off without seeing his
But Marie was up to give him his breakfast. 'What is the meaning
of this, George?' she said.
'Father says that I shall be better away from this,—so I'm going
'And why will you be better away?' To this George made no answer.
'It will be terrible if you quarrel with your father. Nothing can be
so bad as that.'
'We have not quarrelled. That is to say, I have not quarrelled
with him. If he quarrels with me, I cannot help it.'
'It must be helped,' said Marie, as she placed before him a mess of
eggs which she had cooked for him with her own hands. 'I would
sooner die than see anything wrong between you two.' Then there was
a pause. 'Is it about me, George?' she asked boldly.
'Father thinks that I love you: —so I do.'
Marie paused for a few minutes before she said anything farther.
She was standing very near to George, who was eating his breakfast
heartily in spite of the interesting nature of the conversation. As
she filled his cup a second time, she spoke again. 'I will never do
anything, George, if I can help it, to displease my uncle.'
'But why should it displease him? He wants to have his own way in
'Of course he does.'
'He has told me to go;—and I'll go. I've worked for him as no
other man would work, and have never said a word about a share in the
business;—and never would.'
'Is it not all for yourself, George?'
'And why shouldn't you and I be married if we like it?'
'I will never like it,' said she solemnly, 'if uncle dislikes it.'
'Very well,' said George. 'There is the horse ready, and now I'm
So he went, starting just as the day was dawning, and no one saw
him on that morning except Marie Bromar. As soon as he was gone she
went up to her little room, and sat herself down on her bedside. She
knew that she loved him, and had been told that she was beloved. She
knew that she could not lose him without suffering terribly; but now
she almost feared that it would be necessary that she should lose him.
His manner had not been tender to her. He had indeed said that he
loved her, but there had been nothing of the tenderness of love in his
mode of saying so;—and then he had said no word of persistency in the
teeth of his father's objection. She had declared—thoroughly
purposing that her declaration should be true— that she would never
become his wife in opposition to her uncle's wishes; but he, had he
been in earnest, might have said something of his readiness to attempt
at least to overcome his father's objection. But he had said not a
word, and Marie, as she sat upon her bed, made up her mind that it
must be all over. But she made up her mind also that she would
entertain no feeling of anger against her uncle. She owed him
everything, so she thought—making no account, as George had done, of
labour given in return. She was only a girl, and what was her labour?
For a while she resolved that she would give a spoken assurance to
her uncle that he need fear nothing from her. It was natural enough
to her that her uncle should desire a better marriage for his son.
But after a while she reflected that any speech from her on such a
subject would be difficult, and that it would be better that she
should hold her tongue. So she held her tongue, and thought of
George, and suffered;—but still was merry, at least in manner, when
her uncle spoke to her, and priced the poultry, and counted the linen,
and made out the visitors' bills, as though nothing evil had come upon
her. She was a gallant girl, and Michel Voss, though he could not
speak of it, understood her gallantry and made notes of it on the
note-book of his heart.
In the mean time George Voss was thriving at Colmar,—as the Vosses
did thrive wherever they settled themselves. But he sent no word to
his father,—nor did his father send word to him,—though they were
not more than ten leagues apart. Once Madame Voss went over to see
him, and brought back word of his well-doing.
Exactly at eight o'clock every evening a loud bell was sounded in
the hotel of the Lion d'Or at Granpere, and all within the house sat
down together to supper. The supper was spread on a long table in
the saloon up-stairs, and the room was lighted with camphine lamps,-
-for as yet gas had not found its way to Granpere. At this meal
assembled not only the guests in the house and the members of the
family of the landlord,—but also many persons living in the village
whom it suited to take, at a certain price per month, the chief meal
of the day, at the house of the innkeeper, instead of eating in their
own houses a more costly, a less dainty, and probably a lonely supper.
Therefore when the bell was heard there came together some dozen
residents of Granpere, mostly young men engaged in the linen trade,
from their different lodgings, and each took his accustomed seat down
the sides of the long board, at which, tied in a knot, was placed his
own napkin. At the top of the table was the place of Madame Voss,
which she never failed to fill exactly three minutes after the bell
had been rung. At her right hand was the chair of the master of the
house,—never occupied by any one else;—but it would often happen
that some business would keep him away. Since George had left him he
had taken the timber into his own hands, and was accustomed to think
and sometimes to say that the necessity was cruel on him. Below his
chair and on the other side of Madame Voss there would generally be
two or three places kept for guests who might be specially looked upon
as the intimate friends of the mistress of the house; and at the
farther end of the table, close to the window, was the space allotted
to travellers. Here the napkins were not tied in knots, but were
always clean. And, though the little plates of radishes, cakes, and
dried fruits were continued from one of the tables to the other, the
long-necked thin bottles of common wine came to an end before they
reached the strangers' portion of the board; for it had been found
that strangers would take at that hour either tea or a better kind of
wine than that which Michel Voss gave to his accustomed guests without
any special charge. When, however, the stranger should please to take
the common wine, he was by no means thereby prejudiced in the eyes of
Madame Voss or her husband. Michel Voss liked a profit, but he liked
the habits of his country almost as well.
One evening in September, about twelve months after the departure
of George, Madame Voss took her seat at the table, and the young men
of the place who had been waiting round the door of the hotel for a
few minutes, followed her into the room. And there was M. Goudin, the
Cure, with another young clergyman, his friend. On Sundays the Cure
always dined at the hotel at half-past twelve o'clock, as the friend
of the family; but for his supper he paid, as did the other guests. I
rather fancy that on week days he had no particular dinner; and indeed
there was no such formal meal given in the house of Michel Voss on
week days. There was something put on the table about noon in the
little room between the kitchen and the public window; but except on
Sundays it could hardly be called a dinner. On Sundays a real dinner
was served in the room up-stairs, with soup, and removes, and entrees
and the roti, all in the right place,—which showed that they knew
what a dinner was at the Lion d'Or;—but, throughout the week, supper
was the meal of the day. After M. Goudin, on this occasion, there
came two maiden ladies from Epinal who were lodging at Granpere for
change of air. They seated themselves near to Madame Voss, but still
leaving a place or two vacant. And presently at the bottom of the
table there came an Englishman and his wife, who were travelling
through the country; and so the table was made up. A lad of about
fifteen, who was known in Granpere as the waiter at the Lion d'Or,
looked after the two strangers and the young men, and Marie Bromar,
who herself had arranged the board, stood at the top of the room, by a
second table, and dispensed the soup. It was pleasant to watch her
eyes, as she marked the moment when the dispensing should begin, and
counted her guests, thoughtful as to the sufficiency of the dishes to
come; and noticed that Edmond Greisse had sat down with such dirty
hands that she must bid her uncle to warn the lad; and observed that
the more elderly of the two ladies from Epinal had bread too hard to
suit her,—which should be changed as soon as the soup had been
dispensed. She looked round, and even while dispensing saw
everything. It was suggested in the last chapter that another house
might have been built in Granpere, and that George Voss might have
gone there, taking Marie as his bride; but the Lion d'Or would sorely
have missed those quick and careful eyes.
Then, when that dispensing of the soup was concluded, Michel
entered the room bringing with him a young man. The young man had
evidently been expected; for, when he took the place close at the left
hand of Madame Voss, she simply bowed to him, saying some word of
courtesy as Michel took his place on the other side. Then Marie
dispensed two more portions of soup, and leaving one on the farther
table for the boy to serve, though she could well have brought the
two, waited herself upon her uncle. 'And is Urmand to have no soup?'
said Michel Voss, as he took his niece lovingly by the hand.
'Peter is bringing it,' said Marie. And in a moment or two Peter
the waiter did bring the young man his soup.
'And will not Mademoiselle Marie sit down with us?' said the young
'If you can make her, you have more influence than I,' said Michel.
'Marie never sits, and never eats, and never drinks.' She was
standing now close behind her uncle with both her hands upon his
head; and she would often stand so after the supper was commenced,
only moving to attend upon him, or to supplement the services of
Peter and the maid-servant when she perceived that they were becoming
for a time inadequate to their duties. She answered her uncle now by
gently pulling his ears, but she said nothing.
'Sit down with us, Marie, to oblige me,' said Madame Voss.
'I had rather not, aunt. It is foolish to sit at supper and not
eat. I have taken my supper already.' Then she moved away, and
hovered round the two strangers at the end of the room. After supper
Michel Voss and the young man—Adrian Urmand by name—lit their cigars
and seated themselves on a bench outside the front door. 'Have you
never said a word to her?' said Michel.
'Well;—a word; yes.'
'But you have not asked her—; you know what I mean;—asked her
whether she could love you.'
'Well,—yes. I have said as much as that, but I have never got an
answer. And when I did ask her, she merely left me. She is not much
given to talking.'
'She will not make the worse wife, my friend, because she is not
much given to such talking as that. When she is out with me on a
Sunday afternoon she has chat enough. By St. James, she'll talk for
two hours without stopping when I'm so out of breath with the hill
that I haven't a word.'
'I don't doubt she can talk.'
'That she can; and manage a house better than any girl I ever saw.
You ask her aunt.'
'I know what her aunt thinks of her. Madame Voss says that neither
you nor she can afford to part with her.'
Michel Voss was silent for a moment. It was dusk, and no one could
see him as he brushed a tear from each eye with the back of his hand.
'I'll tell you what, Urmand,—it will break my heart to lose her. Do
you see how she comes to me and comforts me? But if it broke my
heart, and broke the house too, I would not keep her here. It isn't
fit. If you like her, and she can like you, it will be a good match
for her. You have my leave to ask her. She brought nothing here, but
she has been a good girl, a very good girl, and she will not leave the
Adrian Urmand was a linen-buyer from Basle, and was known to have a
good share in a good business. He was a handsome young man too,
though rather small, and perhaps a little too apt to wear rings on
his fingers and to show jewelry on his shirt-front and about his
waistcoat. So at least said some of the young people of Granpere,
where rings and gold studs are not so common as they are at Basle.
But he was one who understood his business, and did not neglect it;
he had money too; and was therefore such a young man that Michel Voss
felt that he might give his niece to him without danger, if he and she
could manage to like each other sufficiently. As to Urmand's liking,
there was no doubt. Urmand was ready enough.
'I will see if she will speak to me just now,' said Urmand after a
'Shall her aunt try it, or shall I do it?' said Michel.
But Adrian Urmand thought that part of the pleasure of love lay in
the making of it himself. So he declined the innkeeper's offer, at
any rate for the present occasion. 'Perhaps,' said he, 'Madame Voss
will say a word for me after I have spoken for myself.'
'So let it be,' said the landlord. And then they finished their
cigars in silence.
It was in vain that Adrian Urmand tried that night to obtain
audience from Marie. Marie, as though she well knew what was wanted
of her and was determined to thwart her lover, would not allow
herself to be found alone for a moment. When Adrian presented
himself at the window of her little bar, he found that Peter was with
her, and she managed to keep Peter with her till Adrian was gone. And
again, when he hoped to find her alone for a few moments after the
work of the day was over in the small parlour where she was accustomed
to sit for some half hour before she would go up to her room, he was
again disappointed. She was already up-stairs with her aunt and the
children, and all Michel Voss's good nature in keeping out of the way
was of no avail.
But Urmand was determined not to be beaten. He intended to return
to Basle on the next day but one, and desired to put this matter a
little in forwardness before he took his departure. On the following
morning he had various appointments to keep with countrymen and their
wives, who sold linen to him, but he was quick over his business and
managed to get back to the inn early in the afternoon. From six till
eight he well knew that Marie would allow nothing to impede her in the
grand work of preparing for supper; but at four o'clock she would
certainly be sitting somewhere about the house with her needle in her
hand. At four o'clock he found her, not with her needle in her hand,
but, better still, perfectly idle. She was standing at an open window,
looking out upon the garden as he came behind her, standing motionless
with both hands on the sill of the window, thinking deeply of
something that filled her mind. It might be that she was thinking of
'I have done with my customers now, and I shall be off to Basle to-
morrow,' said he, as soon as she had looked round at the sound of his
footsteps and perceived that he was close to her.
'I hope you have bought your goods well, M. Urmand.'
'Ah! for the matter of that the time for buying things well is
clean gone. One used to be able to buy well; but there is not an old
woman now in Alsace who doesn't know as well as I do, or better, what
linen is worth in Berne and Paris. They expect to get nearly as much
for it here at Granpere.'
'They work hard, M. Urmand, and things are dearer than they were.
It is well that they should get a price for their labour.'
'A price, yes: —but how is a man to buy without a profit? They
think that I come here for their sakes,—merely to bring the market
to their doors.' Then he began to remember that he had no special
object in discussing the circumstances of his trade with Marie
Bromar, and that he had a special object in another direction. But
how to turn the subject was now a difficulty.
'I am sure you do not buy without a profit,' said Marie Bromar,
when she found that he was silent. 'And then the poor people, who
have to pay so dear for everything!' She was making a violent attempt
to keep him on the ground of his customers and his purchases.
'There was another thing that I wanted to say to you, Marie,' he
began at last abruptly.
'Another thing,' said Marie, knowing that the hour had come.
'Yes;—another thing. I daresay you know what it is. I need not
tell you now that I love you, need I, Marie? You know as well as I
do what I think of you.'
'No, I don't,' said Marie, not intending to encourage him to tell
her, but simply saying that which came easiest to her at the moment.
'I think this,—that if you will consent to be my wife, I shall be
a very happy man. That is all. Everybody knows how pretty you are,
and how good, and how clever; but I do not think that anybody loves
you better than I do. Can you say that you will love me, Marie? Your
uncle approves of it,—and your aunt.' He had now come quite close to
her, and having placed his hand behind her back, was winding his arm
round her waist.
'I will not have you do that, M. Urmand,' she said, escaping from
'But that is no answer. Can you love me, Marie?'
'No,' she said, hardly whispering the word between her teeth.
'And is that to be all?'
'What more can I say?'
'But your uncle wishes it, and your aunt. Dear Marie, can you not
try to love me?'
'I know they wish it. It is easy enough for a girl to see when
such things are wished or when they are forbidden. Of course I know
that uncle wishes it. And he is very good;—and so are you, I
daresay. And I'm sure I ought to be very proud, because you are so
much above me.'
'I am not a bit above you. If you knew what I think, you wouldn't
'Well, Marie. Think a moment, dearest, before you give me an
answer that shall make me either happy or miserable.'
'I have thought. I would almost burn myself in the fire, if uncle
'And he does wish this.'
'But I cannot do this even because he wishes it.'
'Why not, Marie?'
'I prefer being as I am. I do not wish to leave the hotel, or to
be married at all.'
'Nay, Marie, you will certainly be married some day.'
'No; there is no such certainty. Some girls never get married. I
am of use here, and I am happy here.'
'Ah! it is because you cannot love me.'
'I don't suppose I shall ever love any one, not in that way. I
must go away now, M. Urmand, because I am wanted below.'
She did go, and Adrian Urmand spoke no farther word of love to her
on that occasion.
'I will speak to her about it myself,' said Michel Voss, when he
heard his young friend's story that evening, seated again upon the
bench outside the door, and smoking another cigar.
'It will be of no use,' said Adrian.
'One never knows,' said Michel. 'Young women are queer cattle to
take to market. One can never be quite certain which way they want
to go. After you are off to-morrow, I will have a few words with
her. She does not quite understand as yet that she must make her hay
while the sun shines. Some of 'em are all in a hurry to get married,
and some of 'em again are all for hanging back, when their friends
wish it. It's natural, I believe, that they should be contrary. But
Marie is as good as the best of them, and when I speak to her, she'll
Adrian Urmand had no alternative but to assent to the innkeeper's
proposition. The idea of making love second-hand was not pleasant to
him; but he could not hinder the uncle from speaking his mind to the
niece. One little suggestion he did make before he took his
departure. 'It can't be, I suppose, that there is any one else that
she likes better?' To this Michel Voss made no answer in words, but
shook his head in a fashion that made Adrian feel assured that there
was no danger on that head.
But Michel Voss, though he had shaken his head in a manner so
satisfactory, had feared that there was such danger. He had
considered himself justified in shaking his head, but would not be so
false as to give in words the assurance which Adrian had asked. That
night he discussed the matter with his wife, declaring it as his
purpose that Marie Bromar should marry Adrian Urmand. 'It is
impossible that she should do better,' said Michel.
'It would be very well,' said Madame Voss.
'Very well! Why, he is worth thirty thousand francs, and is as
steady at his business as his father was before him.'
'He is a dandy.'
'Psha! that is nothing!' said Michel.
'And he is too fond of money.'
'It is a fault on the right side,' said Michel. 'His wife and
children will not come to want.'
Madame Voss paused a moment before she made her last and grand
objection to the match. 'It is my belief,' said she, 'that Marie is
always thinking of George.'
'Then she had better cease to think of him,' said Michel; 'for
George is not thinking of her.' He said nothing farther, but
resolved to speak his own mind freely to Marie Bromar.
The old-fashioned inn at Colmar, at which George Voss was acting as
assistant and chief manager to his father's distant cousin, Madame
Faragon, was a house very different in all its belongings from the
Lion d'Or at Granpere. It was very much larger, and had much higher
pretensions. It assumed to itself the character of a first-class
hotel; and when Colmar was without a railway, and was a great
posting-station on the high road from Strasbourg to Lyons, there was
some real business at the Hotel de la Poste in that town. At
present, though Colmar may probably have been benefited by the
railway, the inn has faded, and is in its yellow leaf. Travellers
who desire to see the statue which a grateful city has erected to the
memory of its most illustrious citizen, General Rapp, are not
sufficient in number to keep a first-class hotel in the glories of
fresh paint and smart waiters; and when you have done with General
Rapp, there is not much to interest you in Colmar. But there is the
hotel; and poor fat, unwieldy Madame Faragon, though she grumbles
much, and declares that there is not a sou to be made, still keeps it
up, and bears with as much bravery as she can the buffets of a world
which seems to her to be becoming less prosperous and less comfortable
and more exacting every day. In her younger years, a posting-house in
such a town was a posting-house; and when M. Faragon married her, the
heiress of the then owner of the business, he was supposed to have
done uncommonly well for himself. Madame Faragon is now a childless
widow, and sometimes declares that she will shut the house up and have
done with it. Why maintain a business without a profit, simply that
there may be an Hotel de la Poste at Colmar? But there are old
servants whom she has not the heart to send away; and she has at any
rate a roof of her own over her head; and though she herself is
unconscious that it is so, she has many ties to the old business; and
now, since her young cousin George Voss has been with her, things go a
little better. She is not robbed so much, and the people of the town,
finding that they can get a fair bottle of wine and a good supper,
come to the inn; and at length an omnibus has been established, and
there is a little glimmer of returning prosperity.
It is a large old rambling house, built round an irregularly-shaped
court, with another court behind it; and in both courts the stables
and coach-houses seem to be so mixed with the kitchens and entrances,
that one hardly knows what part of the building is equine and what
part human. Judging from the smell which pervades the lower quarters,
and, alas, also too frequently the upper rooms, one would be inclined
to say that the horses had the best of it. The defect had been
pointed out to Madame Faragon more than once; but that lady, though in
most of the affairs of life her temper is gentle and kindly, cannot
hear with equanimity an insinuation that any portion of her house is
either dirty or unsweet. Complaints have reached her that the beds
were—well, inhabited—but no servant now dares to hint at anything
wrong in this particular. If this traveller or that says a word to
her personally in complaint, she looks as sour as death, and declines
to open her mouth in reply; but when that traveller's back is turned,
the things that Madame Faragon can say about the upstart coxcombry of
the wretch, and as to the want of all real comforts which she is sure
prevails in the home quarters of that ill-starred complaining
traveller, are proof to those who hear them that the old landlady has
not as yet lost all her energy. It need not be doubted that she
herself religiously believes that no foul perfume has ever pervaded
the sanctity of her chambers, and that no living thing has ever been
seen inside the sheets of her beds, except those guests whom she has
allocated to the different rooms.
Matters had not gone very easily with George Voss in all the
changes he had made during the last year. Some things he was obliged
to do without consulting Madame Faragon at all. Then she would
discover what was going on, and there would be a 'few words.' At
other times he would consult her, and carry his purpose only after
much perseverance. Twice or thrice he had told her that he must go
away, and then with many groans she had acceded to his propositions.
It had been necessary to expend two thousand francs in establishing
the omnibus, and in that affair the appearance of things had been at
one time quite hopeless. And then when George had declared that the
altered habits of the people required that the hour of the morning
table-d'hote should be changed from noon to one, she had sworn that
she would not give way. She would never lend her assent to such vile
idleness. It was already robbing the business portion of the day of
an hour. She would wrap her colours round her and die upon the ground
sooner than yield. 'Then they won't come,' said George, 'and it's no
use you having the table then. They will all go to the Hotel de
l'Imperatrice.' This was a new house, the very mention of which was a
dagger-thrust into the bosom of Madame Faragon. 'Then they will be
poisoned,' she said. 'And let them! It is what they are fit for.'
But the change was made, and for the first three days she would not
come out of her room. When the bell was rung at the obnoxious hour,
she stopped her ears with her two hands.
But though there had been these contests, Madame Faragon had made
more than one effort to induce George Voss to become her partner and
successor in the house. If he would only bring in a small sum of
money—a sum which must be easily within his father's reach—he
should have half the business now, and all of it when Madame Faragon
had gone to her rest. Or if he would prefer to give Madame Faragon a
pension—a moderate pension—she would give up the house at once. At
these tender moments she used to say that he probably would not
begrudge her a room in which to die. But George Voss would always
say that he had no money, that he could not ask his father for money,
and that he had not made up his mind to settle at Colmar. Madame
Faragon, who was naturally much interested in the matter, and was
moreover not without curiosity, could never quite learn how matters
stood at Granpere. A word or two she had heard in a circuitous way of
Marie Bromar, but from George himself she could never learn anything
of his affairs at home. She had asked him once or twice whether it
would not be well that he should marry, but he had always replied that
he did not think of such a thing—at any rate as yet. He was a steady
young man, given more to work than to play, and apparently not
inclined to amuse himself with the girls of the neighbourhood.
One day Edmond Greisse was over at Colmar—Edmond Greisse, the lad
whose untidy appearance at the supper-table at the Lion d'Or had
called down the rebuke of Marie Bromar. He had been sent over on
some business by his employer, and had come to get his supper and bed
at Madame Faragon's hotel. He was a modest, unassuming lad, and had
been hardly more than a boy when George Voss had left Granpere. From
time to time George had seen some friend from the village, and had
thus heard tidings from home. Once, as has been said, Madame Voss had
made a pilgrimage to Madame Faragon's establishment to visit him; but
letters between the houses had not been frequent. Though postage in
France—or shall we say Germany?—is now almost as low as in England,
these people of Alsace have not yet fallen into the way of writing to
each other when it occurs to any of them that a word may be said.
Young Greisse had seen the landlady, who now never went upstairs
among her guests, and had had his chamber allotted to him, and was
seated at the supper-table, before he met George Voss. It was from
Madame Faragon that George heard of his arrival.
'There is a neighbour of yours from Granpere in the house,' said
'From Granpere? And who is he?'
'I forget the lad's name; but he says that your father is well, and
Madame Voss. He goes back early to-morrow with the roulage and some
goods that his people have bought. I think he is at supper now.'
The place of honour at the top of the table at the Colmar inn was
not in these days assumed by Madame Faragon. She had, alas, become
too stout to do so with either grace or comfort, and always took her
meals, as she always lived, in the little room downstairs, from which
she could see, through the apertures of two doors, all who came in and
all who went out by the chief entrance of the hotel. Nor had George
usurped the place. It had now happened at Colmar, as it has come to
pass at most hotels, that the public table is no longer the
table-d'hote. The end chair was occupied by a stout, dark man, with a
bald head and black beard, who was proudly filling a place different
from that of his neighbours, and who would probably have gone over to
the Hotel de l'Imperatrice had anybody disturbed him. On the present
occasion George seated himself next to the lad, and they were soon
discussing all the news from Granpere.
'And how is Marie Bromar?' George asked at last.
'You have heard about her, of course,' said Edmond Greisse.
'She is going to be married.'
'Minnie Bromar to be married? And to whom?'
Edmond at once understood that his news was regarded as being
important, and made the most of it.
'O dear, yes. It was settled last week when he was there.'
'But who is he?'
'Adrian Urmand, the linen-buyer from Basle.'
'Marie to be married to Adrian Urmand?'
Urmand's journeys to Granpere had been commenced before George Voss
had left the place, and therefore the two young men had known each
'They say he's very rich,' said Edmond.
'I thought he cared for nobody but himself. And are you sure? Who
'I am quite sure; but I do not know who told me. They are all
talking about it.'
'Did my father ever tell you?'
'No, he never told me.'
'Or Marie herself?'
'No, she did not tell me. Girls never tell those sort of things of
'Nor Madame Voss?' asked George.
'She never talks much about anything. But you may be sure it's
true. I'll tell you who told me first, and he is sure to know,
because he lives in the house. It was Peter Veque.'
'Peter Veque, indeed! And who do you think would tell him?'
'But isn't it quite likely? She has grown to be such a beauty!
Everybody gives it to her that she is the prettiest girl round
Granpere. And why shouldn't he marry her? If I had a lot of money,
I'd only look to get the prettiest girl I could find anywhere.'
After this, George said nothing farther to the young man as to the
marriage. If it was talked about as Edmond said, it was probably
true. And why should it not be true? Even though it were true, no
one would have cared to tell him. She might have been married twice
over, and no one in Granpere would have sent him word. So he
declared to himself. And yet Marie Bromar had once sworn to him that
she loved him, and would be his for ever and ever; and, though he had
left her in dudgeon, with black looks, without a kind word of
farewell, yet he had believed her. Through all his sojourn at Colmar
he had told himself that she would be true to him. He believed it,
though he was hardly sure of himself—had hardly resolved that he
would ever go back to Granpere to seek her. His father had turned him
out of the house, and Marie had told him as he went that she would
never marry him if her uncle disapproved it. Slight as her word had
been on that morning of his departure, it had rankled in his bosom,
and made him angry with her through a whole twelvemonth. And yet he
had believed that she would be true to him!
He went out in the evening when it was dusk and walked round and
round the public garden of Colmar, thinking of the news which he had
heard—the public garden, in which stands the statue of General Rapp.
It was a terrible blow to him. Though he had remained a whole year
in Colmar without seeing Marie, or hearing of her, without hardly ever
having had her name upon his lips, without even having once assured
himself during the whole time that the happiness of his life would
depend on the girl's constancy to him,—now that he heard that she was
to be married to another man, he was torn to pieces by anger and
regret. He had sworn to love her, and had never even spoken a word of
tenderness to another girl. She had given him her plighted troth, and
now she was prepared to break it with the first man who asked her! As
he thought of this, his brow became black with anger. But his regrets
were as violent. What a fool he had been to leave her there, open to
persuasion from any man who came in the way, open to persuasion from
his father, who would, of course, be his enemy. How, indeed, could he
expect that she should be true to him? The year had been long enough
to him, but it must have been doubly long to her. He had expected
that his father would send for him, would write to him, would at least
transmit to him some word that would make him know that his presence
was again desired at Granpere. But his father had been as proud as he
was, and had not sent any such message. Or rather, perhaps, the
father being older and less impatient, had thought that a temporary
absence from Granpere might be good for his son.
It was late at night when George Voss went to bed, but he was up in
the morning early to see Edmond Greisse before the roulage should
start for Munster on its road to Granpere. Early times in that part
of the world are very early, and the roulage was ready in the back
court of the inn at half-past four in the morning.
'What? you up at this hour?' said Edmond.
'Why not? It is not every day we have a friend here from Granpere,
so I thought I would see you off.'
'That is kind of you.'
'Give my love to them at the old house, Edmond.'
'Of course I will.'
'To father, and Madame Voss, and the children, and to Marie.'
'Tell Marie that you have told me of her marriage.'
'I don't know whether she'll like to talk about that to me.'
'Never mind; you tell her. She won't bite you. Tell her also that
I shall be over at Granpere soon to see her and the rest of them.
I'll be over—as soon as ever I can get away.'
'Shall I tell your father that?'
'No. Tell Marie, and let her tell my father.'
'And when will you come? We shall all be so glad to see you.'
'Never you mind that. You just give my message. Come in for a
moment to the kitchen. There's a cup of coffee for you and a slice
of ham. We are not going to let an old friend like you go away
without breaking his fast.'
As Greisse had already paid his modest bill, amounting altogether
to little more than three francs, this was kind of the young landlord,
and while he was eating his bread and ham he promised faithfully that
he would give the message just as George had given it to him.
It was on the third day after the departure of Edmond Greisse that
George told Madame Faragon that he was going home.
'Going where, George?' said Madame Faragon, leaning forward on the
table before her, and looking like a picture of despair.
'To Granpere, Madame Faragon.'
'To Granpere! and why? and when? and how? O dear! Why did you not
tell me before, child?'
'I told you as soon as I knew.'
'But you are not going yet?'
'O dear! So soon as that! Lord bless me! We can't do anything
before Monday. And when will you be back?'
'I cannot say with certainty. I shall not be long, I daresay.'
'And have they sent for you?'
'No, they have not sent for me, but I want to see them once again.
And I must make up my mind what to do for the future.'
'Don't leave me, George; pray do not leave me!' exclaimed Madame
Faragon. 'You shall have the business now if you choose to take it-
-only pray don't leave me!'
George explained that at any rate he would not desert her now at
once; and on the Monday named he started for Granpere. He had not
been very quick in his action, for a week had passed since he had
given Edmond Greisse his breakfast in the hotel kitchen.
Adrian Urmand had been three days gone from Granpere before Michel
Voss found a fitting opportunity for talking to his niece. It was
not a matter, as he thought, in which there was need for any great
hurry, but there was need for much consideration. Once again he
spoke on the subject to his wife.
'If she's thinking about George, she has kept it very much to
herself,' he remarked.
'Girls do keep it to themselves,' said Madame Voss.
'I'm not so sure of that. They generally show it somehow. Marie
never looks lovelorn. I don't believe a bit of it; and as for him,
all the time he has been away he has never so much as sent a word of
a message to one of us.'
'He sent his love to you, when I saw him, quite dutifully,' said
'Why don't he come and see us if he cares for us? It isn't of him
that Marie is thinking.'
'It isn't of anybody else then,' said Madame Voss. 'I never see
her speak a word to any of the young men, nor one of them ever
speaking a word to her.'
Pondering over all this, Michel Voss resolved that he would have it
all out with his niece on the following Sunday.
On the Sunday he engaged Marie to start with him after dinner to
the place on the hillside where they were cutting wood. It was a
beautiful autumn afternoon, in that pleasantest of all months in the
year, when the sun is not too hot, and the air is fresh and balmy,
and one is still able to linger abroad, loitering either in or out of
the shade, when the midges cease to bite, and the sun no longer
scorches and glares; but the sweet vestiges of summer remain, and
everything without doors is pleasant and friendly, and there is the
gentle unrecognised regret for the departing year, the unconscious
feeling that its glory is going from us, to add the inner charm of a
soft melancholy to the outer luxury of the atmosphere. I doubt
whether Michel Voss had ever realised the fact that September is the
kindliest of all the months, but he felt it, and enjoyed the leisure
of his Sunday afternoon when he could get his niece to take a stretch
with him on the mountain-side. On these occasions Madame Voss was
left at home with M. le Cure, who liked to linger over his little cup
of coffee. Madame Voss, indeed, seldom cared to walk very far from
the door of her own house; and on Sundays to go to the church and back
again was certainly sufficient exercise.
Michel Voss said no word about Adrian Urmand as they were ascending
the hill. He was too wise for that. He could not have given effect
to his experience with sufficient eloquence had he attempted the task
while the burden of the rising ground was upon his lungs and chest.
They turned into a saw-mill as they went up, and counted the
scantlings of timber that had been cut; and Michel looked at the
cradle to see that it worked well, and to the wheels to see that they
were in good order, and observed that the channel for the water
required repairs, and said a word as to the injury that had come to
him because George had left him. 'Perhaps he may come back soon,'
said Marie. To this he made no answer, but continued his path up the
mountain-side. 'There will be plenty of feed for the cows this
autumn,' said Marie Bromar. 'That is a great comfort.'
'Plenty,' said Michel; 'plenty.' But Marie knew from the tone of
his voice that he was not thinking about the grass, and so she held
her peace. But the want or plenty of the pasture was generally a
subject of the greatest interest to the people of Granpere at that
special time of the year, and one on which Michel Voss was ever ready
to speak. Marie therefore knew that there was something on her
uncle's mind. Nevertheless he inspected the timber that was cut, and
made some remarks about the work of the men. They were not so careful
in barking the logs as they used to be, and upon the whole he thought
that the wood itself was of a worse quality. What is there that we do
not find to be deteriorating around us when we consider the things in
detail, though we are willing enough to admit a general improvement?
'Yes,' said he, in answer to some remarks from Marie, 'we must take
it, no doubt, as God gives it to us, but we need not spoil it in the
handling. Sit down, my dear; I want to speak to you for a few
minutes.' Then they sat down together on a large prostrate pine,
which was being prepared to be sent down to the saw-mill. 'My dear,'
said he, 'I want to speak to you about Adrian Urmand.' She blushed
and trembled as she placed herself beside him; but he hardly noticed
it. He was not quite at his ease himself, and was a little afraid of
the task he had undertaken. 'Adrian tells me that he asked you to take
him as your lover, and that you refused.'
'Yes, Uncle Michel.'
'But why, my dear? How are you to do better? Perhaps I, or your
aunt, should have spoken to you first, and told you that we thought
well of the match.'
'It wasn't that, uncle. I knew you thought well of it; or, at
least, I believed that you did.'
'And what is your objection, Marie?'
'I don't object to M. Urmand, uncle;—at least, not particularly.'
'But he says you do object. You would not accept him when he
'No; I did not accept him.'
'But you will, my dear,—if he comes again?'
'And why not? Is he not a good young man?'
'O, yes,—that is, I daresay.'
'And he has a good business. I do not know what more you could
'I expect nothing, uncle,—except not to go away from you.'
'Ah,—but you must go away from me. I should be very wrong, and so
would your aunt, to let you remain here till you lose your good
looks, and become an old woman on our hands. You are a pretty girl,
Marie, and fit to be any man's wife, and you ought to take a husband.
I am quite in earnest now, my dear; and I speak altogether for your
'I know you are in earnest, and I know that you speak for my
'Well;—well;—what then? Of course, it is only reasonable that
you should be married some day. Here is a young man in a better way
of business than any man, old or young, that comes into Granpere. He
has a house in Basle, and money to put in it whatever you want. And
for the matter of that, Marie, my niece shall not go away from me
She drew herself closer to him and took hold of his arm and pressed
it, and looked up into his face.
'I brought nothing with me,' she said, 'and I want to take nothing
'Is that it?' he said, speaking rapidly. 'Let me tell you then, my
girl, that you shall have nothing but your earnings,—your fair
earnings. Don't you take trouble about that. Urmand and I will
settle that between us, and I will go bail there shall be no
unpleasant words. As I said before, my girl sha'n't leave my house
empty-handed; but, Lord bless you, he would only be too happy to take
you in your petticoat, just as you are. I never saw a fellow more in
love with a girl. Come, Marie, you need not mind saying the word to
me, though you could not bring yourself to say it to him.'
'I can't say that word, uncle, either to you or to him.'
'And why the devil not?' said Michel Voss, who was beginning to be
tired of being eloquent.
'I would rather stay at home with you and my aunt.'
'Some girls stay at home always. All girls do not get married. I
don't want to be taken to Basle.'
'This is all nonsense,' said Michel, getting up. 'If you're a good
girl, you will do as you are told.'
'It would not be good to be married to a man if I do not love him.'
'But why shouldn't you love him? He's just the man that all the
girls always love. Why don't you love him?'
As Michel Voss asked this last question, there was a tone of anger
in his voice. He had allowed his niece considerable liberty, and now
she was unreasonable. Marie, who, in spite of her devotion to her
uncle, was beginning to think that she was ill-used by this tone, made
no reply. 'I hope you haven't been falling in love with any one
else,' continued Michel.
'No,' said Marie, in a low whisper.
'I do hope you're not still thinking of George, who has left us
without casting a thought upon you. I do hope that you are not such
a fool as that.' Marie sat perfectly silent, not moving; but there
was a frown on her brow and a look of sorrow mixed with anger on her
face. But Michel Voss did not see her face. He looked straight
before him as he spoke, and was flinging chips of wood to a distance
in his energy. 'If it's that, Marie, I tell you you had better get
quit of it at once. It can come to no good. Here is an excellent
husband for you. Be a good girl, and say that you will accept him.'
'I should not be a good girl to accept a man whom I do not love.'
'Is it any thought about George that makes you say so, child?'
Michel paused a moment for an answer. 'Tell me,' he continued, with
almost angry energy, 'is it because of George that you refuse
yourself to this young man?'
Marie paused again for a moment, and then she replied, 'No, it is
'It is not?'
'Then why will you not marry Adrian Urmand?'
'Because I do not care for him. Why won't you let me remain with
She was very close to him now, and leaning against him; and her
throat was half choked with sobs, and her eyes were full of tears.
Michel Voss was a soft-hearted man, and inclined to be very soft of
heart where Marie Bromar was concerned. On the other hand he was
thoroughly convinced that it would be for his niece's benefit that
she should marry this young trader; and he thought also that it was
his duty as her uncle and guardian to be round with her, and make her
understand, that as her friends wished it, and as the young trader
himself wished it, it was her duty to do as she was desired. Another
uncle and guardian in his place would hardly have consulted the girl
at all. Between his desire to have his own way and reduce her to
obedience, and the temptation to put his arm round her waist and kiss
away her tears, he was uneasy and vacillating. She gently put her
hand within his arm, and pressed it very close.
'Won't you let me remain with you, uncle? I love you and Aunt
Josey' (Madame Voss was named Josephine, and was generally called
Aunt Josey) 'and the children. I could not go away from the
children. And I like the house. I am sure I am of use in the
'Of course you are of use in the house. It is not that.'
'Why, then, should you want to send me away?'
'What nonsense you talk, Marie! Don't you know that a young woman
like you ought to be married some day—that is if she can get a
fitting man to take her? What would the neighbours say of me if we
kept you at home to drudge for us, instead of settling you out in the
world properly? You forget, Marie, that I have a duty to perform, and
you should not make it so difficult.'
'But if I don't want to be settled?' said Marie. 'Who cares for
the neighbours? If you and I understand each other, is not that
'I care for the neighbours,' said Michel Voss with energy.
'And must I marry a man I don't care a bit for, because of the
neighbours, Uncle Michel?' asked Marie, with something approaching to
indignation in her voice.
Michel Voss perceived that it was of no use for him to carry on the
argument. He entertained a half-formed idea that he did not quite
understand the objections so strongly urged by his niece; that there
was something on her mind that she would not tell him, and that there
might be cruelty in urging the matter upon her; but, in opposition to
this, there was his assured conviction that it was his duty to provide
well and comfortably for his niece, and that it was her duty to obey
him in acceding to such provision as he might make. And then this
marriage was undoubtedly a good marriage—a match that would make all
the world declare how well Michel Voss had done for the girl whom he
had taken under his protection. It was a marriage that he could not
bear to see go out of the family. It was not probable that the young
linen-merchant, who was so well to do in the world, and who, no doubt,
might have his choice in larger places than Granpere—it was not
probable, Michel thought, that he would put up with many refusals.
The girl would lose her chance, unless he, by his firmness, could
drive this folly out of her. And yet how could he be firm, when he
was tempted to throw his great arms about her, and swear that she
should eat of his bread and drink of his cup, and be unto him as a
daughter, till the last day of their joint existence. When she crept
so close to him and pressed his arm, he was almost overcome by the
sweetness of her love and by the tenderness of his own heart.
'It seems to me that you don't understand,' he said at last. 'I
didn't think that such a girl as you would be so silly.'
To this she made no reply; and then they began to walk down the
They had walked half way home, he stepping a little in advance,—
because he was still angry with her, or angry rather with himself in
that he could not bring himself to scold her properly,—and she
following close behind his shoulder, when he stopped suddenly and
asked her a question which came from the direction his thoughts were
taking at the moment. 'You are sure,' he said, 'that you are not
doing this because you expect George to come back to you?'
'Quite sure,' she said, bearing forward a moment, and answering him
in a whisper when she spoke.
'By my word, then, I can't understand it. I can't indeed. Has
Urmand done anything to offend you?'
'Nor said anything?'
'Not a word; uncle. I am not offended. Of course I am much
obliged to him. Only I don't love him.'
'By my faith I don't understand it. I don't indeed. It is sheer
nonsense, and you must get over it. I shouldn't be doing my duty if
I didn't tell you that you must get over it. He will be here again
in another ten days, and you must have thought better of it by that
time. You must indeed, Marie.'
Then they walked down the hill in silence together, each thinking
intently on the purpose of the other, but each altogether
misunderstanding the other. Michel Voss was assured—as she had
twice implied as much—that she was altogether indifferent to his son
George. What he might have said or done had she declared her
affection for her absent lover, he did not himself know. He had not
questioned himself on that point. Though his wife had told him that
Marie was ever thinking of George, he had not believed that it was
so. He had no reason for disliking a marriage between his son and
his wife's niece. When he had first thought that they were going to
be lovers, under his nose, without his permission,—going to commence
a new kind of life between themselves without so much as a word spoken
to him or by him,—he had found himself compelled to interfere,
compelled as a father and an uncle. That kind of thing could never be
allowed to take place in a well-ordered house without the expressed
sanction of the head of the household. He had interfered,—rather
roughly; and his son had taken him at his word. He was sore now at his
son's coldness to him, and was disposed to believe that his son cared
not at all for any one at Granpere. His niece was almost as dear to
him as his son, and much more dutiful. Therefore he would do the best
he could for his niece. Marie's declaration that George was nothing
to her,—that she did not think of him,—was in accordance with his
own ideas. His wife had been wrong. His wife was usually wrong when
any headwork was required. There could be no good reason why Marie
Bromar should not marry Adrian Urmand.
But Marie, as she knew very well, had never declared that George
Voss was nothing to her,—that he was forgotten, or that her heart
was free. He had gone from her and had forgotten her. She was quite
sure of that. And should she ever hear that he was married to some
one else,—as it was probable that she would hear some day,— then she
would be free again. Then she might take this man or that, if her
friends wished it—and if she could bring herself to endure the
proposed marriage. But at present her troth was plighted to George
Voss; and where her troth was given, there was her heart also. She
could understand that such a circumstance, affecting one of so little
importance as herself, should be nothing to a man like her uncle; but
it was everything to her. George had forgotten her, and she had wept
sorely over his want of constancy. But though telling herself that
this certainly was so, she had declared to herself that she would
never be untrue till her want of truth had been put beyond the reach
of doubt. Who does not know how hope remains, when reason has
declared that there is no longer ground for hoping?
Such had been the state of her mind hitherto; but what would be the
good of entertaining hope, even if there were ground for hoping,
when, as was so evident, her uncle would never permit George and her
to be man and wife? And did she not owe everything to her uncle? And
was it not the duty of a girl to obey her guardian? Would not all the
world be against her if she refused this man? Her mind was tormented
by a thousand doubts, when her uncle said another word to her, just as
they were entering the village.
'You will try and think better of it;—will you not, my dear?' She
was silent. 'Come, Marie, you can say that you will try. Will you
'Yes, uncle,—I will try.'
Michel Voss went home in a good humour, for he felt that he had
triumphed; and poor Marie returned broken-hearted, for she was aware
that she had half-yielded. She knew that her uncle was triumphant.
When Edmond Greisse was back at Granpere he well remembered his
message, but he had some doubt as to the expediency of delivering it.
He had to reflect in the first place whether he was quite sure that
matters were arranged between Marie and Adrian Urmand. The story had
been told to him as being certainly true by Peter the waiter. And he
had discussed the matter with other young men, his associates in the
place, among all of whom it was believed that Urmand was certainly
about to carry away the young woman with whom they were all more or
less in love. But when, on his return to Granpere, he had asked a few
more questions, and had found that even Peter was now in doubt on a
point as to which he had before been so sure, he began to think that
there would be some difficulty in giving his message. He was not
without some little fear of Marie, and hesitated to tell her that he
had spread the report about her marriage. So he contented himself
with simply announcing to her that George Voss intended to visit his
'Does my uncle know?' Marie asked.
'No;—you are to tell him,' said Greisse.
'I am to tell him! Why should I tell him? You can tell him.'
'But George said that I was to let you know, and that you would
tell your uncle.' This was quite unintelligible to Marie; but it was
clear to her that she could make no such announcement, after the
conversation which she had had with her uncle. It was quite out of
the question that she should be the first to announce George's
return, when she had been twice warned on that Sunday afternoon not
to think of him. 'You had better let my uncle know yourself,' she
said, as she walked away. But young Greisse, knowing that he was
already in trouble, and feeling that he might very probably make it
worse, held his peace. When therefore one morning George Voss showed
himself at the door of the inn, neither his father nor Madame Voss
But his father was kind to him, and his mother-in-law hovered round
him with demonstrations of love and gratitude, as though much were
due to him for coming back at all. 'But you expected me,' said
'No, indeed,' said his father. 'We did not expect you now any more
than on any other day since you left us.'
'I sent word by Edmond Greisse,' said George. Edmond was
interrogated, and declared that he had forgotten to give the message.
George was too clever to pursue the matter any farther, and when he
first met Marie Bromar, there was not a word said between them beyond
what might have been said between any young persons so related, after
an absence of twelve months. George Voss was very careful to make no
demonstration of affection for a girl who had forgotten him, and who
was now, as he believed, betrothed to another man; and Marie was
determined that certainly no sign of the old love should first be
shown by her. He had come back,—perhaps just in time. He had
returned just at the moment in which something must be decided. She
had felt how much there was in the little word which she had spoken to
her uncle. When a girl says that she will try to reconcile herself to
a man's overtures, she has almost yielded. The word had escaped her
without any such meaning on her part,—had been spoken because she had
feared to continue to contradict her uncle in the full completeness of
a positive refusal. She had regretted it as soon as it had been
spoken, but she could not recall it. She had seen in her uncle's eye
and had heard in the tone of his voice for how much that word had been
taken;—but it had gone forth from her mouth, and she could not now
rob it of its meaning. Adrian Urmand was to be back at Granpere in a
few days—in ten days Michel Voss had said; and there were those ten
days for her in which to resolve what she would do. Now, as though
sent from heaven, George had returned, in this very interval of time.
Might it not be that he would help her out of her difficulty? If he
would only tell her to remain single for his sake, she would certainly
turn her back upon her Swiss lover, let her uncle say what he might.
She would make no engagement with George unless with her uncle's
sanction; but a word, a look of love, would fortify her against that
George, she thought, had come back a man more to be worshipped than
ever, as far as appearance went. What woman could doubt for a moment
between two such men? Adrian Urmand was no doubt a pretty man, with
black hair, of which he was very careful, with white hands, with
bright small dark eyes which were very close together, with a thin
regular nose, a small mouth, and a black moustache, which he was
always pointing with his fingers. It was impossible to deny that he
was good-looking after a fashion; but Marie despised him in her heart.
She was almost bigger than he was, certainly stronger, and had no
aptitude for the city niceness and POINT-DEVICE fastidiousness of such
a lover. George Voss had come back, not taller than when he had left
them, but broader in the shoulders, and more of a man. And then he
had in his eye, and in his beaked nose, and his large mouth, and
well-developed chin, that look of command, which was the peculiar
character of his father's face, and which women, who judge of men by
their feelings rather than their thoughts, always love to see. Marie,
if she would consent to marry Adrian Urmand, might probably have her
own way in the house in everything; whereas it was certain enough that
George Voss, wherever he might be, would desire to have his way. But
yet there needed not a moment, in Marie's estimation, to choose
between the two. George Voss was a real man; whereas Adrian Urmand,
tried by such a comparison, was in her estimation simply a rich trader
in want of a wife.
In a day or two the fatted calf was killed, and all went happily
between George and his father. They walked together up into the
mountains, and looked after the wood-cutting, and discussed the
prospects of the inn at Colmar. Michel was disposed to think that
George had better remain at Colmar, and accept Madame Faragon's
offer. 'If you think that the house is worth anything, I will give
you a few thousand francs to set it in order; and then you had better
agree to allow her so much a year for her life.' He probably felt
himself to be nearly as young a man as his son; and then remember too
that he had other sons coming up, who would be able to carry on the
house at Granpere when he should be past his work. Michel was a
loving, generous-hearted man, and all feeling of anger with his son
was over before they had been together two days. 'You can't do
better, George,' he said. 'You need not always stay away from us for
twelve months, and I might take a turn over the mountain, and get a
lesson as to how you do things at Colmar. If ten thousand francs will
help you, you shall have them. Will that make things go straight with
you?' George Voss thought the sum named would make things go very
straight; but as the reader knows, he had another matter near to his
heart. He thanked his father; but not in the joyous thoroughly
contented tone that Michel had expected. 'Is there anything wrong
about it?' Michel said in that sharp tone which he used when something
had suddenly displeased him.
'There is nothing wrong; nothing wrong at all,' said George slowly.
'The money is much more than I could have expected. Indeed I did not
'What is it then?'
'I was thinking of something else. Tell me, father; is it true
that Marie is going to be married to Adrian Urmand?'
'What makes you ask?'
'I heard a report of it,' said George. 'Is it true?'
The father reflected a moment what answer he should give. It did
not seem to him that George spoke of such a marriage as though the
rumour of it had made him unhappy. The question had been asked
almost with indifference. And then the young man's manner to Marie,
and Marie's manner to him, during the last two days had made him
certain that he had been right in supposing that they had both
forgotten the little tenderness of a year ago. And Michel had
thoroughly made up his mind that it would be well that Marie should
marry Adrian. He believed that he had already vanquished Marie's
scruples. She had promised 'to try and think better of it,' before
George's return; and therefore was he not justified in regarding the
matter as almost settled? 'I think that they will be married,' said
he to his son.
'Then there is something in it?'
'O, yes; there is a great deal in it. Urmand is very eager for it,
and has asked me and her aunt, and we have consented.'
'But has he asked her?'
'Yes; he has done that too,' said Michel.
'And what answer did he get?'
'Well;—I don't know that it would be fair to tell that. Marie is
not a girl likely to jump into a man's arms at the first word. But I
think there is no doubt that they will be betrothed before Sunday
week. He is to be here again on Wednesday.'
'She likes him, then?'
'O, yes; of course she likes him.' Michel Voss had not intended to
say a word that was false. He was anxious to do the best in his
power for both his son and his niece. He thoroughly understood that
it was his duty as a father and a guardian to start them well in the
world, to do all that he could for their prosperity, to feed their
wants with his money, as a pelican feeds her young with blood from
her bosom. Had he known the hearts of each of them, could he have
understood Marie's constancy, or the obstinate silent strength of his
son's disposition, he would have let Adrian Urmand, with his business
and his house at Basle, seek a wife in any other quarter where he
listed, and would have joined together the hands of these two whom he
loved, with a paternal blessing. But he did not understand. He
thought that he saw everything when he saw nothing;- -and now he was
deceiving his son; for it was untrue that Marie had any such 'liking'
for Adrian Urmand as that of which George had spoken.
'It is as good as settled, then?' said George, not showing by any
tone of his voice the anxiety with which the question was asked.
'I think it is as good as settled,' Michel answered. Before they
got back to the inn, George had thanked his father for his liberal
offer, had declared that he would accede to Madame Faragon's
proposition, and had made his father understand that he must return
to Colmar on the next Monday,—two days before that on which Urmand
was expected at Granpere.
The Monday came, and hitherto there had been no word of explanation
between George and Marie. Every one in the house knew that he was
about to return to Colmar, and every one in the house knew that he
had been entirely reconciled to his father. Madame Voss had asked
some question about him and Marie, and had been assured by her
husband that there was nothing in that suspicion. 'I told you from
the beginning,' said he, 'that there was nothing of that sort. I
only wish that George would think of marrying some one, now that he
is to have a large house of his own over his head.'
George had determined a dozen times that he would, and a dozen
times that he would not, speak to Marie about her coming marriage,
changing his mind as often as it was formed. Of what use was it to
speak to her? he would say to himself. Then again he would resolve
that he would scorch her false heart by one withering word before he
went. Chance at last arranged it for him. Before he started he
found himself alone with her for a moment, and it was almost
impossible that he should not say something. Then he did speak.
'They tell me you are going to be married, Marie. I hope you will
be happy and prosperous.'
'Who tells you so?'
'It is true at any rate, I suppose.'
'Not that I know of. If my uncle and aunt choose to dispose of me,
I cannot help it.'
'It is well for girls to be disposed of sometimes. It saves them a
world of trouble.'
'I don't know what you mean by that, George;—whether it is
intended to be ill-natured.'
'No, indeed. Why should I be ill-natured to you? I heartily wish
you to be well and happy. I daresay M. Urmand will make you a good
husband. Good-bye, Marie. I shall be off in a few minutes. Will
you not say farewell to me?'
'We used to be friends, Marie.'
'Yes;—we used to be friends.'
'And I have never forgotten the old days. I will not promise to
come to your marriage, because it would not make either of us happy,
but I shall wish you well. God bless you, Marie.' Then he put his
arm round her and kissed her, as he might have done to a sister,—as
it was natural that he should do to Marie Bromar, regarding her as a
cousin. She did not speak a word more, and then he was gone!
She had been quite unable to tell him the truth. The manner in
which he had first addressed her made it impossible for her to tell
him that she was not engaged to marry Adrian Urmand,—that she was
determined, if possible, to avoid the marriage, and that she had no
love for Adrian Urmand. Had she done so, she would in so doing have
asked him to come back to her. That she should do this was
impossible. And yet as he left her, some suspicion of the truth,
some half-formed idea of the real state of the man's mind in
reference to her, flashed across her own. She seemed to feel that
she was specially unfortunate, but she felt at the same time that
there was no means within her reach of setting things right. And she
was as convinced as ever she had been, that her uncle would never give
his consent to a marriage between her and George Voss. As for George
himself, he left her with an assured conviction that she was the
promised bride of Adrian Urmand.
The world seemed very hard to Marie Bromar when she was left alone.
Though there were many who loved her, of whose real affection she had
no doubt, there was no one to whom she could go for assistance. Her
uncle in this matter was her enemy, and her aunt was completely under
her uncle's guidance. Madame Voss spoke to her often in these days of
the coming of Adrian Urmand, but the manner of her speaking was such
that no comfort could be taken from it. Madame Voss would risk an
opinion as to the room which the young man ought to occupy, and the
manner in which he should be fed and entertained. For it was
thoroughly understood that he was coming on this occasion as a lover
and not as a trader, and that he was coming as the guest of Michel
Voss, and not as a customer to the inn. 'I suppose he can take his
supper like the other people,' Marie said to her aunt. And again,
when the question of wine was mooted, she was almost saucy. 'If he's
thirsty,' she said, 'what did for him last week, will do for him next
week: and if he's not thirsty, he had better leave it alone.' But
girls are always allowed to be saucy about their lovers, and Madame
Voss did not count this for much.
Marie was always thinking of those last words which had been spoken
between her and George, and of the kiss that he had given her. 'We
used to be friends,' he had said, and then he had declared that he
had never forgotten old days. Marie was quick, intelligent, and
ready to perceive at half a glance,—to understand at half a word, as
is the way with clever women. A thrill had gone through her as she
heard the tone of the young man's voice, and she had half told herself
all the truth. He had not quite ceased to think of her. Then he went,
without saying the other one word that would have been needful,
without even looking the truth into her face. He had gone, and had
plainly given her to understand that he acceded to this marriage with
Adrian Urmand. How was she to read it all? Was there more than one
way in which a wounded woman, so sore at heart, could read it? He had
told her that though he loved her still, it did not suit him to
trouble himself with her as a wife; and that he would throw upon her
head the guilt of having been false to their old vows. Though she
loved him better than all the world, she despised him for his
thoughtful treachery. In her eyes it was treachery. He must have
known the truth. What right had he to suppose that she would be false
to him,—he, who had never known her to lie to him? And was it not his
business, as a man, to speak some word, to ask some question, by
which, if he doubted, the truth might be made known to him? She, a
woman, could ask no question. She could speak no word. She could not
renew her assurances to him, till he should have asked her to renew
them. He was either false, or a traitor, or a coward. She was very
angry with him;—so angry that she was almost driven by her anger to
throw herself into Adrian's arms. She was the more angry because she
was full sure that he had not forgotten his old love,—that his heart
was not altogether changed. Had it appeared to her that the sweet
words of former days had vanished from his memory, though they had
clung to hers,—that he had in truth learned to look upon his Granpere
experiences as the simple doings of his boyhood,—her pride would have
been hurt, but she would have been angry with herself rather than with
him. But it had not been so. The respectful silence of his sojourn
in the house had told her that it was not so. The tremor in his voice
as he reminded her that they once had been friends had plainly told
her that it was not so. He had acknowledged that they had been
betrothed, and that the plight between them was still strong; but,
wishing to be quit of it, he had thrown the burden of breaking it
She was very wretched, but she did not go about the house with
downcast eyes or humble looks, or sit idle in a corner with her hands
before her. She was quick and eager in the performance of her work,
speaking sharply to those who came in contact with her. Peter Veque,
her chief minister, had but a poor time of it in these days; and she
spoke an angry word or two to Edmond Greisse. She had, in truth,
spoken no words to Edmond Greisse that were not angry since that
ill-starred communication of which he had only given her the half. To
her aunt she was brusque, and almost ill-mannered.
'What is the matter with you, Marie?' Madame Voss said to her one
morning, when she had been snubbed rather rudely by her niece. Marie
in answer shook her head and shrugged her shoulders. 'If you cannot
put on a better look before M. Urmand comes, I think he will hardly
hold to his bargain,' said Madame Voss, who was angry.
'Who wants him to hold to his bargain?' said Marie sharply. Then
feeling ill-inclined to discuss the matter with her aunt, she left
the room. Madame Voss, who had been assured by her husband that
Marie had no real objection to Adrian Urmand, did not understand it
'I am sure Marie is unhappy,' she said to her husband when he came
in at noon that day.
'Yes,' said he. 'It seems strange, but it is so, I fancy, with the
best of our young women. Her feeling of modesty—of bashfulness if
you will—is outraged by being told that she is to admit this man as
her lover. She won't make the worse wife on that account, when he
gets her home.'
Madame Voss was not quite sure that her husband was right. She had
not before observed young women to be made savage in their daily work
by the outrage to their modesty of an acknowledged lover. But, as
usual, she submitted to her husband. Had she not done so, there would
have come that glance from the corner of his eye, and that curl in his
lip, and that gentle breath from his nostril, which had become to her
the expression of imperious marital authority. Nothing could be
kinder, more truly affectionate, than was the heart of her husband
towards her niece. Therefore Madame Voss yielded, and comforted
herself by an assurance that as the best was being done for Marie, she
need not subject herself to her husband's displeasure by contradiction
Michel Voss himself said little or nothing to his niece at this
time. She had yielded to him, making him a promise that she would
endeavour to accede to his wishes, and he felt that he was bound in
honour not to trouble her farther, unless she should show herself to
be disobedient when the moment of trial came. He was not himself at
ease, he was not comfortable at heart, because he knew that Marie was
avoiding him. Though she would still stand behind his chair at
supper,—when for a moment she would be still,—she did not put her
hands upon his head, nor did she speak to him more than the nature of
her service required. Twice he tried to induce her to sit with them
at table, as though to show that her position was altered now that she
was about to become a bride; but he was altogether powerless to effect
any such change as this. No words that could have been spoken would
have induced Marie to seat herself at the table, so well did she
understand all that such a change in her habits would have seemed to
imply. There was now hardly one person in the supper-room of the
hotel who did not instinctively understand the reason which made
Michel Voss anxious that his niece should sit down, and that other
reason which made her sternly refuse to comply with his request. So,
day followed day, and there was but little said between the uncle and
the niece, though heretofore—up to a time still within a fortnight of
the present day—the whole business of the house had been managed by
little whispered conferences between them. 'I think we'll do so and
so, uncle;' or, 'Just you manage it yourself, Marie.' Such and
such-like words had passed every morning and evening, with an
understanding between them full and complete. Now each was afraid of
the other, and everything was astray.
But Marie was still gentle with the children: when she could be
with them for half an hour, she would sit with them on her lap, or
clustering round, kissing them and saying soft words to them,—even
softer in her affection than had been her wont. They understood as
well as everybody else that something was wrong,—that there was to
be some change as to Marie which perhaps would not be a change for
the better; that there was cause for melancholy, for close kissing as
though such kissing were in preparation for parting, and for soft
strokings with their little hands as though Marie were to be pitied
for that which was about to come upon her. 'Isn't somebody coming to
take you away?' little Michel asked her, when they were quite alone.
Marie had not known how to answer him. She had therefore embraced
him closely, and a tear fell upon his face. 'Ah,' he said, 'I know
somebody is coming to take you away. Will not papa help you?' She
had not spoken; but for the moment she had taken courage, and had
resolved that she would help herself.
At length the day was there on which Adrian Urmand was to come. It
was his purpose to travel by Mulhouse and Remiremont, and Michel Voss
drove over to the latter town to fetch him. It was felt by every
one—it could not be but felt—that there was something special in his
coming. His arrival now was not like the arrival of any one else.
Marie, with all her resolution that it should be like usual arrivals
at the inn, could not avoid the making of some difference herself. A
better supper was prepared than usual; and, at the last moment, she
herself assisted in preparing it. The young men clustered round the
door of the hotel earlier than usual to welcome the new-comer. M. le
Cure was there with a clean white collar, and with his best hat.
Madame Voss had changed her gown, and appeared in her own little room
before her husband returned almost in her Sunday apparel. She had
said a doubtful word to Marie, suggesting a clean ribbon, or an
altered frill. Marie had replied only by a look. She would not have
changed a pin for Urmand's coming, had all Granpere come round her to
tell her that it was needful. If the man wanted more to eat than was
customary, let him have it. It was not for her to measure her uncle's
hospitality. But her ribbons and her pins were her own.
The carriage was driving up to the door, and Michel with his young
friend descended among the circle of expectant admirers. Urmand was
rich, always well dressed, and now he was to be successful in love.
He had about him a look as of a successful prosperous lover, as he
jumped out of the little carriage with his portmanteau in his hand,
and his greatcoat with its silk linings open at the breast. There
was a consciousness in him and in every one there that he had not
come now to buy linen. He made his way into the little room where
Madame Voss was standing up, waiting for him, and was taken by the
hand by her. Michel Voss soon followed them.
'And where is Marie?' Michel asked.
An answer came from some one that Marie was upstairs. Supper would
soon be ready, and Marie was busy. Then Michel sent up an order by
Peter that Marie should come down. But Marie did not come down. 'She
had gone to her own room,' Peter said. Then there came a frown on
Michel's brow. Marie had promised to try, and this was not trying.
He said no more till they went up to supper. There was Marie
standing as usual at the soup tureen. Urmand walked up to her, and
they touched each other's hand; but Marie said never a word. The
frown on Michel's brow was very black, but Marie went on dispensing
Adrian Urmand, in spite of his white hands and his well-combed
locks and the silk lining to his coat, had so much of the spirit of a
man that he was minded to hold his head well up before the girl whom
he wished to make his wife. Michel during that drive from Remiremont
had told him that he might probably prevail. Michel had said a
thousand things in favour of his niece and not a word to her
prejudice; but he had so spoken, or had endeavoured so to speak, as
to make Urmand understand that Marie could only be won with
difficulty, and that she was perhaps unaccountably averse to the idea
of matrimony. 'She is like a young filly, you know, that starts and
plunges when she is touched,' he had said. 'You think there is nobody
else?' Urmand had asked. Then Michel Voss had answered with
confidence, 'I am sure there is nobody else.' Urmand had listened and
said very little; but when at supper he saw that the uncle was ruffled
in his temper and sat silent with a black brow, that Madame Voss was
troubled in spirit, and that Marie dispensed her soup without
vouchsafing a look to any one, he felt that it behoved him to do his
best, and he did it. He talked freely to Madame Voss, telling her the
news from Basle,—how at length he thought the French trade was
reviving, and how all the Swiss authorities were still opposed to the
German occupation of Alsace; and how flax was likely to be dearer than
ever he had seen it; and how the travelling English were fewer this
year than usual, to the great detriment of the innkeepers. Every now
and then he would say a word to Marie herself, as she passed near him,
speaking in a cheery tone and striving his best to dispel a black
silence which on the present occasion would have been specially
lugubrious. Upon the whole he did his work well, and Michel Voss was
aware of it; but Marie Bromar entertained no gentle thought respecting
him. He was not wanted there, and he ought not to have come. She had
given him an answer, and he ought to have taken it. Nothing, she
declared to herself, was meaner than a man who would go to a girl's
parents or guardians for support, when the girl herself had told him
that she wished to have nothing to do with him. Marie had promised
that she would try, but every feeling of her heart was against the
After supper Michel with his young friend sat some time at the
table, for the innkeeper had brought forth a bottle of his best
Burgundy in honour of the occasion. When they had eaten their fruit,
Madame Voss left the room, and Michel and Adrian were soon alone
together. 'Say nothing to her till to-morrow,' said Michel in a low
'I will not,' said Adrian. 'I do not wonder that she should be put
out of face if she knows why I have come.'
'Of course she knows. Give her to-night and to-morrow, and we will
see how it is to be.' At this time Marie was up-stairs with the
children, resolute that nothing should induce her to go down till she
should be sure that their visitor had gone to his chamber. There were
many things about the house which it was her custom to see in their
place before she went to her rest, and nobody should say that she
neglected her work because of this dressed-up doll; but she would wait
till she was sure of him,—till she was sure of her uncle also. In
her present frame of mind she could not have spoken to the doll with
ordinary courtesy. What she feared was, that her uncle should seek
But Michel had some idea that her part in the play was not an easy
one, and was minded to spare her for that night. But she had
promised to try, and she must be reminded of her promise. Hitherto
she certainly had not tried. Hitherto she had been ill-tempered,
petulant, and almost rude. He would not see her himself this
evening, but he would send a message to her by his wife. 'Tell her
from me that I shall expect to see smiles on her face to-morrow,'
said Michel Voss. And as he spoke there certainly were no smiles on
'I suppose she is flurried,' said Madame Voss.
'Ah, flurried! That may do for to-night. I have been very good to
her. Had she been my own, I could not have been kinder. I have
loved her just as if she were my own. Of course I look now for the
obedience of a child.'
'She does not mean to be undutiful, Michel.'
'I do not know about meaning. I like reality, and I will have it
too. I consulted herself, and was more forbearing than most fathers
would be. I talked to her about it, and she promised me that she
would do her best to entertain the man. Now she receives him and me
with an old frock and a sulky face. Who pays for her clothes? She
has everything she wants,—just as a daughter, and she would not take
the trouble to change her dress to grace my friend,—as you did, as
any daughter would! I am angry with her.'
'Do not be angry with her. I think I can understand why she did
not put on another frock.'
'So can I understand. I can understand well enough. I am not a
fool. What is it she wants, I wonder? What is it she expects? Does
she think some Count from Paris is to come and fetch her?'
'Nay, Michel, I think she expects nothing of that sort.'
'Then let her behave like any other young woman, and do as she is
bid. He is not old or ugly, or a sot, or a gambler. Upon my word
and honour I can't conceive what it is that she wants. I can't
indeed.' It was perhaps the fault of Michel Voss that he could not
understand that a young woman should live in the same house with him,
and have a want which he did not conceive. Poor Marie! All that she
wanted now, at this moment, was to be let alone!
Madame Voss, in obedience to her husband's commands, went up to
Marie and found her sitting in the children's room, leaning with her
head on her hand and her elbow on the table, while the children were
asleep around her. She was waiting till the house should be quiet,
so that she could go down and complete her work. 'O, is it you, Aunt
Josey?' she said. 'I am waiting till uncle and M. Urmand are gone,
that I may go down and put away the wine and the fruit.'
'Never mind that to-night, Marie.'
'O yes, I will go down presently. I should not be happy if the
things were not put straight. Everything is about the house
everywhere. We need not, I suppose, become like pigs because M.
Urmand has come from Basle.'
'No; we need not be like pigs,' said Madame Voss. 'Come into my
room a moment, Marie. I want to speak to you. Your uncle won't be
up yet.' Then she led the way, and Marie followed her. 'Your uncle
is becoming angry, Marie, because—'
'Because why? Have I done anything to make him angry?'
'Why are you so cross to this young man?'
'I am not cross, Aunt Josey. I went on just the same as I always
do. If Uncle Michel wants anything else, that is his fault;—not
'Of course you know what he wants, and I must say that you ought to
obey him. You gave him a sort of a promise, and now he thinks that
you are breaking it.'
'I gave him no promise,' said Marie stoutly.
'He says that you told him that you would at any rate be civil to
'And I have been civil,' said Marie.
'You did not speak to him.'
'I never do speak to anybody,' said Marie. 'I have got something
to think of instead of talking to the people. How would the things
go, if I took to talking to the people, and left everything to that
little goose, Peter? Uncle Michel is unreasonable,—and unkind.'
'He means to do the best by you in his power. He wants to treat
you just as though you were his daughter.'
'Then let him leave me alone. I don't want anything to be done.
If I were his daughter he would not grudge me permission to stop at
home in his house. I don't want anything else. I have never
'But, my dear, it is time that you should be settled in the world.'
'I am settled. I don't want any other settlement,—if they will
only let me alone.'
'Marie,' said Madame Voss after a short pause, 'I sometimes think
that you still have got George Voss in your head.'
'Is it that, Aunt Josey, that makes my uncle go on like this?'
'You do not answer me, child.'
'I do not know what answer you want. When George was here, I
hardly spoke to him. If Uncle Michel is afraid of me, I will give him
my solemn promise never to marry any one without his permission.'
'George Voss will never come back for you,' said Madame Voss.
'He will come when I ask him,' said Marie, flashing round upon her
aunt with all the fire of her bright eyes. 'Does any one say that I
have done anything to bring him to me? If so, it is false, whoever
says it. I have done nothing. He has gone away, and let him stay. I
shall not send for him. Uncle Michel need not be afraid of me,
because of George.'
By this time Marie was speaking almost in a fury of passion, and
her aunt was almost subdued by her. 'Nobody is afraid of you, Marie,'
'Nobody need be. If they will let me alone, I will do no harm to
'But, Marie, you would wish to be married some day.'
'Why should I wish to be married? If I liked him, I would take
him, but I don't. O, Aunt Josey, I thought you would be my friend!'
'I cannot be your friend, Marie, if you oppose your uncle. He has
done everything for you, and he must know best what is good for you.
There can be no reason against M. Urmand, and if you persist in being
so unruly, he will only think that it is because you want George to
come back for you.'
'I care nothing for George,' said Marie, as she left the room;
'nothing at all—nothing.'
About half-an-hour afterwards, listening at her own door, she heard
the sound of her uncle's feet as he went to his room, and knew that
the house was quiet. Then she crept forth, and went about her
business. Nobody should say that she neglected anything because of
this unhappiness. She brushed the crumbs from the long table, and
smoothed the cloth for the next morning's breakfast; she put away
bottles and dishes, and she locked up cupboards, and saw that the
windows and the doors were fastened. Then she went down to her books
in the little office below stairs. In the performance of her daily
duty there were entries to be made and figures to be adjusted, which
would have been done in the course of the evening, had it not been
that she had been driven upstairs by fear of her lover and her uncle.
But by the time that she took herself up to bed, nothing had been
omitted. And after the book was closed she sat there, trying to
resolve what she would do. Nothing had, perhaps, given her so sharp a
pang as her aunt's assurance that George Voss would not come back to
her, as her aunt's suspicion that she was looking for his return. It
was not that she had been deserted, but that others should be able to
taunt her with her desolation. She had never whispered the name of
George to any one since he had left Granpere, and she thought that she
might have been spared this indignity. 'If he fancies I want to
interfere with him,' she said to herself, thinking of her uncle, and
of her uncle's plans in reference to his son, 'he will find that he is
mistaken.' Then it occurred to her that she would be driven to accept
Adrian Urmand to prove that she was heart-whole in regard to George
She sat there, thinking of it till the night was half-spent, and
when she crept up cold to bed, she had almost made up her mind that
it would be best for her to do as her uncle wished. As for loving
the man, that was out of the question. But then would it not be
better to do without love altogether?
'How is it to be?' said Michel to his niece the next morning. The
question was asked downstairs in the little room, while Urmand was
sitting at table in the chamber above waiting for the landlord.
Michel Voss had begun to feel that his visitor would be very heavy on
hand, having come there as a visitor and not as a man of business,
unless he could be handed over to the woman-kind. But no such handing
over would be possible, unless Marie would acquiesce. 'How is it to
be?' Michel asked. He had so prepared himself that he was ready in
accordance with a word or a look from his niece either to be very
angry, thoroughly imperious, and resolute to have his way with the
dependent girl, or else to be all smiles, and kindness, and
confidence, and affection. There was nothing she should not have, if
she would only be amenable to reason.
'How is what to be, Uncle Michel?' said Marie.
The landlord thought that he discovered an indication of concession
in his niece's voice, and began immediately to adapt himself to the
softer courses. 'Well, Marie, you know what it is we all wish. I
hope you understand that we love you well, and think so much of you,
that we would not intrust you to any one living, who did not bear a
high character and seem to deserve you.' He was looking into Marie's
face as he spoke, and saw that she was soft and thoughtful in her
mood, not proud and scornful as she had been on the preceding evening.
'You have grown up here with us, Marie, till it has almost come upon
us with surprise that you are a beautiful young woman, instead of a
great straggling girl.'
'I wish I was a great straggling girl still.'
'Do not say that, my darling. We must all take the world as it is,
you know. But here you are, and of course it is my duty and your
aunt's duty—' it was always a sign of high good humour on the part
of Michel Voss, when he spoke of his wife as being anybody in the
household—'my duty and your aunt's duty to see and do the best for
'You have always done the best for me in letting me be here.'
'Well, my dear, I hope so. You had to be here, and you fell into
this way of life naturally. But sometimes, when I have seen you
waiting on the people about the house, I've thought it wasn't quite
'I think it was quite right. Peter couldn't do it all, and he'd be
sure to make a mess of it.'
'We must have two Peters; that's all. But as I was saying, that
kind of thing was natural enough before you were grown up, and had
become—what shall I say?—such a handsome young woman.' Marie
laughed, and turned up her nose and shook her head; but it may be
presumed that she received some comfort from her uncle's compliments.
'And then I began to see, and your aunt began to see, that it wasn't
right that you should spend your life handing soup to the young men
'It is Peter who always hands the soup to the young men.'
'Well, well; but you are waiting upon them, and upon us.'
'I trust the day is never to come, uncle, when I'm to be ashamed of
waiting upon you.' When he heard this, he put his arm round her and
kissed her. Had he known at that moment what her feelings were in
regard to his son, he would have recommended Adrian Urmand to go back
to Basle. Had he known what were George's feelings, he would at once
have sent for his son from Colmar.
'I hope you may give me my pipe and my cup of coffee when I'm such
an old fellow that I can't get up to help myself. That's the sort of
reward we look forward to from those we love and cherish. But, Marie,
when we see you as you are now—your aunt and I—we feel that this
kind of thing shouldn't go on. We want the world to know that you are
a daughter to us, not a servant.'
'O, the world—the world, uncle! Why should we care for the
'We must care, my dear. And you yourself, my dear—if this went on
for a few years longer, you yourself would become very tired of it.
It isn't what we should like for you, if you were our own daughter.
Can't you understand that?'
'No, I can't.'
'Yes, my dear, yes. I'm sure you do. Very well. Then there comes
this young man. I am not a bit surprised that he should fall in love
with you—because I should do it myself if I were not your uncle.'
Then she caressed his arm. How was she to keep herself from
caressing him, when he spoke so sweetly to her? 'We were not a bit
surprised when he came and told us how it was. Nobody could have
behaved better. Everybody must admit that. He spoke of you to me and
to your aunt as though you were the highest lady in the land.'
'I don't want any one to speak of me as though I were a high lady.'
'I mean in the way of respect, my dear. Every young woman must
wish to be treated with respect by any young man who comes after her.
Well;—he told us that it was the great wish of his life that you
should be his wife. He's a man who has a right to look for a wife,
because he can keep a wife. He has a house, and a business, and
'What's all that, uncle?'
'Nothing;—nothing at all. No more than that,'—saying which
Michel Voss threw his right hand and arm loosely abroad;—'no more
than that, if he were not himself well-behaved along with it. We want
to see you married to him,—your aunt and I,—because we are sure that
he will be a good husband to you.'
'But if I don't love him, Uncle Michel?'
'Ah, my dear; that's where I think it is that you are dreaming, and
will go on dreaming till you've lost yourself, unless your aunt and I
interfere to prevent it. Love is all very well. Of course you must
love your husband. But it doesn't do for young women to let
themselves be run away with by romantic ideas;—it doesn't, indeed,
my dear. I've heard of young women who've fallen in love with
statues and men in armour out of poetry, and grand fellows that they
put into books, and there they've been waiting, waiting, waiting,
till some man in armour should come for them. The man in armour
doesn't come. But sometimes there comes somebody who looks like a
man in armour, and that's the worst of all.'
'I don't want a man in armour, Uncle Michel.'
'No, I daresay not. But the truth is, you don't know what you
want. The proper thing for a young woman is to get herself well
settled, if she has the opportunity. There are people who think so
much of money, that they'd give a child almost to anybody as long as
he was rich. I shouldn't like to see you marry a man as old as
'I shouldn't care how old he was if I loved him.'
'Nor to a curmudgeon,' continued Michel, not caring to notice the
interruption, 'nor to an ill-tempered fellow, or one who gambled, or
one who would use bad words to you. But here is a young man who has
no faults at all.'
'I hate people who have no faults,' said Marie.
'Now you must give him an answer to-day or to-morrow. You remember
what you promised me when we were coming home the other day.' Marie
remembered her promise very well, and thought that a great deal more
had been made of it than justice would have permitted. 'I don't want
to hurry you at all, only it makes me so sad at heart when my own girl
won't come and say a kind word to me and give me a kiss before we part
at night. I thought so much of that last night, Marie, I couldn't
sleep for thinking of it.' On hearing this, she flung her arms round
his neck and kissed him on each cheek and on his lips. 'I get to feel
so, Marie, if there's anything wrong between you and me, that I don't
know what I'm doing. Will you do this for me, my dear? Come and sit
at table with us this evening, and make one of us. At any rate, come
and show that we don't want to make a servant of you. Then we'll put
off the rest of it till to-morrow.' When such a request was made to
her in such words, how could she not accede to it? She had no
alternative but to say that she would do in this respect as he would
have her. She smiled, and nodded her head, and kissed him again.
'And, Marie darling, put on a pretty frock,—for my sake. I like to
see you gay and pretty.' Again she nodded her head, and again she
kissed him. Such requests, so made, she felt that it would be
impossible she should refuse.
And yet when she came to think of it as she went about the house
alone, the granting of such requests was in fact yielding in
everything. If she made herself smart for this young man, and sat
next him, and smiled, and talked to him, conscious as she would be—
and he would be also—that she was so placed that she might become
his wife, how afterwards could she hold her ground? And if she were
really resolute to hold her ground, would it not be much better that
she should do so by giving up no point, even though her uncle's anger
should rise hot against her? But now she had promised her uncle, and
she knew that she could not go back from her word. It would be better
for her, she told herself, to think no more about it. Things must
arrange themselves. What did it matter whether she were wretched at
Basle or wretched at Granpere? The only thing that could give a charm
to her life was altogether out of her reach.
After this conversation, Michel went upstairs to his young friend,
and within a quarter of an hour had handed him over to his wife. It
was of course understood now that Marie was not to be troubled till
the time came for her to sit down at table with her smart frock.
Michel explained to his wife the full amount of his success, and
acknowledged that he felt that Marie was already pretty nearly
'She'll try to be pleasant for my sake this evening,' he said, 'and
so she'll fall into the way of being intimate with him; and when he
asks her to-morrow she'll be forced to take him.'
It never occurred to him, as he said this, that he was forming a
plan for sacrificing the girl he loved. He imagined that he was
doing his duty by his niece thoroughly, and was rather proud of his
own generosity. In the afternoon Adrian Urmand was taken out for a
drive to the ravine by Madame Voss. They both, no doubt, felt that
this was very tedious; but they were by nature patient—quite unlike
Michel Voss or Marie—and each of them was aware that there was a
duty to be done. Adrian therefore was satisfied to potter about the
ravine, and Madame Voss assured him at least a dozen times that it
was the dearest wish of her heart to call him her nephew-in-law.
At last the time for supper came. Throughout the day Marie had
said very little to any one after leaving her uncle. Ideas flitted
across her mind of various modes of escape. What if she were to run
away—to her cousin's house at Epinal; and write from thence to say
that this proposed marriage was impossible? But her cousin at Epinal
was a stranger to her, and her uncle had always been to her the same
as a father. Then she thought of going to Colmar, of telling the
whole truth to George, and of dying when he refused her- -as refuse
her he would. But this was a dream rather than a plan. Or how would
it be if she went to her uncle now at once, while the young man was
away at the ravine, and swore to him that nothing on earth should
induce her to marry Adrian Urmand? But brave as Marie was, she was
afraid to do this. He had told her how he suffered when they two did
not stand well together, and she feared to be accused by him of
unkindness and ingratitude. And how would it be with her if she did
accept the man? She was sufficiently alive to the necessities of the
world to know that it would be well to have a home of her own, and a
husband, and children if God would send them. She understood quite as
well as Michel Voss did that to be head- waiter at the Lion d'Or was
not a career in life of which she could have reason to be proud. As
the afternoon went on she was in great doubt. She spread the cloth,
and prepared the room for supper, somewhat earlier than usual, knowing
that she should require some minutes for her toilet. It was necessary
that she should explain to Peter that he must take upon himself some
self-action upon this occasion, and it may be doubted whether she did
this with perfect good humour. She was angry when she had to look for
him before she commenced her operations, and scolded him because he
could not understand without being told why she went away and left him
twenty minutes before the bell was rung.
As soon as the bell was heard through the house, Michel Voss, who
was waiting below with his wife in a quiet unusual manner, marshalled
the way upstairs. He had partly expected that Marie would join them
below, and was becoming fidgety lest she should break away from her
engagement. He went first, and then followed Adrian and Madame Voss
together. The accustomed guests were all ready, because it had come
to be generally understood that this supper was to be as it were a
supper of betrothal. Madame Voss had on her black silk gown. Michel
had changed his coat and his cravat. Adrian Urmand was exceedingly
smart. The dullest intellect could perceive that there was something
special in the wind. The two old ladies who were lodgers in the house
came out from their rooms five minutes earlier than usual, and met the
cortege from downstairs in the passage.
When Michel entered the room he at once looked round for Marie.
There she was standing at the soup-tureen with her back to the
company. But he could see that there hung down some ribbon from her
waist, that her frock was not the one she had worn in the morning,
and that in the article of her attire she had kept her word with him.
He was very awkward. When one of the old ladies was about to seat
herself in the chair next to Adrian—in preparation for which it must
be admitted that Marie had made certain wicked arrangements- -Michel
first by signs and afterwards with audible words, intended to be
whispered, indicated to the lady that she was required to place
herself elsewhere. This was hard upon the lady, as her own
table-napkin and a cup out of which she was wont to drink were placed
at that spot. Marie, standing at the soup-tureen, heard it all and
became very spiteful. Then her uncle called to her:
'Marie, my dear, are you not coming?'
'Presently, uncle,' replied Marie, in a clear voice, as she
commenced to dispense the soup.
She ladled out all the soup without once turning her face towards
the company, then stood for a few moments as if in doubt, and after
that walked boldly up to her place. She had intended to sit next to
her uncle, opposite to her lover, and there had been her chair. But
Michel had insisted on bringing the old lady round to the seat that
Marie had intended for herself, and so had disarranged all her plans.
The old lady had simpered and smiled and made a little speech to M.
Urmand, which everybody had heard. Marie, too, had heard it all. But
the thing had to be done, and she plucked up her courage and did it.
She placed herself next to her lover, and as she did so, felt that it
was necessary that she should say something at the moment:
'Here I am, Uncle Michel; but you'll find you'll miss me, before
supper is over.'
'There is somebody would much rather have you than his supper,'
said the horrid old lady opposite.
Then there was a pause, a terrible pause.
'Perhaps it used to be so when young men came to sup with you,
years ago; but nowadays men like their supper,' said Marie, who was
driven on by her anger to a ferocity which she could not restrain.
'I did not mean to give offence,' said the poor old lady meekly.
Marie, as she thought of what she had said, repented so bitterly
that she could hardly refrain from tears.
'There is no offence at all,' said Michel angrily.
'Will you allow me to give you a little wine?' said Adrian, turning
to his neighbour.
Marie bowed her head, and held her glass, but the wine remained in
it to the end of the supper, and there it was left.
When it was all over, Michel felt that it had not been a success.
With the exception of her savage speech to the disagreeable old lady,
Marie had behaved well. She was on her mettle, and very anxious to
show that she could sit at table with Adrian Urmand, and be at her
ease. She was not at her ease, but she made a bold fight- -which was
more than was done by her uncle or her aunt. Michel was unable to
speak in his ordinary voice or with his usual authority, and Madame
Voss hardly uttered a word. Urmand, whose position was the hardest of
all, struggled gallantly, but was quite unable to keep up any
continued conversation. The old lady had been thoroughly silenced,
and neither she nor her sister again opened their mouth. When Madame
Voss rose from her chair in order that they might all retire, the
consciousness of relief was very great.
For that night Marie's duty to her uncle was done. So much had
been understood. She was to dress herself and sit down to supper, and
after that she was not to be disturbed again till the morrow. On the
next morning she was to be subjected to the grand trial. She
understood this so well that she went about the house fearless on
that evening—fearless as regarded the moment, fearful only as
regarded the morrow.
'May I ask one question, dear?' said her aunt, coming to her after
she had gone to her own room. 'Have you made up your mind?'
'No,' said Marie; 'I have not made up my mind.'
Her aunt stood for a moment looking at her, and then crept out of
In the morning Michel Voss was half-inclined to release his niece,
and to tell Urmand that he had better go back to Basle. He could see
that the girl was suffering, and, after all, what was it that he
wanted? Only that she should be prosperous and happy. His heart
almost relented; and at one moment, had Marie come across him, he
would have released her. 'Let it go on,' he said to himself, as he
took up his cap and stick, and went off to the woods. 'Let it go on.
If she finds to-day that she can't take him, I'll never say another
word to press her.' He went up to the woods after breakfast, and did
not come back till the evening.
During breakfast Marie did not show herself at all, but remained
with the children. It was not expected that she should show herself.
At about noon, as soon as her uncle had started, her aunt came to her
and asked her whether she was ready to see M. Urmand. 'I am ready,'
said Marie, rising from her seat, and standing upright before her
'And where will you see him, dear?'
'Wherever he pleases,' said Marie, with something that was again
almost savage in her voice.
'Shall he come up-stairs to you?'
'No; he cannot come here. You might go into the little sitting-
'Very well. I will go into the little sitting room.' Then without
saying another word she got up, left the room, and went along the
passage to the chamber in question. It was a small room, furnished,
as they all thought at Granpere, with Parisian elegance, intended for
such visitors to the hotel as might choose to pay for the charm and
luxury of such an apartment. It was generally found that visitors to
Granpere did not care to pay for the luxury of this Parisian elegance,
and the room was almost always empty. Thither Marie went, and seated
herself at once on the centre of the red, stuffy, velvet sofa. There
she sat, perfectly motionless, till there came a knock at the door.
Marie Bromar was a very handsome girl, but as she sat there, all
alone, with her hands crossed on her lap, with a hard look about her
mouth, with a frown on her brow, and scorn and disdain for all around
her in her eyes, she was as little handsome as it was possible that
she should make herself. She answered the knock, and Adrian Urmand
entered the room. She did not rise, but waited till he had come close
up to her. Then she was the first to speak. 'Aunt Josey tells me
that you want to see me,' she said.
Urmand's task was certainly not a pleasant one. Though his temper
was excellent, he was already beginning to think that he was being
ill-used. Marie, no doubt, was a very fine girl, but the match that
he offered her was one at which no young woman of her rank in all
Lorraine or Alsace need have turned up her nose. He had been invited
over to Granpere specially that he might spend his time in making
love, and he had found the task before him very hard and disagreeable.
He was afflicted with all the ponderous notoriety of an acknowledged
suitor's position, but was consoled with none of the usual comforts.
Had he not been pledged to make the attempt, he would probably have
gone back to Basle; as it was, he was compelled to renew his offer.
He was aware that he could not leave the house without doing so. But
he was determined that one more refusal should be the last.
'Marie,' said he, putting out his hand to her, 'doubtless you know
what it is that I would say.'
'I suppose I do,' she answered.
'I hope you do not doubt my true affection for you.'
She paused a moment before she replied. 'I have no reason to doubt
it,' she said.
'No indeed. I love you with all my heart. I do truly. Your uncle
and aunt think it would be a good thing for both of us that we should
be married. What answer will you make me, Marie?' Again she paused.
She had allowed him to take her hand, and as he thus asked his
question he was standing opposite to her, still holding it. 'You have
thought about it, Marie, since I was here last?'
'Yes; I have thought about it.'
'I suppose it had better be so,' said she, standing up and
withdrawing her hand.
She had accepted him; and now it was no longer possible for him to
go back to Basle except as a betrothed man. She had accepted him;
but there came upon him a wretched feeling that none of the triumph
of successful love had come to him. He was almost disappointed,—or
if not disappointed, was at any rate embarrassed. But it was
necessary that he should immediately conduct himself as an engaged
man. 'And you will love me, Marie?' he said, as he again took her by
'I will do my best,' she said.
Then he put his arm round her waist and kissed her, and she did not
turn away her face from him. 'I will do my best also to make you
happy,' he said.
'I am sure you will. I believe you. I know that you are good.'
There was another pause during which he stood, still embracing her.
'I may go now; may I not?' she said.
'You have not kissed me yet, Marie?' Then she kissed him; but the
touch of her lips was cold, and he felt that there was no love in
them. He knew, though he could hardly define the knowledge to
himself, that she had accepted him in obedience to her uncle. He was
almost angry, but being cautious and even-tempered by nature he
repressed the feeling. He knew that he must take her now, and that
he had better make the best of it. She would, he was sure, be a good
wife, and the love would probably come in time.
'We shall be together this evening; shall we not?' he asked.
'O, yes,' said Marie, 'if you please.' It was, as she knew, only
reasonable now that they should be together. Then he let her go, and
she walked off to her room.
'I suppose it had better be so,' Marie Bromar had said to her
lover, when in set form he made his proposition. She had thought very
much about it, and had come exactly to that state of mind. She did
suppose that it had better be so. She knew that she did not love the
man. She knew also that she loved another man. She did not even
think that she should ever learn to love Adrian Urmand. She had
neither ambition in the matter, nor even any feeling of prudence as
regarded herself. She was enticed by no desire of position, or love
of money. In respect to all her own feelings about herself she would
sooner have remained at the Lion d'Or, and have waited upon the guests
day after day, and month after month. But yet she had supposed 'that
it had better be so.' Her uncle wished it,—wished it so strongly
that she believed it would be impossible that she could remain an
inmate in his house, unless she acceded to his wishes. Her aunt
manifestly thought that it was her duty to accept the man, and could
not understand how so manifest a duty, going hand in hand as it did
with so great an advantage, should be made a matter of doubt. She had
not one about her to counsel her to hold by her own feelings. It was
the practice of the world around her that girls in such matters should
do as they were bidden. And then, stronger than all, there was the
indifference to her of the man she loved!
Marie Bromar was a fine, high-spirited, animated girl; but it must
not be thought that she was a highly educated lady, or that time had
been given to her amidst all her occupations, in which she could
allow her mind to dwell much on feelings of romance. Her life had
ever been practical, busy, and full of action. As is ever the case
with those who have to do chiefly with things material, she was
thinking more frequently of the outer wants of those around her, than
of the inner workings of her own heart and personal intelligence.
Would the bread rise well? Would that bargain she had made for
poultry suffice for the house? Was that lot of wine which she had
persuaded her uncle to buy of a creditable quality? Were her efforts
for increasing her uncle's profits compatible with satisfaction on the
part of her uncle's guests? Such were the questions which from day to
day occupied her attention and filled her with interest. And
therefore her own identity was not strong to her, as it is strong to
those whose business permits them to look frequently into themselves,
or whose occupations are of a nature to produce such introspection.
If her head ached, or had she lamed her hand by any accident, she
would think more of the injury to the household arising from her
incapacity than of her own pain. It is so, reader, with your
gardener, your groom, or your cook, if you will think of it. Till you
tell them by your pity that they are the sufferers, they will think
that it is you who are most affected by their ailments. And the man
who loses his daily wage because he is ill complains of his loss and
not of his ailment. His own identity is half hidden from him by the
practical wants of his life.
Had Marie been disappointed in her love without the appearance of
any rival suitor, no one would have ever heard of her love. Had
George Voss married, she would have gone on with her work without a
sign of outward sorrow; or had he died, she would have wept for him
with no peculiar tears. She did not expect much from the world
around her, beyond this, that the guests should not complain about
their suppers as long as the suppers provided were reasonably good.
Had no great undertaking been presented to her, the performance of no
heavy task demanded from her, she would have gone on with her work
without showing even by the altered colour of her cheek that she was a
sufferer. But this other man had come,—this Adrian Urmand; and a
great undertaking was presented to her, and the performance of a heavy
task was demanded from her. Then it was necessary that there should
be identity of self and introspection. She had to ask herself whether
the task was practicable, whether its performance was within the scope
of her powers. She told herself at first that it was not to be done;
that it was one which she would not even attempt. Then as she looked
at it more frequently, as she came to understand how great was the
urgency of her uncle; as she came to find, in performing that task of
introspection, how unimportant a person she was herself, she began to
think that the attempt might be made. 'I suppose it had better be
so,' she had said. What was she that she should stand in the way of
so many wishes? As she had worked for her bread in her uncle's house
at Granpere, so would she work for her bread in her husband's house at
Basle. No doubt there were other things to be joined to her work,—
things the thought of which dismayed her. She had fought against
them for a while; but, after all, what was she, that she should
trouble the world by fighting? When she got to Basle she would
endeavour to see that the bread should rise there, and the wine be
sufficient, and the supper such as her husband might wish it to be.
Was it not the manifest duty of every girl to act after this
fashion? Were not all marriages so arranged in the world around her?
Among the Protestants of Alsace, as she knew, there was some greater
latitude of choice than was ever allowed by the stricter discipline of
Roman Catholic education. But then she was a Roman Catholic, as was
her aunt; and she was too proud and too grateful to claim any peculiar
exemption from the Protestantism of her uncle. She had resolved during
those early hours of the morning that 'it had better be so.' She
thought that she could go through with it all, if only they would not
tease her, and ask her to wear her Sunday frock, and force her to sit
down with them at table. Let them settle the day—with a word or two
thrown in by herself to increase the distance—and she would be
absolutely submissive, on condition that nothing should be required of
her till the day should come. There would be a bad week or two then
while she was being carried off to her new home; but she had looked
forward and had told herself that she would fill her mind with the
care of one man's house, as she had hitherto filled it with the care
of the house of another man.
'So it is all right,' said her aunt, rushing up to her with warm
congratulations, ready to flatter her, prone to admire her. It would
be something to have a niece married to Adrian Urmand, the successful
young merchant of Basle. Marie Bromar was already in her aunt's eyes
something different from her former self.
'I hope so, aunt.'
'Hope so; but it is so, you have accepted him?'
'I hope it is right, I mean.'
'Of course it is right' said Madame Voss. 'How can it be wrong for
a girl to accept the man whom all her friends wish her to marry? It
must be right. And your uncle will be so happy.'
'Yes, indeed. He has been so good; and it has made me wretched to
see that he has been disturbed. He has been as anxious that you
should be settled well, as though you had been his own. And this
will be to be settled well. I am told that M. Urmand's house is one
of those which look down upon the river from near the church; the
very best position in all the town. And it is full of everything,
they say. His father spared nothing for furniture when he was
married. And they say that his mother's linen was quite a sight to
be seen. And then, Marie, everybody acknowledges that he is such a
nice-looking young man!'
But it was not a part of Marie's programme to be waked up to
enthusiasm—at any rate by her aunt. She said little or nothing, and
would not even condescend to consider that interesting question, of
the day of the wedding. 'There is quite time enough for all that,
Aunt Josey,' she said, as she got up to go about her work. Aunt Josey
was almost inclined to resent such usage, and would have done so, had
not her respect for her niece been so great.
Michel did not return till near seven, and walking straight through
his wife's room to Marie's seat of office, came upon his niece before
he had seen any one else. There was an angry look about his brow, for
he had been trying to teach himself that he was ill-used by his niece,
in spite of that half-formed resolution to release her from
persecution if she were still firm in her opposition to the marriage.
'Well,' he said, as soon as he saw her,—'well, how is it to be?'
She got off her stool, and coming close to him put up her face to be
kissed. He understood it all in a moment, and the whole tone and
colour of his countenance was altered. There was no man whose face
would become more radiant with satisfaction than that of Michel
Voss—when he was satisfied. Please him—and immediately there would
be an effort on his part to please everybody around him. 'My darling,
my own one,' he said, 'it is all right.' She kissed him again and
pressed his arm, but said not a word. 'I am so glad,' he exclaimed;
'I am so glad!' And he knocked off his cap with his hand, not knowing
what he was doing. 'We shall have but a poor house without you,
Marie—a very poor house. But it is as it ought to be. I have felt
for the last year or two, as you have sprung up to be such a woman
among us, my dear, that there was only one place fit for such a one.
It is proper that you should be mistress wherever you are. It has
wounded me—I don't mind saying it now—it has wounded me to see you
waiting on the sort of people that come here.'
'I have only been too happy, uncle, in doing it.'
'That's all very well; that's all very well, my dear. But I am
older than you, and time goes quick with me. I tell you it made me
unhappy. I thought I wasn't doing my duty by you. I was beginning
to know that you ought to have a house and servants of your own.
People say that it is a great match for you; but I tell them that it
is a great match for him. Perhaps it is because you've been my own
in a way, but I don't see any girl like you round the country.'
'You shouldn't say such things to flatter me, Uncle Michel.'
'I choose to say what I please, and think what I please, about my
own girl,' he said, with his arm close wound round her. 'I say it's
a great match for Adrian Urmand, and I am quite sure that he will not
contradict me. He has had sense enough to know what sort of a young
woman will make the best wife for him, and I respect him for it. I
shall always respect Adrian Urmand because he has known better than to
take up with one of your town-bred girls, who never learn anything
except how to flaunt about with as much finery on their backs as they
can get their people to give them. He might have had the pick of them
at Basle,—or at Strasbourg either, for the matter of that; but he has
thought my girl better than them all; and I love him for it—so I do.
It was to be expected that a young fellow with means to please
himself should choose to have a good- looking wife to sit at his table
with him. Who'll blame him for that? And he has found the prettiest
in all the country round. But he has wanted something more than good
looks,—and he has got a great deal more. Yes; I say it, I, Michel
Voss, though I am your uncle;—that he has got the pride of the whole
country round. My darling, my own one, my child!'
All this was said with many interjections, and with sundry pauses
in the speech, during which Michel caressed his niece, and pressed her
to his breast, and signified his joy by all the outward modes of
expression which a man so demonstrative knows how to use. This was a
moment of great triumph to him, because he had begun to despair of
success in this matter of the marriage, and had told himself on this
very morning that the affair was almost hopeless. While he had been
up in the wood, he had asked himself how he would treat Marie in
consequence of her disobedience to him; and he had at last succeeded
in producing within his own breast a state of mind that was not
perhaps very reasonable, but which was consonant with his character.
He would let her know that he was angry with her,—very angry with
her; that she had half broken his heart by her obstinacy; but after
that she should be to him his own Marie again. He would not throw
her off, because she disobeyed him. He could not throw her off,
because he loved her, and knew of no way by which he could get rid of
his love. But he would be very angry, and she should know of his
anger. He had come home wearing a black cloud on his brow, and
intending to be black. But all that was changed in a moment, and his
only thought now was how to give pleasure to this dear one. It is
something to have a niece who brings such credit on the family!
Marie as she listened to his praise and his ecstasies, knowing by a
sure instinct every turn of his thoughts, tried to take joy to
herself in that she had given joy to him. Though he was her uncle,
and had in fact been her master, he was actually the one real friend
whom she had made for herself in her life. There had been a month or
two of something more than friendship with George Voss; but she was
too wise to look much at that now. Michel Voss was the one being in
the world whom she knew best, of whom she thought most, whose thoughts
and wishes she had most closely studied, whose interests were ever
present to her mind. Perhaps it may be said of every human heart in a
sound condition that it must be specially true to some other one human
heart; but it may certainly be so said of every female heart. The
object may be changed from time to time,—may be changed very
suddenly, as when a girl's devotion is transferred with the consent of
all her friends from her mother to her lover; or very slowly, as when
a mother's is transferred from her husband to some favourite child;
but, unless self-worship be predominant, there is always one friend to
whom the woman's breast is true,—for whom it is the woman's joy to
offer herself in sacrifice. Now with Marie Bromar that one being had
been her uncle. She prospered, if he prospered. His comfort was her
comfort. Even when his palate was pleased, there was some
gratification akin to animal enjoyment on her part. It was ease to
her, that he should be at his ease in his arm-chair. It was mirth to
her, that he should laugh. When he was contented she was satisfied.
When he was ruffled she was never smooth. Her sympathy with him was
perfect; and now that he was radiant with triumph, though his triumph
came from his victory over herself, she could not deny him the
pleasure of triumphing with him.
'Dear uncle,' she said, still caressing him, 'I am so glad that you
'Of course it will be a poor house without you, Marie. As for me,
it will be just as though I had lost my right leg and my right arm.
But what! A man is not always to be thinking of himself. To see you
treated by all the world as you ought to be treated,—as I should
choose that my own daughter should be treated,—that is what I have
desired. Sometimes when I've thought of it all when I've been alone,
I have been mad with myself for letting it go on as it has done.'
'It has gone on very nicely, I think, Uncle Michel.' She knew how
worse than useless it would be now to try and make him understand
that it would be better for them both that she should remain with
him. She knew, to the moving of a feather, what she could do with
him and what she could not. Her immediate wish was to enable him to
draw all possible pleasure from his triumph of the day, and therefore
she would say no word to signify that his glory was founded on her
Then again came up the question of her position at supper, but
there was no difficulty in the arrangement made between them. The one
gala evening of grand dresses—the evening which had been intended to
be a gala, but which had turned out to be almost funereal—was over.
Even Michel Voss himself did not think it necessary that Marie should
come in to supper with her silk dress two nights running; and he
himself had found that that changing of his coat had impaired his
comfort. He could eat his dinner and his supper in his best clothes
on Sunday, and not feel the inconvenience; but on other occasions
those unaccustomed garments were as heavy to him as a suit of armour.
There was, therefore, nothing more said about clothes. Marie was to
dispense her soup as usual,—expressing a confident assurance that if
Peter were as yet to attempt this special branch of duty, the whole
supper would collapse,—and then she was to take her place at the
table, next to her uncle. Everybody in the house, everybody in
Granpere, knew that the marriage had been arranged, and the old lady
who had been so dreadfully snubbed by Marie, had forgiven the offence,
acknowledging that Marie's position on that evening had been one of
But these arrangements had reference only to two days. After two
days, Adrian was to return to Basle, and to be seen no more at
Granpere till he came to claim his bride. In regard to the choice of
the day, Michel declared roundly that no constraint should be put upon
Marie. She should have her full privileges, and no one should be
allowed to interfere with her. On this point Marie had brought
herself to be almost indifferent. A long engagement was a state of
things which would have been quite incompatible with such a
betrothal. Any delay that could have been effected would have been a
delay, not of months, but of days,—or at most of a week or two. She
had made up her mind that she would not be afraid of her wedding. She
would teach herself to have no dread either of the man or of the
thing. He was not a bad man, and marriage in itself was honourable.
She formed ideas also of some future true friendship for her husband.
She would endeavour to have a true solicitude for his interests, and
would take care, at any rate, that nothing was squandered that came
into her hands. Of what avail would it be to her that she should
postpone for a few days the beginning of a friendship that was to last
all her life? Such postponement could only be induced by a dread of
the man, and she was firmly determined that she would not dread him.
When they asked her, therefore, she smiled and said very little.
What did her aunt think?
Her aunt thought that the marriage should be settled for the
earliest possible day,—though she never quite expressed her
thoughts. Madame Voss, though she did not generally obtain much
credit for clear seeing, had a clearer insight to the state of her
niece's mind than had her husband. She still believed that Marie's
heart was not with Adrian Urmand. But, attributing perhaps no very
great importance to a young girl's heart, and fancying that she knew
that in this instance the young girl's heart could not have its own
way, she was quite in favour of the Urmand marriage. And if they
were to be married, the sooner the better. Of that she had no doubt.
'It's best to have it over always as soon as possible,' she said to
her husband in private, nodding her head, and looking much wiser than
'I won't have Marie hurried,' said Michel.
'We had better say some day next month, my dear,' said Madame Voss,
again nodding her head. Michel, struck by the peculiarity of her
voice, looked into her face, and saw the unaccustomed wisdom. He
made no answer, but after a while nodded his head also, and went out
of the room a man convinced. There were matters between women, he
thought, which men can never quite understand. It would be very bad
if there should be any slip here between the cup and the lip; and, no
doubt, his wife was right.
It was Madame Voss at last who settled the day,—the 15th of
October, just four weeks from the present time. This she did in
concert with Adrian Urmand, who, however, was very docile in her
hands. Urmand, after he had been accepted, soon managed to bring
himself back to that state of mind in which he had before regarded
the possession of Marie Bromar as very desirable. For some four-
and-twenty hours, during which he had thought himself to be ill-
used, and had meditated a retreat from Granpere, he had contrived to
teach himself that he might possibly live without her; but as soon as
he was accepted, and when the congratulations of the men and women of
Granpere were showered down upon him in quick succession,— so that
the fact that the thing was to be became assured to him,—he soon came
to fancy again that he was a man as successful in love as he was in
the world's good, and that this acquisition of Marie's hand was a
treasure in which he could take delight. He undoubtedly would be
ready by the day named, and would go home and prepare everything for
They were very little together as lovers during those two days, but
it was necessary that there should be an especial parting. 'She is
up-stairs in the little sitting-room,' Aunt Josey said; and up-
stairs to the little sitting-room Adrian Urmand went.
'I am come to say good-bye,' said Urmand.
'Good-bye, Adrian,' said Marie, putting both her hands in his, and
offering her cheek to be kissed.
'I shall come back with such joy for the 15th,' said he.
She smiled, and kissed his cheek, and still held his hand.
'Adrian,' she said.
'As I believe in the dear Jesus, I will do my best to be a good
wife to you.' Then he took her in his arms, and kissed her close, and
went out of the room with tears streaming down his cheeks. He knew
now that he was in truth a happy man, and that God had been good to
him in this matter of his future wife.
'So your cousin Marie is to be married to Adrian Urmand, the young
linen-merchant at Basle,' said Madame Faragon one morning to George
Voss. In this manner were the first assured tidings of the coming
marriage conveyed to the rival lover. This occurred a day or two
after the betrothal, when Adrian was back at Basle. No one at
Granpere had thought of writing an express letter to George on the
subject. George's father might have done so, had the writing of
letters been a customary thing with him; but his correspondence was
not numerous, and such letters as he did write were short, and always
confined to matters concerning his trade. Madame Voss had, however,
sent a special message to Madame Faragon, as soon as Adrian had gone,
thinking that it would be well that in this way George should learn
It had been fully arranged by this time that George Voss was to be
the landlord of the hotel at Colmar on and from the first day of the
following year. Madame Faragon was to be allowed to sit in the
little room downstairs, to scold the servants, and to make the
strangers from a distance believe that her authority was unimpaired.
She was also to receive a moderate annual pension in money in
addition to her board and lodging. For these considerations, and on
condition that George Voss should expend a certain sum of money in
renewing the faded glories of the house, he was to be the landlord in
full enjoyment of all real power on the first of January following.
Madame Faragon, when she had expressed her agreement to the
arrangement, which was indeed almost in all respects one of her own
creation, wept and wheezed and groaned bitterly. She declared that
she would soon be dead, and so trouble him no more. Nevertheless, she
especially stipulated that she should have a new arm-chair for her own
use, and that the feather bed in her own chamber should be renewed.
'So your cousin Marie is to be married to Adrian Urmand, the young
linen-merchant at Basle,' said Madame Faragon.
'Who says so?' demanded George. He asked his question in a quiet
voice; but, though the news had reached him thus suddenly, he had
sufficient control over himself to prevent any plain expression of
his feelings. The thing which had been told him had gone into his
heart like a knife; but he did not intend that Madame Faragon should
know that he had been wounded.
'It is quite true. There is no doubt about it. Stodel's man with
the roulage brought me word direct from your step-mother.' George
immediately began to inquire within himself why Stodel's man with the
roulage had not brought some word direct to him, and answered the
question to himself not altogether incorrectly. 'O, yes,' continued
Madame Faragon, 'it is quite true—on the 15th of October. I suppose
you will be going over to the wedding.' This she said in her usual
whining tone of small complaint, signifying thereby how great would be
the grievance to herself to be left alone at that special time.
'I shall not go to the wedding,' said George. 'They can be
married, if they are to be married, without me.'
'They are to be married; you may be quite sure of that.' Madame
Faragon's grievance now consisted in the amount of doubt which was
being thrown on the tidings which had been sent direct to her. 'Of
course you will choose to have a doubt, because it is I who tell
'I do not doubt it at all. I think it is very likely. I was well
aware before that my father wished it.'
'Of course he would wish it, George. How should he not wish it?
Marie Bromar never had a franc of her own in her life, and it is not
to be expected that he, with a family of young children at his heels,
is to give her a dot.'
'He will give her something. He will treat her as though she were
'Then I think he ought not. But your father was always a romantic,
headstrong man. At any rate, there she is,—bar-maid, as we may say,
in the hotel,—much the same as our Floschen here; and, of course,
such a marriage as this is a great thing; a very great thing, indeed.
How should they not wish it?'
'O, if she likes him—!'
'Like him? Of course, she will like him. Why should she not like
him? Young, and good-looking, with a fine business, doesn't owe a
sou, I'll be bound, and with a houseful of furniture. Of course,
she'll like him. I don't suppose there is so much difficulty about
'I daresay not,' said George. 'I believe that women's likings go
after that fashion, for the most part.'
Madame Faragon, not understanding this general sarcasm against her
sex, continued the expression of her opinion about the coming
marriage. 'I don't suppose anybody will think of blaming Marie
Bromar for accepting the match when it was proposed to her. Of
course, she would do as she was bidden, and could hardly be expected
to say that the man was above her.'
'He is not above her,' said George in a hoarse voice.
'Marie Bromar is nothing to you, George; nothing in blood; nothing
beyond a most distant cousin. They do say that she has grown up
'Yes;—she is a handsome girl.'
'When I remember her as a child she was broad and dumpy, and they
always come back at last to what they were as children. But of
course M. Urmand only looks to what she is now. She makes her hay
while the sun shines; but I hope the people won't say that your
father has caught him at the Lion d'Or, and taken him in.'
'My father is not the man to care very much what anybody says about
'Perhaps not so much as he ought, George,' said Madame Faragon,
shaking her head.
After that George Voss went about the house for some hours, doing
his work, giving his orders, and going through the usual routine of
his day's business. As he did so, no one guessed that his mind was
disturbed. Madame Faragon had not the slightest suspicion that the
matter of Marie's marriage was a cause of sorrow to him. She had
felt the not unnatural envy of a woman's mind in such an affair, and
could not help expressing it, although Marie Bromar was in some sort
connected with herself. But she was sure that such an arrangement
would be regarded as a family triumph by George,—unless, indeed, he
should be inclined to quarrel with his father for over-generosity in
that matter of the dot. 'It is lucky that you got your little bit of
money before this affair was settled,' said she.
'It would not have made the difference of a copper sou,' said
George Voss, as he walked angrily out of the old woman's room. This
was in the evening, after supper, and the greater part of the day had
passed since he had first heard the news. Up to the present moment
he had endeavoured to shake the matter off from him, declaring to
himself that grief—or at least any outward show of grief—would be
unmanly and unworthy of him. With a strong resolve he had fixed his
mind upon the affairs of his house, and had allowed himself to
meditate as little as might be possible. But the misery, the agony,
had been then present with him during all those hours,—and had been
made the sharper by his endeavours to keep it down and banish it from
his thoughts. Now, as he went out from Madame Faragon's room, having
finished all that it was his duty to do, he strolled into the town,
and at once began to give way to his thoughts. Of course he must
think about it. He acknowledged that it was useless for him to
attempt to get rid of the matter and let it be as though there were
no such persons in the world as Marie Bromar and Adrian Urmand. He
must think about it; but he might so give play to his feelings that
no one should see him in the moments of his wretchedness. He went
out, therefore, among the dark walks in the town garden, and there,
as he paced one alley after another in the gloom, he revelled in the
agony which a passionate man feels when the woman whom he loves is to
be given into the arms of another.
As he thought of his own life during the past year or fifteen
months, he could not but tell himself that his present suffering was
due in some degree to his own fault. If he really loved this girl,
and if it had been his intention to try and win her for himself, why
had he taken his father at his word and gone away from Granpere? And
why, having left Granpere, had he taken no trouble to let her know
that he still loved her? As he asked himself these questions, he was
hardly able himself to understand the pride which had driven him away
from his old home, and which had kept him silent so long. She had
promised him that she would be true to him. Then had come those few
words from his father's mouth, words which he thought his father
should never have spoken to him, and he had gone away, telling himself
that he would come back and fetch her as soon as he could offer her a
home independently of his father. If, after the promises she had made
to him, she would not wait for him without farther words and farther
vows, she would not be worth the having. In going, he had not
precisely told himself that there should be no intercourse between
them for twelve months; but the silence which he had maintained, and
his continued absence, had been the consequence of the mood of his
mind and the tenor of his purpose. The longer he had been away from
Granpere without tidings from any one there, the less possible had it
been that he should send tidings from himself to his old home. He had
not expected messages. He had not expected any letter. But when
nothing came, he told himself over and over again that he too would be
silent, and would bide his time. Then Edmond Greisse had come to
Colmar, and brought the first rumour of Adrian Urmand's proposal of
The reader will perhaps remember that George, when he heard this
first rumour, had at once made up his mind to go over to Granpere,
and that he went. He went to Granpere partly believing, and partly
disbelieving Edmond's story. If it were untrue, perhaps she might
say a word to him that would comfort him and give him new hope. If
it were true, she would have to tell him so; and then he would say a
word to her that should tear her heart, if her heart was to be
reached. But he would never let her know that she had torn his own
to rags! That was the pride of his manliness; and yet he was so
boyish as not to know that it should have been for him to make those
overtures for a renewal of love, which he hoped that Marie would make
to him. He had gone over to Granpere, and the reader will perhaps
again remember what had passed then between him and Marie. Just as he
was leaving her he had asked her whether she was to be married to this
man. He had made no objection to such a marriage. He had spoken no
word of the constancy of his own affection. In his heart there had
been anger against her because she had spoken no such word to him,—as
of course there was also in her heart against him, very bitter and
very hot. If he wished her to be true to him, why did he not say so?
If he had given her up, why did he come there at all? Why did he ask
any questions about her marriage, if on his own behalf he had no
statement to make,—no assurance to give? What was her marriage, or
her refusal to be married, to him? Was she to tell him that, as he had
deserted her, and as she could not busy herself to overcome her love,
therefore she was minded to wear the willow for ever? 'If my uncle
and aunt choose to dispose of me, I cannot help it,' she had said.
Then he had left her, and she had been sure that for him that early
game of love was a game altogether played out. Now, as he walked
along the dark paths of the town garden, something of the truth came
upon him. He made no excuse for Marie Bromar. She had given him a
vow, and should have been true to her vow, so he said to himself a
dozen times. He had never been false. He had shown no sign of
falseness. True of heart, he had remained away from her only till he
might come and claim her, and bring her to a house that he could call
his own. This also he told himself a dozen times. But, nevertheless,
there was a very agony of remorse, a weight of repentance, in that he
had not striven to make sure of his prize when he had been at Granpere
before the marriage was settled. Had she loved him as she ought to
have loved him, had she loved him as he loved her, there should have
been no question possible to her of marriage with another man. But
still he repented, in that he had lost that which he desired, and
might perhaps have then obtained it for himself.
But the strong feeling of his breast, the strongest next to his
love, was a desire to be revenged. He cared little now for his
father, little for that personal dignity which he had intended to
return by his silence, little for pecuniary advantages and prudential
motives, in comparison with his strong desire to punish Marie for her
perfidy. He would go over to Granpere, and fall among them like a
thunderbolt. Like a thunderbolt, at any rate, he would fall upon the
head of Marie Bromar. The very words of her love- promises were still
firm in his memory, and he would see if she also could be made to
'I shall go over to Granpere the day after to-morrow,' he said to
Madame Faragon, as he caught her just before she retired for the
'To Granpere the day after to-morrow? And why?'
'Well, I don't know that I can say exactly why. I shall not be at
the marriage, but I should like to see them first. I shall go the
day after to-morrow.'
And he went to Granpere on the day he fixed.
'Probably one night only, but I won't make any promise,' George had
said to Madame Faragon when she asked him how long he intended to
stay at Granpere. As he took one of the horses belonging to the inn
and drove himself, it seemed to be certain that he would not stay
long. He started all alone, early in the morning, and reached
Granpere about twelve o'clock. His mind was full of painful thoughts
as he went, and as the little animal ran quickly down the mountain
road into the valley in which Granpere lies, he almost wished that his
feet were not so fleet. What was he to say when he got to Granpere,
and to whom was he to say it?
When he reached the angular court along two sides of which the
house was built he did not at once enter the front door. None of the
family were then about the place, and he could, therefore, go into
the stable and ask a question or two of the man who came to meet him.
His father, the man told him, had gone up early to the wood- cutting,
and would not probably return till the afternoon. Madame Voss was no
doubt inside, as was also Marie Bromar. Then the man commenced an
elaborate account of the betrothals. There never had been at Granpere
any marriage that had been half so important as would be this
marriage; no lover coming thither had ever been blessed with so
beautiful and discreet a maiden, and no maiden of Granpere had ever
before had at her feet a lover at the same time so good-looking, so
wealthy, so sagacious, and so good-tempered. The man declared that
Adrian was the luckiest fellow in the world in finding such a wife,
but his enthusiasm rose to the highest pitch when he spoke of Marie's
luck in finding such a husband. There was no end to the good with
which she would be endowed—'linen,' said the man, holding up his
hands in admiration, 'that will last out all her grandchildren at
least!' George listened to it all, and smiled, and said a word or
two—was it worth his while to come all the way to Granpere to throw
his thunderbolt at a girl who had been captivated by promises of a
chest full of house linen!
George told the man that he would go up to the wood-cutting after
his father; but before he was out of the court he changed his mind
and slowly entered the house. Why should he go to his father? What
had he to say to his father about the marriage that could not be
better said down at the house? After all, he had but little ground
of complaint against his father. It was Marie who had been untrue to
him, and it was on Marie's head that his wrath must fall. No doubt
his father would be angry with him when he should have thrown his
thunderbolt. It could not, as he thought, be hurled effectually
without his father's knowledge; but he need not tell his father the
errand on which he had come. So he changed his mind, and went into
He entered the house almost dreading to see her whom he was
seeking. In what way should he first express his wrath? How should he
show her the wreck which by her inconstancy she had made of his
happiness? His first words must, if possible, be spoken to her
alone; and yet alone he could hardly hope to find her. And he feared
her. Though he was so resolved to speak his mind, yet he feared her.
Though he intended to fill her with remorse, yet he dreaded the
effect of her words upon himself. He knew how strong she could be,
and how steadfast. Though his passion told him every hour, was
telling him all day long, that she was as false as hell, yet there was
something in him of judgment, something rather of instinct, which told
him also that she was not bad, that she was a firm-hearted,
high-spirited, great-minded girl, who would have reasons to give for
the thing that she was doing.
He went through into the kitchen before he met any one, and there
he found Madame Voss with the cook and Peter. Immediate explanations
had, of course, to be made as to his unexpected arrival;—questions
asked, and suggestions offered—'Came he in peace, or came he in
war?' Had he come because he had heard of the betrothals? He
admitted that it was so. 'And you are glad of it?' asked Madame
Voss. 'You will congratulate her with all your heart?'
'I will congratulate her certainly,' said George. Then the cook
and Peter began with a copious flow of domestic eloquence to declare
how great a marriage this was for the Lion d'Or—how pleasing to the
master, how creditable to the village, how satisfactory to the
friends, how joyous to the bridegroom, how triumphant to the bride!
'No doubt she will have plenty to eat and drink, and fine clothes to
wear, and an excellent house over her head,' said George in his
'And she will be married to one of the most respectable young men
in all Switzerland,' said Madame Voss in a tone of much anger. It was
already quite clear to Madame Voss, to the cook, and to Peter, that
George had not come over from Colmar simply to express his joyous
satisfaction at his cousin's good fortune.
He soon walked through into the little sitting-room, and his step-
mother followed him. 'George,' she said, 'you will displease your
father very much if you say anything unkind about Marie.'
'I know very well,' said he, 'that my father cares more for Marie
than he does for me.'
'That is not so, George.'
'I do not blame him for it. She lives in the house with him, while
I live elsewhere. It was natural that she should be more to him than
I am, after he had sent me away. But he has no right to suppose that
I can have the same feeling that he has about this marriage. I cannot
think it the finest thing in the world for all of us that Marie Bromar
should succeed in getting a rich young man for her husband, who, as
far as I can see, never had two ideas in his head.'
'He is a most industrious young man, who thoroughly understands his
business. I have heard people say that there is no one comes to
Granpere who can buy better than he can.'
'Very likely not.'
'And at any rate, it is no disgrace to be well off.'
'It is a disgrace to think more about that than anything else. But
never mind. It is no use talking about it, words won't mend it.'
'Why then have you come here now?'
'Because I want to see my father.' Then he remembered how false
was this excuse; and remembered also how soon its falseness would
appear. 'Besides, though I do not like this match, I wish to see
Marie once again before her marriage. I shall never see her after
it. That is the reason why I have come. I suppose you can give me a
'O, yes, there are beds enough.' After that there was some pause,
and Madame Voss hardly knew how to treat her step-son. At last she
asked him whether he would have dinner, and an order was given to
Peter to prepare something for the young master in the small room.
And George asked after the children, and in this way the dreaded
subject was for some minutes laid on one side.
In the mean time, information of George's arrival had been taken
upstairs to Marie. She had often wondered what sign he would make
when he should hear of her engagement. Would he send her a word of
affection, or such customary present as would be usual between two
persons so nearly connected? Would he come to her marriage? And
what would be his own feelings? She too remembered well, with
absolute accuracy, those warm, delicious, heavenly words of love
which had passed between them. She could feel now the pressure of
his hand and the warmth of his kiss, when she swore to him that she
would be his for ever and ever. After that he had left her, and for
a year had sent no token. Then he had come again, and had simply
asked her whether she were engaged to another man; had asked with a
cruel indication that he at least intended that the old childish
words should be forgotten. Now he was in the house again, and she
would have to hear his congratulations!
She thought for some quarter of an hour what she had better do, and
then she determined to go down to him at once. The sooner the first
meeting was over the better. Were she to remain away from him till
they should be brought together at the supper-table, there would
almost be a necessity for her to explain her conduct. She would go
down to him and treat him exactly as she might have done, had there
never been any special love between them. She would do so as
perfectly as her strength might enable her; and if she failed in
aught, it would be better to fail before her aunt than in the
presence of her uncle. When she had resolved, she waited yet another
minute or two, and then she went down-stairs.
As she entered her aunt's room George Voss was sitting before the
stove, while Madame Voss was in her accustomed chair, and Peter was
preparing the table for his young master's dinner. George arose from
his seat at once, and then came a look of pain across his face. Marie
saw it at once, and almost loved him the more because he suffered. 'I
am so glad to see you, George,' she said. 'I am so glad that you have
She had offered him her hand, and of course he had taken it.
'Yes,' he said, 'I thought it best just to run over. We shall be
very busy at the hotel before long.'
'Does that mean to say that you are not to be here for my
marriage?' This she said with her sweetest smile, making all the
effort in her power to give a gracious tone to her voice. It was
better, she knew, to plunge at the subject at once.
'No,' said he. 'I shall not be here then.'
'Ah,—your father will miss you so much! But if it cannot be, it
is very good of you to come now. There would have been something sad
in going away from the old house without seeing you once more. And
though Colmar and Basle are very near, it will not be the same as in
the dear old home;—will it, George?' There was a touch about her
voice as she called him by his name, that nearly killed him. At that
moment his hatred was strongest against Adrian. Why had such an
upstart as that, a puny, miserable creature, come between him and the
only thing that he had ever seen in the guise of a woman that could
touch his heart? He turned round with his back to the table and his
face to the stove, and said nothing. But he was able, when he no
longer saw her, when her voice was not sounding in his ear, to swear
that the thunderbolt should be hurled all the same. His journey to
Granpere should not be made for nothing. 'I must go now,' she said
presently. 'I shall see you at supper, shall I not, George, when
Uncle will be with us? Uncle Michel will be so delighted to find you.
And you will tell us of the new doings at the hotel. Good-bye for
the present, George.' Then she was gone before he had spoken another
He eat his dinner, and smoked a cigar about the yard, and then said
that he would go out and meet his father. He did go out, but did not
take the road by which he knew that his father was to be found. He
strolled off to the ravine, and came back only when it was dark. The
meeting between him and his father was kindly; but there was no
special word spoken, and thus they all sat down to supper.
It became necessary as George Voss sat at supper with his father
and Madame Voss that he should fix the time of his return to Colmar,
and he did so for the early morning of the next day but one. He had
told Madame Faragon that he expected to stay at Granpere but one
night. He felt, however, after his arrival that it might be
difficult for him to get away on the following day, and therefore he
told them that he would sleep two nights at the Lion d'Or, and then
start early, so as to reach the Colmar inn by mid-day.
'I suppose you find the old lady rather fidgety, George?' said
Michel Voss in high good humour.
George found it easier to talk about Madame Faragon and the hotel
at Colmar than he did of things at Granpere, and therefore became
communicative as to his own affairs. Michel too preferred the
subject of the new doings at the house on the other side of the
Vosges. His wife had given him a slight hint, doing her best, like a
good wife and discreet manager, to prevent ill-humour and hard words.
'He feels a little sore, you know. I was always sure there was
something. But it was wise of him to come and see her, and it will
go off in this way.'
Michel swore that George had no right to be sore, and that if his
son did not take pride in such a family arrangement as this, he
should no longer be son of his. But he allowed himself to be
counselled by his wife, and soon talked himself into a pleasant mood,
discussing Madame Faragon, and the horses belonging to the Hotel de la
Poste, and Colmar affairs in general. There was a certain important
ground for satisfaction between them. Everybody agreed that George
Voss had shown himself to be a steady man of business in the affairs
of the inn at Colmar.
Marie Bromar in the mean while went on with her usual occupation
round the room, but now and again came and stood at her uncle's
elbow, joining in the conversation, and asking a question or two
about Madame Faragon. There was, perhaps, something of the guile of
the serpent joined to her dove-like softness. She asked questions
and listened to answers—not that in her present state of mind she
could bring herself to take a deep interest in the affairs of Madame
Faragon's hotel, but because it suited her that there should be some
subject of easy conversation between her and George. It was
absolutely necessary now that George should be nothing more to her
than a cousin and an acquaintance; but it was well that he should be
that and not an enemy. It would be well too that he should know,
that he should think that he knew, that she was disturbed by no
remembrance of those words which had once passed between them. At
last she trusted herself to a remark which perhaps she would not have
made had the serpent's guile been more perfect of its kind.
'Surely you must get a wife, George, as soon as the house is your
'Of course he will get a wife,' said the father.
'I hope he will get a good one,' said Madame Voss after a short
pause—which, however, had been long enough to make her feel it
necessary to say something.
George said never a word, but lifted his glass and finished his
wine. Marie at once perceived that the subject was one on which she
must not venture to touch again. Indeed, she saw farther than that,
and became aware that it would be inexpedient for her to fall into
any special or minute conversation with her cousin during his short
stay at Granpere.
'You'll go up to the woods with me tomorrow—eh, George?' said the
father. The son of course assented. It was hardly possible that he
should not assent. The whole day, moreover, would not be wanted for
that purpose of throwing his thunderbolt; and if he could get it
thrown, it would be well that he should be as far away from Marie as
possible for the remainder of his visit. 'We'll start early, Marie,
and have a bit of breakfast before we go. Will six be too early for
you, George, with your town ways?' George said that six would not be
too early, and as he made the engagement for the morning he resolved
that he would if possible throw his thunderbolt that night. 'Marie
will get us a cup of coffee and a sausage. Marie is always up by that
Marie smiled, and promised that they should not be compelled to
start upon their walk with empty stomachs from any fault of hers. If
a hot breakfast at six o'clock in the morning could put her cousin
into a good humour, it certainly should not be wanting.
In two hours after supper George was with his father. Michel was
so full of happiness and so confidential that the son found it very
difficult to keep silence about his own sorrow. Had it not been that
with a half obedience to his wife's hints Michel said little about
Adrian, there must have been an explosion. He endeavoured to confine
himself to George's prospects, as to which he expressed himself
thoroughly pleased. 'You see,' said he, 'I am so strong of my years,
that if you wished for my shoes, there is no knowing how long you
might be kept waiting.'
'It couldn't have been too long,' said George.
'Ah well, I don't believe you would have been impatient to put the
old fellow under the sod. But I should have been impatient, I should
have been unhappy. You might have had the woods, to be sure; but it's
hardly enough of a business alone. Besides, a young man is always
more his own master away from his father. I can understand that. The
only thing is, George,—take a drive over, and see us sometimes.'
This was all very well, but it was not quite so well when he began to
speak of Marie. 'It's a terrible loss her going, you know, George; I
shall feel it sadly.'
'I can understand that,' said George.
'But of course I had my duty to do to the girl. I had to see that
she should be well settled, and she will be well settled. There's a
comfort in that;—isn't there, George?'
But George could not bring himself to reply to this with good-
humoured zeal, and there came for a moment a cloud between the father
and son. But Michel was wise and swallowed his wrath, and in a minute
or two returned to Colmar and Madame Faragon.
At about half-past nine George escaped from his father and returned
to the house. They had been sitting in the balcony which runs round
the billiard-room on the side of the court opposite to the front
door. He returned to the house, and caught Marie in one of the
passages up-stairs, as she was completing her work for the day. He
caught her close to the door of his own room and asked her to come
in, that he might speak a word to her. English readers will perhaps
remember that among the Vosges mountains there is less of a sense of
privacy attached to bedrooms than is the case with us here in
England. Marie knew immediately then that her cousin had not come to
Granpere for nothing,—had not come with the innocent intention of
simply pleasing his father,—had not come to say an ordinary word of
farewell to her before her marriage. There was to be something of a
scene, though she could not tell of what nature the scene might be.
She knew, however, that her own conduct had been right; and
therefore, though she would have avoided the scene, had it been
possible, she would not fear it. She went into his room; and when he
closed the door, she smiled, and did not as yet tremble.
'Marie,' he said, 'I have come here on purpose to say a word or two
to you.' There was no smile on her face as he spoke now. The
intention to be savage was written there, as plainly as any purpose
was ever written on man's countenance. Marie read the writing
without missing a letter. She was to be rebuked, and sternly
rebuked;—rebuked by the man who had taken her heart, and then left
her;—rebuked by the man who had crushed her hopes and made it
absolutely necessary for her to give up all the sweet poetry of her
life, to forget her dreams, to abandon every wished-for prettiness of
existence, and confine herself to duties and to things material! He
who had so sinned against her was about to rid himself of the burden
of his sin by endeavouring to cast it upon her. So much she
understood, but yet she did not understand all that was to come. She
would hear the rebuke as quietly as she might. In the interest of
others she would do so. But she would not fear him,—and she would
say a quiet word in defence of her own sex if there should be need.
Such was the purport of her mind as she stood opposite to him in his
'I hope they will be kind words,' she said. 'As we are to part so
soon, there should be none unkind spoken.'
'I do not know much about kindness,' he replied. Then he paused
and tried to think how best the thunderbolt might be hurled. 'There
is hardly room for kindness where there was once so much more than
kindness; where there was so much more,—or the pretence of it.' Then
he waited again, as though he expected that she should speak. But she
would not speak at all. If he had aught to say, let him say it.
'Perhaps, Marie, you have in truth forgotten all the promises you
once made me?' Though this was a direct question she would not answer
it. Her words to him should be as few as possible, and the time for
such words had not come as yet. 'It suits you no doubt to forget them
now, but I cannot forget them. You have been false to me, and have
broken my heart. You have been false to me, when my only joy on earth
was in believing in your truth. Your vow was for ever and ever, and
within one short year you are betrothed to another man! And
why?—because they tell you that he is rich and has got a house full
of furniture! You may prove to be a blessing to his house. Who can
say? On mine, you and your memory will be a curse,—lasting all my
lifetime!' And so the thunderbolt had been hurled.
And it fell as a thunderbolt. What she had expected had not been
at all like to this. She had known that he would rebuke her; but,
feeling strong in her own innocence and her own purity, knowing or
thinking that she knew that the fault had all been his, not
believing—having got rid of all belief—that he still loved her, she
had fancied that his rebuke would be unjust, cruel, but bearable.
Nay; she had thought that she could almost triumph over him with a
short word of reply. She had expected from him reproach, but not
love. There was reproach indeed, but it came with an expression of
passion of which she had not known him to be capable. He stood before
her telling her that she had broken his heart, and, as he told her so,
his words were half choked by sobs. He reminded her of her promises,
declaring that his own to her had ever remained in full force. And he
told her that she, she to whom he had looked for all his joy, had
become a curse to him and a blight upon his life. There were thoughts
and feelings too beyond all these that crowded themselves upon her
heart and upon her mind at the moment. It had been possible for her to
accept the hand of Adrian Urmand because she had become assured that
George Voss no longer regarded her as his promised bride. She would
have stood firm against her uncle and her aunt, she would have stood
against all the world, had it not seemed to her that the evidence of
her cousin's indifference was complete. Had not that evidence been
complete at all points, it would have been impossible to her to think
of becoming the wife of another man. Now the evidence on that matter
which had seemed to her to be so sufficient was all blown to the
It is true that had all her feelings been guided by reason only,
she might have been as strong as ever. In truth she had not sinned
against him. In truth she had not sinned at all. She had not done
that which she herself had desired. She had not been anxious for
wealth, or ease, or position; but had, after painful thought,
endeavoured to shape her conduct by the wishes of others, and by her
ideas of duty, as duty had been taught to her. O, how willingly
would she have remained as servant to her uncle, and have allowed M.
Urmand to carry the rich gift of his linen-chest to the feet of some
other damsel, had she believed herself to be free to choose! Had
there been no passion in her heart, she would now have known herself
to be strong in duty, and would have been able to have answered and
to have borne the rebuke of her old lover. But passion was there,
hot within her, aiding every word as he spoke it, giving strength to
his complaints, telling her of all that she had lost, telling her of
all she had taken from him. She forgot to remember now that he had
been silent for a year. She forgot now to think of the tone in which
he had asked about her marriage when no such marriage was in her mind.
But she remembered well the promise she had made, and the words of
it. 'Your vow was for ever and ever.' When she heard those words
repeated from his lips, her heart too was broken. All idea of holding
herself before him as one injured but ready to forgive was gone from
her. If by falling at his feet and owning herself to be vile and
mansworn she might get his pardon, she was ready now to lie there on
the ground before him.
'O George!' she said; 'O George!'
'What is the use of that now?' he replied, turning away from her.
He had thrown his thunderbolt, and he had nothing more to say. He
had seen that he had not thrown it quite in vain, and he would have
been contented to be away and back at Colmar. What more was there to
She came to him very gently, very humbly, and just touched his arm
with her hand. 'Do you mean, George, that you have continued to care
'Care for you? I know not what you call caring. Did I not swear
to you that I would love you for ever and ever, and that you should be
my own? Did I not leave this house and go away,—till I could earn
for you one that should be fit for you,—because I loved you? Why
should I have broken my word? I do not believe that you thought that
it was broken.'
'By my God, that knows me, I did!' As she said this she burst into
tears and fell on her knees at his feet.
'Marie,' he said, 'Marie;—there is no use in this. Stand up.'
'Not till you tell me that you will forgive me. By the name of the
good Jesus, who knows all our hearts, I thought that you had
forgotten me. O George, if you could know all! If you could know
how I have loved you; how I have sorrowed from day to day because I
was forgotten! How I have struggled to bear it, telling myself that
you were away, with all the world to interest you, and not like me, a
poor girl in a village, with no thing to think of but my lover! How I
have striven to do my duty by my uncle, and have obeyed him,
because,—because,—because, there was nothing left. If you could
know it all! If you could know it all!' Then she clasped her arms
round his legs, and hid her face upon his feet.
'And whom do you love now?' he asked. She continued to sob, but
did not answer him a word. Then he stooped down and raised her to her
feet, and she stood beside him, very near to him with her face
averted. 'And whom do you love now?' he asked again. 'Is it me, or
is it Adrian Urmand?' But she could not answer him, though she had
said enough in her passionate sorrow to make any answer to such a
question unnecessary, as far as knowledge on the subject might be
required. It might suit his views that she should confess the truth
in so many words, but for other purpose her answer had been full
enough. 'This is very sad,' he said, 'sad indeed; but I thought that
you would have been firmer.'
'Do not chide me again, George.'
'No;—it is to no purpose.'
'You said that I was—a curse to you?'
'O Marie, I had hoped,—I had so hoped, that you would have been my
'Say that I am not a curse to you, George!'
But he would make no answer to this appeal, no immediate answer;
but stood silent and stern, while she stood still touching his arm,
waiting in patience for some word at any rate of forgiveness. He was
using all the powers of his mind to see if there might even yet be any
way to escape this great shipwreck. She had not answered his
question. She had not told him in so many words that her heart was
still his, though she had promised her hand to the Basle merchant.
But he could not doubt that it was so. As he stood there silent,
with that dark look upon his brow which he had inherited from his
father, and that angry fire in his eye, his heart was in truth once
more becoming soft and tender towards her. He was beginning to
understand how it had been with her. He had told her, just now, that
he did not believe her, when she assured him that she had thought that
she was forgotten. Now he did believe her. And there arose in his
breast a feeling that it was due to her that he should explain this
change in his mind. 'I suppose you did think it,' he said suddenly.
'Think what, George?'
'That I was a vain, empty, false-tongued fellow, whose word was
worth no reliance.'
'I thought no evil of you, George,—except that you were changed to
me. When you came, you said nothing to me. Do you not remember?'
'I came because I was told that you were to be married to this man.
I asked you the question, and you would not deny it. Then I said to
myself that I would wait and see.' When he had spoken she had
nothing farther to say to him. The charges which he made against her
were all true. They seemed at least to be true to her then in her
present mood,—in that mood in which all that she now desired was his
forgiveness. The wish to defend herself, and to stand before him as
one justified, had gone from her. She felt that having still
possessed his love, having still been the owner of the one thing that
she valued, she had ruined herself by her own doubts; and she could
not forgive herself the fatal blunder. 'It is of no use to think of
it any more,' he said at last. 'You have to become this man's wife
now, and I suppose you must go through with it.'
'I suppose I must,' she said; 'unless—'
'Nothing, George. Of course I will marry him. He has my word.
And I have promised my uncle also. But, George, you will say that
you forgive me?'
'Yes;—I will forgive you.' But still there was the same black
cloud upon his face,—the same look of pain,—the same glance of
anger in his eye.
'O George, I am so unhappy! There can be no comfort for me now,
unless you will say that you will be contented.'
'I cannot say that, Marie.'
'You will have your house, and your business, and so many things to
interest you. And in time,—after a little time—'
'No, Marie, after no time at all. You told me at supper to-night
that I had better get a wife for myself. But I will get no wife. I
could not bring myself to marry another girl, I could not take a
woman home as my wife if I did not love her. If she were not the
person of all persons most dear to me, I should loathe her.'
He was speaking daggers to her, and he must have known how sharp
were his words. He was speaking daggers to her, and she must have
felt that he knew how he was wounding her. But yet she did not
resent his usage, even by a motion of her lip. Could she have
brought herself to do so, her agony would have been less sharp. 'I
suppose,' she said at last, 'that a woman is weaker than a man. But
you say that you will forgive me?'
'I have forgiven you.'
Then very gently she put out her hand to him, and he took it and
held it for a minute. She looked up at him as though for a moment
she had thought that there might be something else,—that there might
be some other token of true forgiveness, and then she withdrew her
hand. 'I had better go now,' she said. 'Good-night; George.'
'Good-night, Marie.' And then she was gone.
As soon as he was alone he sat himself down on the bedside, and
began to think of it. Everything was changed to him since he had
called her into the room, determining that he would crush her with
his thunderbolt. Let things go as they may with a man in an affair
of love, let him be as far as possible from the attainment of his
wishes, there will always be consolation to him if he knows that he
is loved. To be preferred to all others, even though that preference
may lead to no fruition, is in itself a thing enjoyable. He had
believed that Marie had forgotten him,—that she had been captivated
either by the effeminate prettiness of his rival, or by his wealth and
standing in the world. He believed all this no more. He knew now how
it was with her and with him, and, let his countenance say what it
might to the contrary, he could bring himself to forgive her in his
heart. She had not forgotten him! She had not ceased to love him!
There was merit in that which went far with him in excuse of her
But what should he do now? She was not as yet married to Adrian
Urmand. Might there not still be hope; hope for her sake as well as
for his own? He perfectly understood that in his country—nay, for
aught he knew to the contrary, in all countries—a formal betrothal
was half a marriage. It was half the ceremony in the eyes of all
those concerned; but yet, in regard to that indissoluble bond which
would indeed have divided Marie from him beyond the reach of any hope
to the contrary, such betrothal was of no effect whatever. This man
whom she did not love was not yet Marie's husband;—need never become
so if Marie could only be sufficiently firm in resisting the influence
of all her friends. No priest could marry her without her own
consent. He—George—he himself would have to face the enmity of all
those with whom he was connected. He was sure that his father, having
been a party to the betrothal, would never consent to a breach of his
promise to Urmand. Madame Voss, Madame Faragon, the priest, and their
Protestant pastor would all be against them. They would be as it were
outcasts from their own family. But George Voss, sitting there on his
bedside, thought that he could go through it all, if only he could
induce Marie Bromar to bear the brunt of the world's displeasure with
him. As he got into bed he determined that he would begin upon the
matter to his father during the morning's walk. His father would be
full of wrath;—but the wrath would have to be endured sooner or
On the next morning Michel Voss and his son met in the kitchen, and
found Marie already there. 'Well, my girl,' said Michel, as he
patted Marie's shoulder, and kissed her forehead, 'you've been up
getting a rare breakfast for these fellows, I see.' Marie smiled,
and made some good-humoured reply. No one could have told by her
face that there was anything amiss with her. 'It's the last favour
of the kind he'll ever have at your hands,' continued Michel, 'and
yet he doesn't seem to be half grateful.' George stood with his back
to the kitchen fire, and did not say a word. It was impossible for
him even to appear to be pleasant when such things were being said.
Marie was a better hypocrite, and, though she said little, was able
to look as though she could sympathise with her uncle's pleasant
mirth. The two men had soon eaten their breakfast and were gone, and
then Marie was left alone with her thoughts. Would George say
anything to his father of what had passed up-stairs on the previous
The two men started, and when they were alone together, and as long
as Michel abstained from talking about Marie and her prospects,
George was able to converse freely with his father. When they left
the house the morning was just dawning, and the air was fresh and
sharp. 'We shall soon have the frost here now,' said Michel, 'and
then there will be no more grass for the cattle.'
'I suppose they can have them out on the low lands till the end of
November. They always used.'
'Yes; they can have them out; but having them out and having food
for them are different things. The people here have so much stock
now, that directly the growth is checked by the frost, the land
becomes almost bare. They forget the old saying—"Half stocking,
whole profits; whole stocking, half profits!" And then, too, I think
the winters are earlier here than they used to be. They'll have to go
back to the Swiss plan, I fancy, and carry the food to the cattle in
their houses. It may be old-fashioned, as they say; but I doubt
whether the fodder does not go farther so.' Then as they began to
ascend the mountain, he got on to the subject of his own business and
George's prospects. 'The dues to the Commune are so heavy,' he said,
'that in fact there is little or nothing to be made out of the timber.
It looks like a business, because many men are employed, and it's a
kind of thing that spreads itself, and bears looking at. But it
leaves nothing behind.'
'It's not quite so bad as that, I hope,' said George.
'Upon my word then it is not much better, my boy. When you've
charged yourself with interest on the money spent on the mills, there
is not much to boast about. You're bound to replant every yard you
strip, and yet the Commune expects as high a rent as when there was no
planting to be done at all. They couldn't get it, only that men like
myself have their money in the mills, and can't well get out of the
'I don't think you'd like to give it up, father.'
'Well, no. It gives me exercise and something to do. The women
manage most of it down at the house; but there must be a change when
Marie has gone. I have hardly looked it in the face yet, but I know
there must be a change. She has grown up among it till she has it
all at her fingers' ends. I tell you what, George, she is a girl in
a hundred,—a girl in a hundred. She is going to marry a rich man,
and so it don't much signify; but if she married a poor man, she
would be as good as a fortune to him. She'd make a fortune for any
man. That's my belief. There is nothing she doesn't know, and
nothing she doesn't understand.'
Why did his father tell him all this? George thought of the day on
which his father had, as he was accustomed to say to himself, turned
him out of the house because he wanted to marry this girl who was 'as
good as a fortune' to any man. Had he, then, been imprudent in
allowing himself to love such a girl? Could there be any good reason
why his father should have wished that a 'fortune,' in every way so
desirable, should go out of the family? 'She'll have nothing to do of
that sort if she goes to Basle,' said George moodily.
'That is more than you can say,' replied his father. 'A woman
married to a man of business can always find her share in it if she
pleases. And with such a one as Adrian Urmand her side of the house
will not be the least considerable.'
'I suppose he is little better than a fool,' said George.
'A fool! He is not a fool at all. If you were to see him buying,
you would not call him a fool. He is very far from a fool.'
'It may be so. I do not know much of him myself.'
'You should not be so prone to think men fools till you find them
so; especially those who are to be so near to yourself. No;—he's
not a fool by any means. But he will know that he has got a clever
wife, and he will not be ashamed to make use of her.'
George was unwilling to contradict his father at the present
moment, as he had all but made up his mind to tell the whole story
about himself and Marie before he returned to the house. He had not
the slightest idea that by doing so he would be able to soften his
father's heart. He was sure, on the contrary, that were he to do so,
he and his father would go back to the hotel as enemies. But he was
quite resolved that the story should be told sooner or later,— should
be told before the day fixed for the wedding. If it was to be told by
himself, what occasion could be so fitting as the present? But, if it
were to be done on this morning, it would be unwise to harass his
father by any small previous contradictions.
They were now up among the scattered prostrate logs, and had again
taken up the question of the business of wood-cutting. 'No, George;
it would never have done for you; not as a mainstay. I thought of
giving it up to you once, but I knew that it would make a poor man of
'I wish you had,' said George, who was unable to repress the
feeling of his heart.
'Why do you say that? What a fool you must be if you think it!
There is nothing you may not do where you are, and you have got it
all into your own hands, with little or no outlay. The rent is
nothing; and the business is there ready made for you. In your
position, if you find the hotel is not enough, there is nothing you
cannot take up.' They had now seated themselves on the trunk of a
pine tree; and Michel Voss having drawn a pipe from his pocket and
filled it, was lighting it as he sat upon the wood. 'No, my boy,' he
continued, 'you'll have a better life of it than your father, I don't
doubt. After all, the towns are better than the country. There is
more to be seen and more to be learned. I don't complain. The Lord
has been very good to me. I've had enough of everything, and have
been able to keep my head up. But I feel a little sad when I look
forward. You and Marie will both be gone; and your stepmother's
friend, M. le Cure Gondin, does not make much society for me. I
sometimes think, when I am smoking a pipe up here all alone, that this
is the best of it all;—it will be when Marie has gone.' If his
father thus thought of it, why did he send Marie away? If he thus
thought of it, why had he sent his son away? Had it not already been
within his power to keep both of them there together under his
roof-tree? He had insisted on dividing them, and dismissing them from
Granpere, one in one direction, and the other in another;—and then he
complained of being alone! Surely his father was altogether
unreasonable. 'And now one can't even get tobacco that is worth
smoking,' continued Michel, in a melancholy tone. 'There used to be
good tobacco, but I don't know where it has all gone.'
'I can send you over a little prime tobacco from Colmar, father.'
'I wish you would, George. This is foul stuff. But I sometimes
think I'll give it up. What's the use of it? A man sits and smokes
and smokes, and nothing comes of it. It don't feed him, nor clothe
him, and it leaves nothing behind,—except a stink.'
'You're a little down in the mouth, father, or you wouldn't talk of
giving up smoking.'
'I am down in the mouth,—terribly down in the mouth. Till it was
all settled, I did not know how much I should feel Marie's going. Of
course it had to be, but it makes an old man of me. There will be
nothing left. Of course there's your stepmother,—as good a woman as
ever lived,—and the children; but Marie was somehow the soul of us
all. Give us another light, George. I'm blessed if I can keep the
fire in the pipe at all.'
'And this,' thought George, 'is in truth the state of my father's
mind! There are three of us concerned who are all equally dear to
each other, my father, myself, and Marie Bromar. There is not one of
them who doesn't feel that the presence of the others is necessary to
his happiness. Here is my father declaring that the world will no
longer have any savour for him because I am away in one place, and
Marie is to be away in another. There is not the slightest real
reason on earth why we should have been separated. Yet he,—he alone
has done it; and we,—we are to break our hearts over it! Or rather
he has not done it. He is about to do it. The sacrifice is not yet
made, and yet it must be made, because my father is so unreasonable
that no one will dare to point out to him where lies the way to his
own happiness and to the happiness of those he loves!' It was thus
that George Voss thought of it as he listened to his father's
But he himself, though he was hot in temper, was slow, or at least
deliberate, in action. He did not even now speak out at once. When
his father's pipe was finished he suggested that they should go on to
a certain run for the fir-logs, which he himself—George Voss— had
made—a steep grooved inclined plane by which the timber when cut in
these parts could be sent down with a rush to the close neighbourhood
of the saw-mill below. They went and inspected the slide, and
discussed the question of putting new wood into the groove. Michel,
with the melancholy tone that had prevailed with him all the morning,
spoke of matters as though any money spent in mending would be thrown
away. There are moments in the lives of most of us in which it seems
to us that there will never be more cakes and ale. George, however,
talked of the children, and reminded his father that in matters of
business nothing is so ruinous as ruin. 'If you've got to get your
money out of a thing, it should always be in working order,' he said.
Michel acknowledged the truth of the rule, but again declared that
there was no money to be got out of the thing. He yielded, however,
and promised that the repairs should be made. Then they went down to
the mill, which was going at that time. George, as he stood by and
watched the man and boy adjusting the logs to the cradle, and listened
to the apparently self-acting saw as it did its work, and observed the
perfection of the simple machinery which he himself had adjusted, and
smelt the sweet scent of the newly-made sawdust, and listened to the
music of the little stream, when, between whiles, the rattle of the
mill would cease for half a minute,—George, as he stood in silence,
looking at all this, listening to the sounds, smelling the perfume,
thinking how much sweeter it all was than the little room in which
Madame Faragon sat at Colmar, and in which it was, at any rate for
the present, his duty to submit his accounts to her, from time to
time,—resolved that he would at once make an effort. He knew his
father's temper well. Might it not be that though there should be a
quarrel for a time, everything would come right at last? As for
Adrian Urmand, George did not believe,—or told himself that he did
not believe,—that such a cur as he would suffer much because his
hopes of a bride were not fulfilled.
They stayed for an hour at the saw-mill, and Michel, in spite of
all that he had said about tobacco, smoked another pipe. While they
were there, George, though his mind was full of other matter,
continued to give his father practical advice about the business—
how a new wheel should be supplied here, and a lately invented
improvement introduced there. Each of them at the moment was care-
laden with special thoughts of his own, but nevertheless, as men of
business, they knew that the hour was precious and used it. To
saunter into the woods and do nothing was not at all in accordance
with Michel's usual mode of life; and though he hummed and hawed, and
doubted and grumbled, he took a note of all his son said, and was
quite of a mind to make use of his son's wit.
'I shall be over at Epinal the day after tomorrow,' he said as they
left the mill, 'and I'll see if I can get the new crank there.'
'They'll be sure to have it at Heinman's,' said George, as they
began to descend the hill. From the spot on which they had been
standing the walk down to Granpere would take them more than an hour.
It might well be that they might make it an affair of two or three
hours, if they went up to other timber-cuttings on their route; but
George was sure that as soon as he began to tell his story his father
would make his way straight for home. He would be too much moved to
think of his timber, and too angry to desire to remain a minute longer
than he could help in company with his son. Looking at all the
circumstances as carefully as he could, George thought that he had
better begin at once. 'As you feel Marie's going so much,' he said,
'I wonder that you are so anxious to send her away.'
'That's a poor argument, George, and one that I should not have
expected from you. Am I to keep her here all her life, doing no good
for herself, simply because I like to have her here? It is in the
course of things that she should be married, and it is my duty to see
that she marries well.'
'That is quite true, father.'
'Then why do you talk to me about sending her away? I don't send
her away. Urmand comes and takes her away. I did the same when I
was young. Now I'm old, and I have to be left behind. It's the way
'But she doesn't want to be taken away,' said George, rushing at
once at his subject.
'What do you mean by that?'
'Just what I say, father. She consents to be taken away, but she
does not wish it.'
'I don't know what you mean. Has she been talking to you? Has she
'I have been talking to her. I came over from Colmar when I heard
of this marriage on purpose that I might talk to her. I had at any
rate a right to do that.'
'Right to do what? I don't know that you have any right. If you
have been trying to do mischief in my house, George, I will never
'I will tell you the whole truth, father; and then you shall say
yourself whether I have been trying to do mischief, and shall say
also whether you will forgive me. You will remember when you told me
that I was not to think of Marie Bromar for myself.'
'I do remember.'
'Well; I had thought of her. If you wanted to prevent that, you
were too late.'
'You were boys and girls together; that is all.'
'Let me tell my story, father, and then you shall judge. Before
you had spoken to me at all, Marie had given me her troth.'
'Let me at least tell my story. She had done so, and I had given
her mine; and when you told me to go, I went, not quite knowing then
what it might be best that we should do, but feeling very sure that
she would at least be true to me.'
'Truth to any such folly as that would be very wicked.'
'At any rate, I did nothing. I remained there month after month;
meaning to do something when this was settled,—meaning to do
something when that was settled; and then there came a sort of rumour
to me that Marie was to be Urmand's wife. I did not believe it, but I
thought that I would come and see.'
'It was true.'
'No;—it was not true then. I came over, and was very angry
because she was cold to me. She would not promise that there should
be no such engagement; but there was none then. You see I will tell
you everything as it occurred.'
'She is at any rate engaged to Adrian Urmand now, and for all our
sakes you are bound not to interfere.'
'But yet I must tell my story. I went back to Colmar, and then,
after a while, there came tidings, true tidings, that she was engaged
to this man. I came over again yesterday, determined,—you may blame
me if you will, father, but listen to me,—determined to throw her
falsehood in her teeth.'
'Then I will protect her from you,' said Michel Voss, turning upon
his son as though he meant to strike him with his staff.
'Ah, father,' said George, pausing and standing opposite to the
innkeeper, 'but who is to protect her from you? If I had found that
that which you are doing was making her happy,—I would have spoken
my mind indeed; I would have shown her once, and once only, what she
had done to me; how she had destroyed me,—and then I would have
gone, and troubled none of you any more.'
'You had better go now, and bring us no more trouble. You are all
'But her worst trouble will still cling to her. I have found that
it is so. She has taken this man not because she loves him, but
because you have bidden her.'
'She has taken him, and she shall marry him.'
'I cannot say that she has been right, father; but she deserves no
such punishment as that. Would you make her a wretched woman for
ever, because she has done wrong in striving to obey you?'
'She has not done wrong in striving to obey me. She has done
right. I do not believe a word of this.'
'You can ask her yourself.'
'I will ask her nothing,—except that she shall not speak to you
any farther about it. You have come here wilfully-minded to disturb
'Father, that is unjust.'
'I say it is true. She was contented and happy before you came.
She loves the man, and is ready to marry him on the day fixed. Of
course she will marry him. You would not have us go back from our
'Certainly I would. If he be a man, and she tells him that she
repents,—if she tells him all the truth, of course he will give her
back her troth. I would do so to any woman that only hinted that she
'No such hint shall be given. I will hear nothing of it. I shall
not speak to Marie on the subject,—except to desire her to have no
farther converse with you. Nor will I speak of it again to yourself;
unless you wish me to bid you go from me altogether, you will not
mention the matter again.' So saying, Michel Voss strode on, and
would not even turn his eyes in the direction of his son. He strode
on, making his way down the hill at the fastest pace that he could
achieve, every now and then raising his hat and wiping the
perspiration from his brow. Though he had spoken of Marie's
departure as a loss that would be very hard to bear, the very idea
that anything should be allowed to interfere with the marriage which
he had planned was unendurable. What;—after all that had been said
and done, consent that there should be no marriage between his niece
and the rich young merchant! Never. He did not stop for a moment to
think how much of truth there might be in his son's statement. He
would not even allow himself to remember that he had forced Adrian
Urmand as a suitor upon his niece. He had had his qualms of
conscience upon that matter,—and it was possible that they might
return to him. But he would not stop now to look at that side of the
question. The young people were betrothed. The marriage was a thing
settled, and it should be celebrated. He had never broken his faith
to any man, and he would not break it to Adrian Urmand. He strode on
down the mountain, and there was not a word more said between him and
his son till they reached the inn doors. 'You understand me,' he said
then. 'Not a word more to Marie.' After that he went up at once to
his wife's chamber, and desired that Marie might be sent to him there.
During his rapid walk home he had made up his mind as to what he
would do. He would not be severe to his niece. He would simply ask
her one question.
'My dear,' he said, striving to be calm, but telling her by his
countenance as plainly as words could have done all that had passed
between him and his son,—'Marie, my dear, I take it for—granted—
there is nothing to—to—to interrupt our plans.'
'In what way, uncle?' she asked, merely wanting to gain a moment
'In any way. In no way. Just say that there is nothing wrong, and
that will be sufficient.' She stood silent, not having a word to say
to him. 'You know what I mean, Marie. You intend to marry Adrian
'I suppose so,' said Marie in a low whisper.
'Look here, Marie,—if there be any doubt about it, we will part,—
and for ever. You shall never look upon my face again. My honour is
pledged,—and yours.' Then he hurried out of the room, down into the
kitchen, and without staying there a moment went out into the yard,
and walked through to the stables. His passion had been so strong and
uncontrollable, that he had been unable to remain with his niece and
exact a promise from her.
George, when he saw his father go through to the stables, entered
the house. He had already made up his mind that he would return at
once to Colmar, without waiting to have more angry words. Such words
would serve him not at all. But he must if possible see Marie, and he
must also tell his stepmother that he was about to depart. He found
them both together, and at once, very abruptly, declared that he was
to start immediately.
'You have quarrelled with your father, George,' said Madame Voss.
'I hope not. I hope that he has not quarrelled with me. But it is
better that I should go.'
'What is it, George? I hope it is nothing serious.' Madame Voss
as she said this looked at Marie, but Marie had turned her face away.
George also looked at her, but could not see her countenance. He did
not dare to ask her to give him an interview alone; nor had he quite
determined what he would say to her if they were together. 'Marie,'
said Madame Voss, 'do you know what this is about?'
'I wish I had died,' said Marie, 'before I had come into this
house. I have made hatred and bitterness between those who should love
each other better than all the world!' Then Madame Voss was able to
guess what had been the cause of the quarrel.
'Marie,' said George very slowly, 'if you will only ask your own
heart what you ought to do, and be true to what it tells you, there
is no reason even yet that you should be sorry that you came to
Granpere. But if you marry a man whom you do not love, you will sin
against him, and against me, and against yourself, and against God!'
Then he took up his hat and went out.
In the courtyard he met his father.
'Where are you going now, George?' said his father.
'To Colmar. It is better that I should go at once. Good-bye,
father;' and he offered his hand to his parent.
'Have you spoken to Marie?'
'My mother will tell you what I have said. I have spoken nothing
'Have you said anything about her marriage?'
'Yes. I have told her that she could not honestly marry the man
she did not love.'
'What right have you, sir,' said Michel, nearly choked with wrath,
'to interfere in the affairs of my household? You had better go, and
go at once. If you return again before they are married, I will tell
the servants to put you off the place!' George Voss made no answer,
but having found his horse and his gig, drove himself off to Colmar.
George Voss, as he drove back to Colmar and thought of what had
been done during the last twenty-four hours, did not find that he had
much occasion for triumph. He had, indeed, the consolation of
knowing that the girl loved him, and in that there was a certain
amount of comfort. As he had ever been thinking about her since he
had left Granpere, so also had she been thinking of him. His father
had told him that they had been no more than children when they
parted, and had ridiculed the idea that any affection formed so long
back and at so early an age should have lasted. But it had lasted;
and was now as strong in Marie's breast as it was in his own. He had
learned this at any rate by his journey to Granpere, and there was
something of consolation in the knowledge. But, nevertheless, he did
not find that he could triumph. Marie had been weak enough to yield
to his father once, and would yield to him, he thought, yet again.
Women in this respect—as he told himself—were different from men.
They were taught by the whole tenor of their lives to submit,—unless
they could conquer by underhand unseen means, by little arts, by
coaxing, and by tears. Marie, he did not doubt, had tried all these,
and had failed. His father's purpose had been too strong for her, and
she had yielded. Having submitted once, of course she would submit
again. There was about his father a spirit of masterfulness, which he
was sure Marie would not be able to withstand. And then there would
be—strong against his interests, George thought—that feeling so
natural to a woman, that as all the world had been told of her coming
marriage, she would be bound to go through with it. The idea of it
had become familiar to her. She had conquered the repugnance which
she must at first have felt, and had made herself accustomed to regard
this man as her future husband. And then there would be Madame Voss
against him, and M. le Cure,—both of whom would think it infinitely
better for Marie's future welfare, that she should marry a Roman
Catholic, as was Urmand, than a Protestant such as was he, George
Voss. And then the money! Even if he could bring himself to believe
that the money was nothing to Marie, it would be so much to all those
by whom Marie would be surrounded, that it would be impossible that
she should be preserved from its influence.
It is not often that young people really know each other; but
George certainly did not know Marie Bromar. In the first place,
though he had learned from her the secret of her heart, he had not
taught himself to understand how his own sullen silence had acted upon
her. He knew now that she had continued to love him; but he did not
know how natural it had been that she should have believed that he had
forgotten her. He could not, therefore, understand how different
must now be her feelings in reference to this marriage with Adrian,
from what they had been when she had believed herself to be utterly
deserted. And then he did not comprehend how thoroughly unselfish
she had been;—how she had struggled to do her duty to others, let
the cost be what it might to herself. She had plighted herself to
Adrian Urmand, not because there had seemed to her to be any
brightness in the prospect which such a future promised to her, but
because she did verily believe that, circumstanced as she was, it
would be better that she should submit herself to her friends. All
this George Voss did not understand. He had thrown his thunderbolt,
and had seen that it had been efficacious. Its efficacy had been
such that his wrath had been turned into tenderness. He had been so
changed in his purpose, that he had been induced to make an appeal to
his father at the cost of his father's enmity. But that appeal had
been in vain, and, as he thought of it all, he told himself that on
the appointed day Marie Bromar would become the wife of Adrian Urmand.
He knew well enough that a girl betrothed is a girl already half
He was very wretched as he drove his horse along. Though there was
a solace in the thought that the memory of him had still remained in
Marie's heart, there was a feeling akin to despair in this also. His
very tenderness towards her was more unendurable than would have been
his wrath. The pity of it! The pity of it! It was that which made
him sore of heart and faint of spirit. If he could have reproached
her as cold, mercenary, unworthy, heartless, even though he had still
loved her, he could have supported himself by his anger against her
unworthiness. But as it was there was no such support for him.
Though she had been in fault, her virtue towards him was greater than
her fault. She still loved him. She still loved him,- -though she
could not be his wife.
Then he thought of Adrian Urmand and of the man's success and
wealth, and general prosperity in the world. What if he should go
over to Basle and take Adrian Urmand by the throat and choke him?
What if he should at least half choke the successful man, and make it
well understood that the other half would come unless the successful
man would consent to relinquish his bride? George, though he did not
expect success for himself, was fully purposed that Urmand should not
succeed without some interference from him,— by means of choking or
otherwise. He would find some way of making himself disagreeable. If
it were only by speaking his mind, he thought that he could speak it
in such a way that the Basle merchant would not like it. He would
tell Urmand in the first place that Marie was won not at all by
affection, not in the least by any personal regard for her suitor, but
altogether by a feeling of duty towards her uncle. And he would point
out to this suitor how dastardly a thing it would be to take advantage
of a girl so placed. He planned a speech or two as he drove along
which he thought that even Urmand, thick-skinned as he believed him to
be, would dislike to hear. 'You may have her, perhaps,' he would say
to him, 'as so much goods that you would buy, because she is, as a
thing in her uncle's hands, to be bought. She believes it to be her
duty, as being altogether dependent, to be disposed of as her uncle
may choose. And she will go to you, as she would to any other man who
might make the purchase. But as for loving you, you don't even
believe that she loves you. She will keep your house for you; but
she will never love you. She will keep your house for you,—unless,
indeed, she should find you to be so intolerable to her, that she
should be forced to leave you. It is in that way that you will have
her,—if you are so low a thing as to be willing to take her so.' He
planned various speeches of such a nature—not intending to trust
entirely to speeches, but to proceed to some attempt at choking
afterwards if it should be necessary. Marie Bromar should not become
Adrian Urmand's wife without some effort on his part. So resolving,
he drove into the yard of the hotel at Colmar.
As soon as he entered the house Madame Faragon began to ask him
questions about the wedding. When was it to be? George thought for
a moment, and then remembered that he had not even heard the day
'Why don't you answer me, George?' said the old woman angrily.
'You must know when it's going to be.'
'I don't know that it's going to be at all,' said George.
'Not going to be at all! Why not? There is not anything wrong, is
there? Were they not betrothed? Why don't you tell me, George?'
'Yes; they were betrothed.'
'And is he crying off? I should have thought Michel Voss was the
man to strangle him if he did that.'
'And I am the man to strangle him if he don't,' said George,
walking out of the room.
He knew that he had been silly and absurd, but he knew also that he
was so moved as to have hardly any control over himself. In the few
words that he had now said to Madame Faragon he had, as he felt, told
the story of his own disappointment; and yet he had not in the least
intended to take the old woman into his confidence. He had not meant
to have said a word about the quarrel between himself and his father,
and now he had told everything.
When she saw him again in the evening, of course she asked him some
'George,' she said, 'I am afraid things are not going pleasantly at
'Not altogether,' he answered.
'But I suppose the marriage will go on?' To this he made no
answer, but shook his head, showing how impatient he was at being thus
questioned. 'You ought to tell me,' said Madame Faragon plaintively,
'considering how interested I must be in all that concerns you.'
'I have nothing to tell.'
'But is the marriage to be put off?' again demanded Madame Faragon,
with extreme anxiety.
'Not that I know of, Madame Faragon: they will not ask me whether
it is to be put off or not.'
'But have they quarrelled with M. Urmand?'
'No; nobody has quarrelled with M. Urmand.'
'Was he there, George?'
'What, with me! No; he was not there with me. I have never seen
the man since I first left Granpere to come here.' And then George
Voss began to think what might have happened had Adrian Urmand been
at the hotel while he was there himself. After all, what could he
have said to Adrian Urmand? or what could he have done to him?
'He hasn't written, has he, to say that he is off his bargain?'
Poor Madame Faragon was almost pathetic in her anxiety to learn what
had really occurred at the Lion d'Or.
'Certainly not. He has not written at all.'
'Then what is it, George?'
'I suppose it is this,—that Marie Bromar cares nothing for him.'
'But so rich as he is! And they say, too, such a good-looking
'It is wonderful, is it not? It is next to a miracle that there
should be a girl deaf and blind to such charms. But, nevertheless, I
believe it is so. They will probably make her marry him, whether she
likes it or not.'
'But she is betrothed to him. Of course she will marry him.'
'Then there will be an end of it,' said George.
There was one other question which Madame Faragon longed to ask;
but she was almost too much afraid of her young friend to put it into
words. At last she plucked up courage, and did ask her question
after an ambiguous way.
'But I suppose it is nothing to you, George?'
'Nothing at all. Nothing on earth,' said he. 'How should it be
anything to me?' Then he hesitated for a while, pausing to think
whether or not he would tell the truth to Madame Faragon. He knew
that there was no one on earth, setting aside his father and Marie
Bromar, to whom he was really so dear as he was to this old woman.
She would probably do more for him, if it might possibly be in her
power to do anything, than any other of his friends. And, moreover,
he did not like the idea of being false to her, even on such a
subject as this. 'It is only this to me,' he said, 'that she had
promised to be my wife, before they had ever mentioned Urmand's name
'And why should she not have promised?'
'But, George;—during all this time you have never mentioned it.'
'There are some things, Madame Faragon, which one doesn't mention.
And I do not know why I should have mentioned it at all. But you
understand all about it now. Of course she will marry the man. It
is not likely that my father should fail to have his own way with a
girl who is dependent on him.'
'But he—M. Urmand; he would give her up if he knew it all, would
To this George made no instant answer; but the idea was there, in
his mind—that the linen merchant might perhaps be induced to abandon
his purpose, if he could be made to understand that Marie wished it.
'If he have any touch of manhood about him he would do so,' said he.
'And what will you do, George?'
'Do! I shall do nothing. What should I do? My father has turned
me out of the house. That is the whole of it. I do not know that
there is anything to be done.' Then he went out, and there was
nothing more said upon the question. For the next three or four days
there was nothing said. As he went in and out Madame Faragon would
look at him with anxious eyes, questioning herself how far such a
feeling of love might in truth make this young man forlorn and
wretched. As far as she could judge by his manner he was very forlorn
and very wretched. He did his work indeed, and was busy about the
place, as was his wont. But there was a look of pain in his face,
which made her old heart grieve, and by degrees her good wishes for
the object, which seemed to be so much to him, became eager and hot.
'Is there nothing to be done?' she asked at last, putting out her
fat hand to take hold of his in sympathy.
'There is nothing to be done,' said George, who, however, hated
himself because he was doing nothing, and still thought occasionally
of that plan of choking his rival.
'If you were to go to Basle and see the man?'
'What could I say to him, if I did see him? After all, it is not
him that I can blame. I have no just ground of quarrel with him. He
has done nothing that is not fair. Why should he not love her if it
suits him? Unless he were to fight me, indeed—'
'O, George! let there be no fighting.'
'It would do no good, I fear.'
'None, none, none,' said she.
'If I were to kill him, she could not be my wife then.'
'No, no; certainly not.'
'And if I wounded him, it would make her like him perhaps. If he
were to kill me, indeed, there might be some comfort in that.'
After this Madame Faragon made no farther suggestions that her
young friend should go to Basle.
During the remainder of the day on which George had left Granpere,
the hours did not fly very pleasantly at the Lion d'Or. Michel Voss
had gone to his niece immediately upon his return from his walk,
intending to obtain a renewed pledge from her that she would be true
to her engagement. But he had been so full of passion, so beside
himself with excitement, so disturbed by all that he had heard, that
he had hardly waited with Marie long enough to obtain such pledge, or
to learn from her that she refused to give it. He had only been able
to tell her that if she hesitated about marrying Adrian she should
never look upon his face again; and then without staying for a reply
he had left her. He had been in such a tremor of passion that he had
been unable to demand an answer. After that, when George was gone, he
kept away from her during the remainder of the morning. Once or twice
he said a few words to his wife, and she counselled him to take no
farther outward notice of anything that George had said to him. 'It
will all come right if you will only be a little calm with her,'
Madame Voss had said. He had tossed his head and declared that he was
calm;—the calmest man in all Lorraine. Then he had come to his wife
again, and she had again given him some good practical advice. 'Don't
put it into her head that there is to be a doubt,' said Madame Voss.
'I haven't put it into her head,' he answered angrily.
'No, my dear, no; but do not allow her to suppose that anybody else
can put it there either. Let the matter go on. She will see the
things bought for her wedding, and when she remembers that she has
allowed them to come into the house without remonstrating, she will
be quite unable to object. Don't give her an opportunity of
objecting.' Michel Voss again shook his head, as though his wife
were an unreasonable woman, and swore that it was not he who had
given Marie such opportunity. But he made up his mind to do as his
wife recommended. 'Speak softly to her, my dear,' said Madame Voss.
'Don't I always speak softly?' said he, turning sharply round upon
He made his attempt to speak softly when he met Marie about the
house just before supper. He put his hand upon her shoulder, and
smiled, and murmured some word of love. He was by no means crafty in
what he did. Craft indeed was not the strong point of his character.
She took his rough hand and kissed it, and looked up lovingly,
beseechingly into his face. She knew that he was asking her to
consent to the sacrifice, and he knew that she was imploring him to
spare her. This was not what Madame Voss had meant by speaking
softly. Could she have been allowed to dilate upon her own
convictions, or had she been able adequately to express her own
ideas, she would have begged that there might be no sentiment, no
romance, no kissing of hands, no looking into each other's faces,—
no half-murmured tones of love. Madame Voss believed strongly that
the every-day work of the world was done better without any of these
glancings and glimmerings of moonshine. But then her husband was, by
nature, of a fervid temperament, given to the influence of unexpressed
poetic emotions;—and thus subject, in spite of the strength of his
will, to much weakness of purpose. Madame Voss perhaps condemned her
husband in this matter the more because his romantic disposition never
showed itself in his intercourse with her. He would kiss Marie's
hand, and press Marie's wrist, and hold dialogues by the eye with
Marie. But with his wife his speech was,- -not exactly yea, yea, and
nay, nay,—but yes, yes, and no, no. It was not unnatural therefore
that she should specially dislike this weakness of his which came from
his emotional temperament. 'I would just let things go, as though
there were nothing special at all,' she said again to him, before
supper, in a whisper.
'And so I do. What would you have me say?'
'Don't mind petting her, but just be as you would be any other
'I am as I would be any other day,' he replied. However, he knew
that his wife was right, and was in a certain way aware that if he
could only change himself and be another sort of man, he might manage
the matter better. He could be fiercely angry, or caressingly
affectionate. But he was unable to adopt that safe and golden mean,
which his wife recommended. He could not keep himself from
interchanging a piteous glance or two with Marie at supper, and put a
great deal too much unction into his caress to please Madame Voss,
when Marie came to kiss him before she went to bed.
In the mean time Marie was quite aware that it was incumbent on her
to determine what she would do. It may be as well to declare at once
that she had determined—had determined fully, before her uncle and
George had started for their walk up to the wood-cutting. When she
was giving them their breakfast that morning her mind was fully made
up. She had had the night to lie awake upon it, to think it over, and
to realise all that George had told her. It had come to her as quite
a new thing that the man whom she worshipped, worshipped her too.
While she believed that nobody else loved her;- -when she could tell
herself that her fate was nothing to anybody;— as long as it had
seemed to her that the world for her must be cold, and hard, and
material;—so long could she reconcile to herself, after some painful,
dubious fashion, the idea of being the wife either of Adrian Urmand,
or of any other man. Some kind of servitude was needful, and if her
uncle was decided that she must be banished from his house, the kind
of servitude which was proposed to her at Basle would do as well as
another. But when she had learned the truth,—a truth so
unexpected,—then such servitude became impossible to her. On that
morning, when she came down to give the men their breakfast, she had
quite determined that let the consequences be what they might she
would never become the wife of Adrian Urmand. Madame Voss had told
her husband that when Marie saw the things purchased for her wedding
coming into the house, the very feeling that the goods had been bought
would bind her to her engagement. Marie had thought of that also, and
was aware that she must lose no time in making her purpose known, so
that articles which would be unnecessary might not be purchased. On
that very morning, while the men had been up in the mountain, she had
sat with her aunt hemming sheets;—intended as an addition to the
already overflowing stock possessed by M. Urmand. It was with
difficulty that she had brought herself to do that,—telling herself,
however, that as the linen was there, it must be hemmed; when there
had come a question of marking the sheets, she had evaded the
task,—not without raising suspicion in the bosom of Madame Voss.
But it was, as she knew, absolutely necessary that her uncle should
be informed of her purpose. When he had come to her after the walk,
and demanded of her whether she still intended to marry Adrian
Urmand, she had answered him falsely. 'I suppose so,' she had said.
The question—such a question as it was—had been put to her too
abruptly to admit of a true answer on the spur of the moment. But
the falsehood almost stuck in her throat and was a misery to her till
she could set it right by a clear declaration of the truth. She had
yet to determine what she would do;—how she would tell this truth; in
what way she would insure to herself the power of carrying out her
purpose. Her mind, the reader must remember, was somewhat dark in the
matter. She was betrothed to the man, and she had always heard that a
betrothal was half a marriage. And yet she knew of instances in which
marriages had been broken off after betrothal quite as ceremonious as
her own—had been broken off without scandal or special censure from
the Church. Her aunt, indeed, and M. le Cure had, ever since the
plighting of her troth to M. Urmand, spoken of the matter in her
presence, as though the wedding were a thing already nearly done;—not
suggesting by the tenor of their speech that any one could wish in any
case to make a change, but pointing out incidentally that any change
was now out of the question. But Marie had been sharp enough to
understand perfectly the gist of her aunt's manoeuvres and of the
priest's incidental information. The thing could be done, she know;
and she feared no one in the doing of it,—except her uncle. But she
did fear that if she simply told him that it must be done, he would
have such a power over her that she would not succeed. In what way
could she do it first, and then tell him afterwards?
At last she determined that she would write a letter to M. Urmand,
and show a copy of the letter to her uncle when the post should have
taken it so far out of Granpere on its way to Basle, as to make it
impossible that her uncle should recall it. Much of the day after
George's departure, and much of the night, was spent in the
preparation of this letter. Marie Bromar was not so well practised
in the writing of letters as will be the majority of the young ladies
who may, perhaps, read her history. It was a difficult thing for her
to begin the letter, and a difficult thing for her to bring it to its
end. But the letter was written and sent. The post left Granpere at
about eight in the morning, taking all letters by way of Remiremont;
and on the day following George's departure, the post took Marie
Bromar's letter to M. Urmand.
When it was gone, her state of mind was very painful. Then it was
necessary that she should show the copy to her uncle. She had posted
the letter between six and seven with her own hands, and had then come
trembling back to the inn, fearful that her uncle should discover what
she had done before her letter should be beyond his reach. When she
saw the mail conveyance go by on its route to Remiremont, then she
knew that she must begin to prepare for her uncle's wrath. She
thought that she had heard that the letters were detained some time at
Remiremont before they went on to Epinal in one direction, and to
Mulhouse in the other. She looked at the railway time-table which was
hung up in one of the passages of the inn, and saw the hour of the
departure of the diligence from Remiremont to catch the train at
Mulhouse for Basle. When that hour was passed, the conveyance of her
letter was insured, and then she must show the copy to her uncle. He
came into the house about twelve, and eat his dinner with his wife in
the little chamber. Marie, who was in and out of the room during the
time, would not sit down with them. When pressed to do so by her
uncle, she declared that she had eaten lately and was not hungry. It
was seldom that she would sit down to dinner, and this therefore gave
rise to no special remark. As soon as his meal was over, Michel Voss
got up to go out about his business, as was usual with him. Then
Marie followed him into the passage. 'Uncle Michel,' she said, 'I
want to speak to you for a moment; will you come with me?'
'What is it about, Marie?'
'If you will come, I will show you.'
'Show me! What will you show me?'
'It's a letter, Uncle Michel. Come up-stairs and you shall see
it.' Then he followed her up-stairs, and in the long public room,
which was at that hour deserted, she took out of her pocket the copy
of her letter to Adrian Urmand, and put it into her uncle's hands.
'It is a letter, Uncle Michel, which I have written to M. Urmand. It
went this morning, and you must see it.'
'A letter to Urmand,' he said, as he took the paper suspiciously
into his hands.
'Yes, Uncle Michel. I was obliged to write it. It is the truth,
and I was obliged to let him know it. I am afraid you will be angry
with me, and—turn me away; but I cannot help it.'
The letter was as follows:
'The Hotel Lion d'Or, Granpere,
October 1, 186-.
'I take up my pen in great sorrow and remorse to write you a
letter, and to prevent you from coming over here for me, as you
intended, on this day fortnight. I have promised to be your wife, but
it cannot be. I know that I have behaved very badly, but it would be
worse if I were to go on and deceive you. Before I knew you I had
come to be fond of another man; and I find now, though I have
struggled hard to do what my uncle wishes, that I could not promise to
love you and be your wife. I have not told Uncle Michel yet, but I
shall as soon as this letter is gone.
'I am very, very sorry for the trouble I have given you. I did not
mean to be bad. I hope that you will forget me, and try to forgive
me. No one knows better than I do how bad I have been.
'Your most humble servant,
'With the greatest respect,
The letter had taken her long to write, and it took her uncle long
to read, before he came to the end of it. He did not get through a
line without sundry interruptions, which all arose from his
determination to contradict at once every assertion which she made.
'You cannot prevent his coming,' he said, 'and it shall not be
prevented.' 'Of course, you have promised to be his wife, and it
must be.' 'Nonsense about deceiving him. He is not deceived at
all.' 'Trash—you are not fond of another man. It is all nonsense.'
'You must do what your uncle wishes. You must, now! you must! Of
course, you will love him. Why can't you let all that come as it does
with others?' 'Letter gone;—yes indeed, and now I must go after it.'
'Trouble!—yes! Why could you not tell me before you sent it? Have
I not always been good to you?' 'You have not been bad; not before.
You have been very good. It is this that is bad.' 'Forget you
indeed. Of course he won't. How should he? Are you not betrothed to
him? He'll forgive you fast enough, when you just say that you did
not know what you were about when you were writing it.' Thus her
uncle went on; and as the outburst of his wrath was, as it were,
chopped into little bits by his having to continue the reading of the
letter, the storm did not fall upon Marie's head so violently as she
had expected. 'There's a pretty kettle of fish you've made!' said he
as soon as he had finished reading the letter. 'Of course, it means
'But it must mean something, Uncle Michel.'
'I say it means nothing. Now I'll tell you what I shall do, Marie.
I shall start for Basle directly. I shall get there by twelve
o'clock to-night by going through Colmar, and I shall endeavour to
intercept the letter before Urmand would receive it to-morrow.' This
was a cruel blow to Marie after all her precautions. 'If I cannot do
that, I shall at any rate see him before he gets it. That is what I
shall do; and you must let me tell him, Marie, that you repent having
written the letter.'
'But I don't repent it, Uncle Michel; I don't, indeed. I can't
repent it. How can I repent it when I really mean it? I shall never
become his wife;—indeed I shall not. O, Uncle Michel, pray, pray,
pray do not go to Basle!'
But Michel Voss resolved that he would go to Basle, and to Basle he
went. The immediate weight, too, of Marie's misery was aggravated by
the fact that in order to catch the train for Basle at Colmar, her
uncle need not start quite immediately. There was an hour during
which he could continue to exercise his eloquence upon his niece, and
endeavour to induce her to authorise him to contradict her own letter.
He appealed first to her affection, and then to her duty; and after
that, having failed in these appeals, he poured forth the full vials
of his wrath upon her head. She was ungrateful, obstinate, false,
unwomanly, disobedient, irreligious, sacrilegious, and an idiot. In
the fury of his anger, there was hardly any epithet of severe rebuke
which he spared, and yet, as every cruel word left his mouth, he
assured her that it should all be taken to mean nothing, if she would
only now tell him that he might nullify the letter. Though she had
deserved all these bad things which he had spoken of her, yet she
should be regarded as having deserved none of them, should again be
accepted as having in all points done her duty, if she would only,
even now, be obedient. But she was not to be shaken. She had at last
formed a resolution, and her uncle's words had no effect towards
turning her from it. 'Uncle Michel,' she said at last, speaking with
much seriousness of purpose, and a dignity of person that was by no
means thrown away upon him, 'if I am what you say, I had better go
away from your house. I know I have been bad. I was bad to say that
I would marry M. Urmand. I will not defend myself. But nothing on
earth shall make me marry him. You had better let me go away, and get
a place as a servant among our friends at Epinal.' But Michel Voss,
though he was heaping abuse upon her with the hope that he might thus
achieve his purpose, had not the remotest idea of severing the
connection which bound him and her together. He wanted to do her
good, not evil. She was exquisitely dear to him. If she would only
let him have his way and provide for her welfare as he saw, in his
wisdom, would be best, he would at once take her in his arms again
and tell her that she was the apple of his eye. But she would not;
and he went at last off on his road to Colmar and Basle, gnashing his
teeth in anger.
Nothing was said to Marie about her sins on that afternoon after
her uncle had started on his journey. Everything in the hotel was
blank, and sad, and gloomy; but there was, at any rate, the negative
comfort of silence, and Marie was allowed to go about the house and
do her work without rebuke. But she observed that the Cure—M. le
Cure Gondin—sat much with her aunt during the evening, and she did
not doubt but that she herself and her iniquities made the subject of
M. le Cure Gondin, as he was generally called at Granpere,—being
always so spoken of, with his full name and title, by the large
Protestant portion of the community,—was a man very much respected
by all the neighbourhood. He was respected by the Protestants
because he never interfered with them, never told them, either behind
their backs or before their faces, that they would be damned as
heretics, and never tried the hopeless task of converting them. In his
intercourse with them he dropped the subject of religion
altogether,—as a philologist or an entomologist will drop his
grammar or his insects in his intercourse with those to whom grammar
and insects are matters of indifference. And he was respected by the
Catholics of both sorts,—by those who did not and by those who did
adhere with strictness to the letter of their laws of religion. With
the former he did his duty, perhaps without much enthusiasm. He
preached to them, if they would come and listen to him. He christened
them, confessed them, and absolved them from their sins,- -of course,
after due penitence. But he lived with them, too, in a friendly way,
pronouncing no anathemas against them, because they were not as
attentive to their religious exercises as they might have been. But
with those who took a comfort in sacred things, who liked to go to
early masses in cold weather, to be punctual at ceremonies, to say the
rosary as surely as the evening came, who knew and performed all the
intricacies of fasting as ordered by the bishop, down to the
refinement of an egg more or less, in the whole Lent, or the absence
of butter from the day's cookery,—with these he had all that
enthusiasm which such people like to encounter in their priest. We
may say, therefore, that he was a wise man,—and probably, on the
whole, a good man; that he did good service in his parish, and helped
his people along in their lives not inefficiently. He was a small
man, with dark hair very closely cut, with a tonsure that was visible
but not more than visible; with a black beard that was shaved every
Tuesday, Friday, and Saturday evenings, but which was very black
indeed on the Tuesday and Friday mornings. He always wore the black
gown of his office, but would go about his parish with an ordinary
soft slouch hat,—thus subjecting his appearance to an absence of
ecclesiastical trimness which, perhaps, the most enthusiastic of his
friends regretted. Madame Voss certainly would have wished that he
would have had himself shaved at any rate every other day, and that he
would have abstained from showing himself in the streets of Granpere
without his clerical hat. But, though she was very intimate with her
Cure, and had conferred upon him much material kindness, she had never
dared to express her opinion to him upon these matters.
During much of that afternoon M. le Cure sat with Madame Voss, but
not a word was said to Marie about her disobedience either by him or
by her. Nevertheless, Marie felt that her sins were being discussed,
and that the lecture was coming. She herself had never quite liked M.
le Cure—not having any special reason for disliking him, but
regarding him as a man who was perhaps a little deficient in spirit,
and perhaps a trifle too mindful of his creature comforts. M. le Cure
took a great deal of snuff, and Marie did not like snuff taking. Her
uncle smoked a great deal of tobacco, and that she thought very nice
and proper in a man. Had her uncle taken the snuff and the priest
smoked the tobacco, she would probably have equally approved of her
uncle's practice and disapproved that of the priest;—because she
loved the one and did not love the other. She had thought it probable
that she might be sent for during the evening, and had, therefore,
made for herself an immensity of household work, the performance of
all which on that very evening the interests of the Lion d'Or would
imperatively demand. The work was all done, but no message from Aunt
Josey summoned Marie into the little parlour.
Nevertheless Marie had been quite right in her judgment. On the
following morning, between eight and nine, M. le Cure was again in
the house, and had a cup of coffee taken to him in the little
parlour. Marie, who felt angry at his return, would not take it
herself, but sent it in by the hands of Peter Veque. Peter Veque
returned in a few minutes with a message to Marie, saying that M. le
Cure wished to see her.
'Tell him that I am very busy,' said Marie. 'Say that uncle is
away, and that there is a deal to do. Ask him if another day won't
suit as well.'
She knew when she sent this message that another day would not suit
as well. And she must have known also that her uncle's absence made
no difference in her work. Peter came back with a request from
Madame Voss that Marie would go to her at once. Marie pressed her
lips together, clenched her fists, and walked down into the room
without the delay of an instant.
'Marie, my dear,' said Madame Voss, 'M. le Cure wishes to speak to
you. I will leave you for a few minutes.' There was nothing for it
but to listen. Marie could not refuse to be lectured by the priest.
But she told herself that having had the courage to resist her uncle,
it certainly was out of the question that any one else should have the
power to move her.
'My dear Marie,' began the Cure, 'your aunt has been telling me of
this little difference between you and your affianced husband. Won't
you sit down, Marie, because we shall be able so to talk more
'I don't want to talk about it at all,' said Marie. But she sat
down as she was bidden.
'But, my dear, it is needful that your friends should talk to you.
I am sure that you have too much sense to think that a young woman
like yourself should refuse to hear her friends.' Marie had it
almost on her tongue to tell the priest that the only friends to whom
she chose to listen were her uncle and her aunt, but she thought that
it might perhaps be better that she should remain silent. 'Of course,
my dear, a young person like you must know that she must walk by
advice, and I am sure you must feel that no one can give it you more
fittingly than your own priest.' Then he took a large pinch of snuff.
'If it were anything to do with the Church,—yes,' she said.
'And this has to do with the Church, very much. Indeed I do not
know how any of our duties in this life cannot have to do with the
Church. There can be no duty omitted as to which you would not
acknowledge that it was necessary that you should get absolution from
'But that would be in the church,' said Marie, not quite knowing
how to make good her point.
'Whether you are in the church or out of it, is just the same. If
you were sick and in bed, would your priest be nothing to you then?'
'But I am quite well, Father Gondin.'
'Well in health; but sick in spirit,—as I am sure you must own.
And I must explain to you, my dear, that this is a matter in which
your religious duty is specially in question. You have been
betrothed, you know, to M. Urmand.'
'But people betrothed are very often not married,' said Marie
quickly. 'There was Annette Lolme at Saint Die. She was betrothed
to Jean Stein at Pugnac. That was only last winter. And then there
was something wrong about the money; and the betrothal went for
nothing, and Father Carrier himself said it was all right. If it was
all right for Annette Lolme, it must be all right for me as far as
The story that Marie told so clearly was perfectly true, and M. le
Cure Gondin knew that it was true. He wished now to teach Marie that
if certain circumstances should occur after a betrothal which would
make the marriage inexpedient in the eyes of the parents of the young
people, then the authority of the Church would not exert itself to
insist on the sacred nature of the pledge;—but that if the pledge was
to be called in question simply at the instance of a capricious young
woman, then the Church would have full power. His object, in short,
was to insist on parental authority, giving to parental authority some
little additional strength from his own sacerdotal recognition of the
sanctity of the betrothing promise. But he feared that Marie would be
too strong for him, if not also too clear-headed. 'You cannot mean to
tell me,' said he, 'that you think such a solemn promise as you have
given to this young man, taking one from him as solemn in return, is
to go for nothing?'
'I am very sorry that I promised,—very sorry indeed; but I cannot
keep my promise.'
'You are bound to keep it, especially as all your friends wish the
marriage, and think that it will be good for you. Annette Lolme's
friends wished her not to marry. It is my duty to tell you, Marie,
that if you break your faith to M. Urmand, you will commit a very
grievous sin, and you will commit it with your eyes open.'
'If Annette Lolme might change her mind because her lover had not
got as much money as people wanted, I am sure I may change mine
because I don't love a man.'
'Annette did what her friends advised her.'
'Then a girl must always do what her friends tell her? If I don't
marry M. Urmand, I sha'n't be wicked for breaking my promise, but for
disobeying Uncle Michel.'
'You will be wicked in every way,' said the priest.
'No, M. le Cure. If I had married M. Urmand, I know I should be
wicked to leave him, and I would do my best to live with him and make
him a good wife. But I have found out in time that I can't love him;
and therefore I am sure that I ought not to marry him, and I won't.'
There was much more said between them, but M. le Cure Gondin was
not able to prevail in the least. He tried to cajole her, and he
tried to persuade by threats, and he tried to conquer her by gratitude
and affection towards her uncle. But he could not prevail at all.
'It is of no use my staying here any longer, M. le Cure,' she said
at last, 'because I am quite sure that nothing on earth will induce
me to consent. I am very sorry for what I have done. If you tell me
that I have sinned, I will repent and confess it. I have repented,
and am very, very sorry. I know now that I was very wrong ever to
think it possible that I could be his wife. But you can't make me
think that I am wrong in this.'
Then she left him, and as soon as she was gone, Madame Voss
returned to hear the priest's report as to his success.
In the mean time, Michel Voss had reached Basle, arriving there
some five hours before Marie's letter, and, in his ignorance of the
law, had made his futile attempt to intercept the letter before it
reached the hands of M. Urmand. But he was with Urmand when the
letter was delivered, and endeavoured to persuade his young friend
not to open it. But in doing this he was obliged to explain, to a
certain extent, what was the nature of the letter. He was obliged to
say so much about it as to justify the unhappy lover in asserting that
it would be better for them all that he should know the contents. 'At
any rate, you will promise not to believe it,' said Michel. And he
did succeed in obtaining from M. Urmand a sort of promise that he
would not regard the words of the letter as in truth expressing
Marie's real resolution. 'Girls, you know, are such queer cattle,'
said Michel. 'They think about all manner of things, and then they
don't know what they are thinking.'
'But who is the other man?' demanded Adrian, as soon as he had
finished the letter. Any one judging from his countenance when he
asked the question would have imagined that in spite of his promise
he believed every word that had been written to him. His face was a
picture of blank despair, and his voice was low and hoarse. 'You
must know whom she means,' he added, when Michel did not at once
'Yes; I know whom she means.'
'Who is it then, M. Voss?'
'It is George, of course,' replied the innkeeper.
'I did not know,' said poor Adrian Urmand.
'She never spoke a dozen words to any other man in her life, and as
for him, she has hardly seen him for the last eighteen months. He
has come over and said something to her, like a traitor,—has
reminded her of some childish promise, some old vow, something said
when they were children, and meaning nothing; and so he has
'I was never told that there was anything between them,' said
Urmand, beginning to think that it would become him to be indignant.
'There was nothing to tell,—literally nothing.'
'They must have been writing to each other.'
'Never a line; on my word as a man. It was just as I tell you.
When George went from home, there had been some fooling, as I
thought, between them; and I was glad that he should go. I didn't
think it meant anything, or ever would.' As Michel Voss said this,
there did occur to him an idea that perhaps, after all, he had been
wrong to interfere in the first instance,—that there had then been
no really valid reason why George should not have married Marie
Bromar; but that did not in the least influence his judgment as to
what it might be expedient to do now. He was still as sure as ever
that as things stood now, it was his duty to do all in his power to
bring about the marriage between his niece and Adrian Urmand. 'But
since that, there has been nothing,' continued he, 'absolutely
nothing. Ask her, and she will tell you so. It is some romantic
idea of hers that she ought to stick to her first promise, now that
she has been reminded of it.'
All this did not convince Adrian Urmand, who for a while expressed
his opinion that it would be better for him to take Marie's refusal,
and thus to let the matter drop. It would be very bitter to him,
because all Basle had now heard of his proposed marriage, and a whole
shower of congratulations had already fallen upon him from his
fellow-townspeople: but he thought that it would be more bitter to
be rejected again in person by Marie Bromar, and then to be stared at
by all the natives of Granpere. He acknowledged that George Voss was
a traitor; and would have been ready to own that Marie was another,
had Michel Voss given him any encouragement in that direction. But
Michel throughout the whole morning,—and they were closeted together
for hours,—declared that poor Marie was more sinned against than
sinning. If Adrian was but once more over at Granpere, all would be
made right. At last Michel Voss prevailed, and persuaded the young
man to return with him to the Lion d'Or.
They started early on the following morning, and travelled to
Granpere by way of Colmar and the mountain. The father thus passed
twice through Colmar, but on neither occasion did he call upon his
There had been very little said between Michel Voss and Urmand on
their journey towards Granpere till they were at the top of the
Vosges, on the mountain road, at which place they had to leave their
little carriage and bait their horse. Indeed Michel had been asleep
during almost the entire time. On the night but one before he had
not been in bed at all, having reached Basle after midnight, and
having passed the hours 'twixt that and his morning visit to Urmand's
house in his futile endeavours to stop poor Marie's letter. And the
departure of the travellers from Basle on this morning had been very
early, so that the poor innkeeper had been robbed of his proper
allowance of natural rest. He had slept soundly in the train to
Colmar, and had afterwards slept in the little caleche which had taken
them to the top of the mountain. Urmand had sat silent by his
side,—by no means anxious to disturb his companion, because he had
no determined plan ready to communicate. Once or twice before he
reached Colmar he had thought that he would go back again. He had
been, he felt, badly treated; and, though he was very fond of Marie,
it would be better for him perhaps to wash his hands of the whole
affair. He was so thinking the whole way to Colmar. But he was
afraid of Michel Voss, and when they got out upon the platform there,
he had no resolution ready to be declared as fixed. Then they had
hired the little carriage, and Michel Voss had slept again. He had
slept all through Munster, and up the steep mountain, and was not
thoroughly awake till they were summoned to get out at the wonderfully
fine house for refreshment which the late Emperor caused to be built
at the top of the hill. Here they went into the restaurant, and as
Michel Voss was known to the man who kept it, he ordered a bottle of
wine. 'What a terrible place to live in all the winter!' he said, as
he looked down through the window right into the deep valley below.
From the spot on which the house is built you can see all the broken
wooded ground of the steep descent, and then the broad plain that
stretches away to the valley of the Rhine. 'There is nothing but snow
here after Christmas,' continued Michel, 'and perhaps not a Christian
over the road for days together. I shouldn't like it, I know. It may
be all very well just now.'
But Adrian Urmand was altogether inattentive either to the scenery
now before him, or to the prospect of the mountain innkeeper's winter
life. He knew that two hours and a half would take them down the
mountain into Granpere, and that when there, it would be at once
necessary that he should begin a task the idea of which was by no
means pleasant to him. He was quite sure now that he wished he had
remained at Basle, and that he had accepted Marie's letter as final.
He told himself again and again that he could not make her marry him
if she chose to change her mind. What was he to say, and what was he
to do when he got to Granpere, a place which he almost wished that he
had never seen in spite of those profitable linen-buyings? And now
when Michel Voss began to talk to him about the scenery, and what this
man up in the mountain did in the winter,—at this moment when his
terrible trouble was so very near him,—he felt it to be an insult, or
at least a cruelty. 'What can he do from December till April except
smoke and drink?' asked Michel Voss.
'I don't care what he does,' said Urmand, turning away. 'I only
know I wish I'd never come here.'
'Take a glass of wine, my friend,' said Michel. 'The mountain air
has made you chill.' Urmand took the glass of wine, but it did not
cheer him much. 'We shall have it all right before the day is over,'
'I don't think it will ever be all right,' said the other.
'And why not? The fact is, you don't understand young women; as
how should you, seeing that you have not had to manage them? You do
as I tell you, and just be round with her. You tell her that you
don't desire any change yourself, and that after what has passed you
can't allow her to think of such a thing. You speak as though you had
a downright claim, as you have; and all will come right. It's not
that she cares for him, you know. You must remember that. She has
never even said a word of that kind. I haven't a doubt on my mind as
to which she really likes best; but it's that stupid promise, and the
way that George has had of making her believe that she is bound by the
first word she ever spoke to a young man. It's only nonsense, and of
course we must get over it.' Then they were summoned out, the horse
having finished his meal, and were rattled down the hill into Granpere
without many more words between them.
One other word was spoken, and that word was hardly pleasant in its
tone. Urmand at least did not relish it. 'I shall go away at once
if she doesn't treat me as she ought,' said he, just as they were
entering the village.
Michel was silent for a moment before he answered. 'You'll behave,
I'm sure, as a man ought to behave to a young woman whom he intends
to make his wife.' The words themselves were civil enough; but there
was a tone in the innkeeper's voice and a flame in his eye, which made
Urmand almost feel that he had been threatened. Then they drove into
the space in front of the door of the Lion d'Or.
Michel had made for himself no plan whatsoever. He led the way at
once into the house, and Urmand followed, hardly daring to look up
into the faces of the persons around him. They were both of them
soon in the presence of Madame Voss, but Marie Bromar was not there.
Marie had been sharp enough to perceive who was coming before they
were out of the carriage, and was already ensconced in some safer
retreat up-stairs, in which she could meditate on her plan of the
campaign. 'Look lively, and get us something to eat,' said Michel,
meaning to be cheerful and self-possessed. 'We left Basle at five,
and have not eaten a mouthful since.' It was now nearly four
o'clock, and the bread and cheese which had been served with the wine
on the top of the mountain had of course gone for nothing. Madame Voss
immediately began to bustle about, calling the cook and Peter Veque to
her assistance. But nothing for a while was said about Marie.
Urmand, trying to look as though he were self- possessed, stood with
his back to the stove, and whistled. For a few minutes, during which
the bustling about the table went on, Michel was wrapped in thought,
and said nothing. At last he had made up his mind, and spoke: 'We
might as well make a dash at it at once,' said he. 'Where is Marie?'
No one answered him. 'Where is Marie Bromar?' he asked again,
angrily. He knew that it behoved him now to take upon himself at once
the real authority of a master of a house.
'She is up-stairs,' said Peter, who was straightening a
'Tell her to come down to me,' said her uncle. Peter departed
immediately, and for a while there was silence in the little room.
Adrian Urmand felt his heart to palpitate disagreeably. Indeed, the
manner in which it would appear that the innkeeper proposed to manage
the business was distressing enough to him. It seemed as though it
were intended that he should discuss his little difficulties with
Marie in the presence of the whole household. But he stood his
ground, and sounded one more ineffectual little whistle. In a few
minutes Peter returned, but said nothing. 'Where is Marie Bromar?'
again demanded Michel in an angry voice.
'I told her to come down,' said Peter.
'I don't think she's coming,' said Peter.
'What did she say?'
'Not a word; she only bade me go down.' Then Michel walked into
the kitchen as though he were about to fetch the recusant himself.
But he stopped himself, and asked his wife to go up to Marie. Madame
Voss did go up, and after her return there was some whispering
between her and her husband. 'She is upset by the excitement of your
return,' Michel said at last; 'and we must give her a little grace.
Come, we will eat our dinner.'
In the mean time Marie was sitting on her bed up-stairs in a most
unhappy plight. She really loved her uncle, and almost feared him.
She did fear him with that sort of fear which is produced by
reverence and habits of obedience, but which, when softened by
affection, hardly makes itself known as fear, except on troublous
occasions. And she was oppressed by the remembrance of all that was
due from her to him and to her aunt, feeling, as it was natural that
she should do, in compliance with the manners and habits of her
people, that she owed a duty of obedience in this matter of marriage.
Though she had been able to hold her own against the priest, and had
been quite firm in opposition to her aunt,—who was in truth a woman
much less strong by nature than herself,—she dreaded a farther
dispute with her uncle. She could not bear to think that he should be
enabled to accuse her with justice of ingratitude. It had been her
great pleasure to be true to him, and he had answered her truth by a
perfect confidence which had given a charm to her life. Now this
would all be over, and she would be driven again to beg him to send
her away, that she might become a household drudge elsewhere. And now
that this very moment of her agony had come, and that this man to whom
she had given a promise was there to claim her, how was she to go down
and say what she had to say, before all the world? It was perfectly
clear to her that in accordance with her reception of Urmand at the
first moment of their meeting, so must be her continued conduct
towards him, till he should leave her, or else take her away with him.
She could not smile on him and shake hands with him, and cut his
bread for him and pour out his wine, after such a letter as she had
written to him, without signifying thereby that the letter was to go
for nothing. Now, let what might happen, the letter was not to go for
nothing. The letter was to remain a true fact, and a true letter. 'I
can't go down, Aunt Josey; indeed I can't,' she said. 'I am not well,
and I should drop. Pray tell Uncle Michel, with my best love and with
my duty, that I can't go to him now.' And she sat still upon her
bed, not weeping, but clasping her hands, and trying to see her way
out of her misfortune.
The dinner was eaten in grim silence, and after the dinner Michel,
still grimly silent, sat with his friend on the bench before the door
and smoked a cigar. While he was smoking, Michel said never a word.
But he was thinking of the difficulty he had to overcome; and he was
thinking also, at odd moments, whether his own son George was not,
after all, a better sort of lover for a young woman than this young
man who was seated by his side. But it never occurred to him that he
might find a solution of the difficulty by encouraging this second
idea. Urmand, during this time, was telling himself that it behoved
him to be a man, and that his sitting there in silence was hardly
proof of his manliness. He knew that he was being ill- treated, and
that he must do something to redress his own wrongs, if he only knew
how to do it. He was quite determined that he would not be a coward;
that he would stand up for his own rights. But if a young woman won't
marry a man, a man can't make her do so, either by scolding her, or by
fighting any of her friends. In this case the young lady's friends
were all on his side. But the weight of that half hour of silence and
of Michel's gloom was intolerable to him. At last he got up and
declared he would go and see an old woman who would have linen to
sell. 'As I am here, I might as well do a stroke of work,' he said,
striving to be jocose.
'Do,' said Michel; 'and in the mean time I will see Marie Bromar.'
Whenever Michel Voss was heard to call his niece Marie Bromar,
using the two names, it was understood, by all who heard him about the
hotel, that he was not in a good humour. As soon as Urmand was gone,
he rose slowly from his seat, and with heavy steps he went up- stairs
in search of the refractory girl. He went straight to her own
bedroom, and there he found her still sitting on her bedside. She
jumped up as soon as he was in the room, and running up to him, took
him by the arm. 'Uncle Michel,' she said, 'pray, pray be good to me.
Pray, spare me!'
'I am good to you,' he said. 'I try to be good to you.'
'You know that I love you. Do you not know that I love you?' Then
she paused, but he made no answer to her. He was surer of nothing in
the world than he was of her affection; but it did not suit him to
acknowledge it at that moment. 'I would do anything for you that I
could do, Uncle Michel; but pray do not ask me to do this?' Then she
clasped him tightly, and hung upon him, and put up her face to be
kissed. But he would not kiss her. 'Ah,' said she; 'you mean to be
hard to me. Then I must go; then I must go; then I must go.'
'That is nonsense, Marie. You cannot go, till you go to your
husband. Where would you go to?'
'It matters not where I go to now.'
'Marie, you are betrothed to this man, and you must consent to
become his wife. Say that you will consent, and all this nonsense
shall be forgotten.' She did not say that she would consent; but she
did not say that she would not, and he thought that he might persuade
her, if he could speak to her as he ought. But he doubted which might
be most efficacious, affection or severity. He had assured himself
that it would be his duty to be very severe, before he gave up the
point; but it might be possible, as she was so sweet with him, so
loving and so gracious, that affection might prevail. If so, how much
easier would the task be to himself! So he put his arm round her, and
stooped down and kissed her.
'O, Uncle Michel,' she said; 'dear, dear Uncle Michel; say that you
will spare me, and be on my side, and be good to me.'
'My darling girl, it is for your own good, for the good of us all,
that you should marry this man. Do you not know that I would not
tell you so, if it were not true? I cannot be more good to you than
'I can—not, Uncle Michel.'
'Tell me why, now. What is it? Has anybody been bringing tales to
'Nobody has brought any tales.'
'Is there anything amiss with him?'
'It is not that. It is not that at all. I am sure he is an
excellent young man, and I wish with all my heart he had a better
wife than I can ever be.'
'He thinks you will be quite good enough for him.'
'I am not good for anybody. I am very bad.'
'Leave him to judge of that.'
'But I cannot do it, Uncle Michel. I can never be Adrian Urmand's
'But why, why, why?' repeated Michel, who was beginning to be again
angered by his own want of success. 'You have said that a dozen
times, but have never attempted to give a reason.'
'I will tell you the reason. It is because I love George with all
my heart, and with all my soul. He is so dear to me, that I should
always be thinking of him. I could not help myself. I should always
have him in my heart. Would that be right, Uncle Michel, if I were
married to another man?'
'Then why did you accept the other man? There is nothing changed
'I was wicked then.'
'I don't think you were wicked at all;—but at any rate you did it.
You didn't think anything about having George in your heart then.'
It was very hard for her to answer this, and for a moment or two
she was silenced. At last she found a reply. 'I thought everything
was dead within me then,—and that it didn't signify. Since that he
has been here, and he has told me all.'
'I wish he had stayed where he was with all my heart. We did not
want him here,' said the innkeeper in his anger.
'But he did come, Uncle Michel. I did not send for him, but he did
'Yes; he came,—and he has disturbed everything that I had arranged
so happily. Look here, Marie. I lay my commands upon you as your
uncle and guardian, and I may say also as your best and stanchest
friend, to be true to the solemn engagement which you have made with
this young man. I will not hear any answer from you now, but I leave
you with that command. Urmand has come here at my request, because I
told him that you would be obedient. If you make a fool of me, and of
yourself, and of us all, it will be impossible that I should forgive
you. He will see you this evening, and I will trust to your good
sense to receive him with propriety.' Then Michel Voss left the room
and descended with ponderous steps, indicative of a heavy heart.
Marie, when she was alone, again seated herself on the bedside. Of
course she must see Adrian Urmand. She was quite aware that she
could not encounter him now with that half-saucy independent air
which had come to her quite naturally before she had accepted him.
She would willingly humble herself in the dust before him, if by so
doing she could induce him to relinquish his suit. But if she could
not do so; if she could not talk over either her uncle or him to be
on what she called her side, then what should she do? Her uncle's
entreaties to her, joined to his too evident sorrow, had upon her an
effect so powerful, that she could hardly overcome it. She had, as
she thought, resolved most positively that nothing should induce her
to marry Adrian Urmand. She had of course been very firm in this
resolution when she wrote her letter. But now—now she was almost
shaken! When she thought only of herself, she would almost task
herself to believe that after all it did not much matter what of
happiness or of unhappiness might befall her. If she allowed herself
to be taken to a new home at Basle she could still work and eat and
drink,—and working, eating, and drinking she could wait till her
unhappiness should be removed. She was sufficiently wise to
understand that as she became a middle-aged woman, with perhaps
children around her, her sorrow would melt into a soft regret which
would be at least endurable. And what did it signify after all how
much one such a being as herself might suffer? The world would go on
in the same way, and her small troubles would be of but little
significance. Work would save her from utter despondence. But when
she thought of George, and the words in which he had expressed the
constancy of his own love, and the shipwreck which would fall upon
him if she were untrue to him,—then again she would become strong in
her determination. Her uncle had threatened her with his lasting
displeasure. He had said that it would be impossible that he should
forgive her. That would be unbearable! Yet, when she thought of
George, she told herself that it must be borne.
Before the hour of supper came, her aunt had been with her, and she
had promised to see her suitor alone. There had been some doubt on
this point between Michel and his wife, Madame Voss thinking that
either she or her husband ought to be present. But Michel had
prevailed. 'I don't care what any people may say,' he replied. 'I
know my own girl;—and I know also what he has a right to expect.' So
it was settled, and Marie understood that Adrian was to come to her in
the little brightly furnished sitting-room upstairs. On this occasion
she took no notice of the hotel supper at all. It is to be hoped that
Peter Veque proved himself equal to the occasion.
At about nine she was seated in the appointed place, and Madame
Voss brought her lover up into the room.
'Here is M. Urmand come to speak to you,' she said. 'Your uncle
thinks that you had better see him alone. I am sure you will bear in
mind what it is that he and I wish.' Then she closed the door, and
Adrian and Marie were left together.
'I need hardly tell you,' said he, 'what were my feelings when your
uncle came to me yesterday morning. And when I opened your letter
and read it, I could hardly believe that it had come from you.'
'Yes, M. Urmand;—it did come from me.'
'And why—what have I done? The last word you had spoken to me was
to declare that you would be my loving wife.'
'Not that, M. Urmand; never that. When I thought it was to be so,
I told you that I would do my best to do my duty by you.'
'Say that once more, and all shall be right.'
'But I never promised that I would love you. I could not promise
that; and I was very wicked to allow them to give you my troth. You
can't think worse of me than I think of myself.'
'But, Marie, why should you not love me? I am sure you would love
'Listen to me, M. Urmand; listen to me, and be generous to me. I
think you can be generous to a poor girl who is very unhappy. I do
not love you. I do not say that I should not have loved you, if you
had been the first. Why should not any girl love you? You are above
me in every way, and rich, and well spoken of; and your life has been
less rough and poor than mine. It is not that I have been proud.
What is there that I can be proud of—except my uncle's trust in me?
But George Voss had come to me before, and had made me promise that I
would love him;—and I do love him. How can I help it, if I wished to
help it? O, M. Urmand, can you not be generous? Think how little it
is that you will lose.' But Adrian Urmand did not like to be told of
the girl's love for another man. His generosity would almost have
been more easily reached had she told him of George's love for her.
People had assured him since he was engaged that Marie Bromar was the
handsomest girl in Lorraine or Alsace; and he felt it to be an injury
that this handsome girl should prefer such a one as George Voss to
himself. Marie, with a woman's sharpness, perceived all this
accurately. 'Remember,' said she, 'that I had hardly seen you when
George and I were—when he and I became such friends.'
'Your uncle doesn't want you to marry his son.'
'I shall never become George's wife without consent; never.'
'Then what would be the use of my giving way?' asked Urmand. 'He
would never consent.'
She paused for a moment before she replied.
'To save yourself,' said she, 'from living with a woman who cannot
love you, and to save me from living with a man I cannot love.'
'And is this to be all the answer you will give me?'
'It is the request that I have to make to you,' said Marie.
'Then I had better go down to your uncle.' And he went down to
Michel Voss, leaving Marie Bromar again alone.
The people of Colmar think Colmar to be a considerable place, and
far be it from us to hint that it is not so. It is—or was in the
days when Alsace was French—the chief town of the department of the
Haut Rhine. It bristles with barracks, and is busy with cotton
factories. It has been accustomed to the presence of a prefet, and
is no doubt important. But it is not so large that people going in
and out of it can pass without attention, and this we take to be the
really true line of demarcation between a big town and a little one.
Had Michel Voss and Adrian Urmand passed through Lyons or Strasbourg
on their journey to Granpere, no one would have noticed them, and
their acquaintances in either of those cities would not have been a
bit the wiser. But it was not probable that they should leave the
train at the Colmar station, and hire Daniel Bredin's caleche for the
mountain journey thence to Granpere, without all the facts of the case
coming to the ears of Madame Faragon. And when she had heard the
news, of course she told it to George Voss. She had interested
herself very keenly in the affair of George's love, partly because she
had a soft heart of her own and loved a ray of romance to fall in upon
her as she sat fat and helpless in her easy- chair, and partly because
she thought that the future landlord of the Hotel de la Poste at
Colmar ought to be regarded as a bigger man and a better match than
any Swiss linen-merchant in the world. 'I can't think what it is that
your father means,' she had said. 'When he and I were young, he used
not to be so fond of the people of Basle, and he didn't think so much
then of a peddling buyer of sheetings and shirtings.' Madame Faragon
was rather fond of alluding to past times, and of hinting to George
that in early days, had she been willing, she might have been mistress
of the Lion d'Or at Granpere, instead of the Poste at Colmar. George
never quite believed the boast, as he knew that Madame Faragon was at
least ten years older than his father. 'He used to think,' continued
Madame Faragon, 'that there was nothing better than a good house in
the public line, with a well-spirited woman inside it to stand her
ground and hold her own. But everything is changed now, since the
railroads came up. The pedlars become merchants, and the respectable
old shopkeepers must go to the wall.' George would hear all this in
silence, though he knew that his old friend was endeavouring to
comfort him by making little of the Basle linen- merchant. Now, when
Madame Faragon learned that Michel Voss and Adrian Urmand had gone
through Colmar back from Basle on their way to Granpere, she
immediately foresaw what was to happen. Marie's marriage was to be
hurried on, George was to be thrown overboard, and the pedlar's pack
was to be triumphant over the sign of the innkeeper.
'If I were you, George, I would dash in among them at once,' said
George was silent for a minute or two, leaving the room and
returning to it before he made any answer. Then he declared that he
would dash in among them at Granpere.
'It will be better to go over and see it all settled,' he said.
'But, George, you won't quarrel?'
'What do you mean by quarrelling? I don't suppose that this man
and I can be very dear friends when we meet each other.'
'You won't have any fighting? O, George, if I thought there was
going to be fighting, I would go myself to prevent it.' Madame
Faragon no doubt was sincere in her desire that there should be no
fighting; but, nevertheless, there was a life and reality about this
little affair which had a gratifying effect upon her. 'If I thought
I could do any good, I really would go,' she said again afterwards.
But George did not encourage her to make the attempt.
No more was said about it; but early on the following morning, or
in truth long before the morning had dawned, George had started upon
his journey, following his father and M. Urmand in their route over
the mountain. This was the third time he had gone to Granpere in the
course of the present autumn, and on each time he had gone without
invitation and without warning. And yet, previous to this, he had
remained above a year at Colmar without taking any notice of his
family. He knew that his father would not make him welcome, and he
almost doubted whether it would be proper for him to drive himself
direct to the door of the hotel. His father had told him, when they
were last parting from each other, that he was nothing but a trouble.
'You are all trouble,' his father had said to him. And then his
father had threatened to have him turned from the door by the
servants, if he should come to the house again before Marie and Adrian
were married. He was not afraid of his father; but he felt that he
had no right to treat the Lion d'Or as his own home unless he was
prepared to obey his father. And he knew nothing as to Marie and her
purpose. He had learned from her that, were she left to herself, she
would give herself with all her heart to him. But she would not be
left to herself, and he only knew now that Adrian Urmand was being
taken back to Granpere,—of course with the intention that the
marriage should be at once perfected. Madame Faragon had, no doubt,
been right in her advice as to dashing in among them at once.
Whatever was to be done must be done now. But it was by no means
clear to him how he was to carry on the war when he found himself
among them all at Granpere.
It was now October, and the morning on the mountain was very dark
and cold. He had started from Colmar between three and four, so that
he had passed through Munster, and was ascending the hill before six.
He stopped, too, and fed his horse at the Emperor's house at the top,
and fortified himself with a tumbler of wine and a hunch of bread. He
meant to go into Granpere and claim Marie as his own. He would go to
the priest, and to the pastor if necessary, and forbid all authorities
to lend their countenance to the proposed marriage. He would speak
his mind plainly, and would accuse his father of extreme cruelty. He
would call upon Madame Voss to save her niece. He would be very
savage with Marie, hoping that he might thereby save her from
herself,—defying her to say either before man or God that she loved
the man whom she was about to make her husband. And as to Adrian
Urmand himself—; he still thought that, should the worst come to the
worst, he would try some process of choking upon Adrian Urmand. Any
use of personal violence would be distasteful to him and contrary to
his nature. He was not a man who in the ordinary way of his life
would probably lift his hand against another. Such liftings of hands
on the part of other men he regarded as a falling back to the
truculence of savage life. Men should manage and coerce each other
either with the tongue, or with money, or with the law—according to
his theory of life. But on such an occasion as this he found himself
obliged to acknowledge that, if the worst should come to the worst,
some attempt at choking his enemy must be made. It must be made for
Marie's sake, if not for his own. In this mood of mind he drove down
to Granpere, and, not knowing where else to stop, drew up his horse in
the middle of the road before the hotel. The stable-servant, who was
hanging about, immediately came to him;—and there was his father
standing, all alone, at the door of the house. It was now ten
o'clock, and he had expected that his father would have been away from
home, as was his custom at that hour. But the innkeeper's mind was at
present too full of trouble to allow of his going off either to the
woodcutting or to the farm.
Adrian Urmand, after his failure with Marie on the preceding
evening, had not again gone down-stairs. He had taken himself at
once to his bedroom, and had remained there gloomy and unhappy, very
angry with Marie Bromar; but, if possible, more angry with Michel
Voss. Knowing, as he must have known, how the land lay, why had the
innkeeper brought him from Basle to Granpere? He found himself to
have been taken in, from first to last, by the whole household, and
he would at this moment have been glad to obliterate Granpere
altogether from among the valleys of the Vosges. And so he went to
bed in his wrath. Michel and Madame Voss sat below waiting for him
above an hour. Madame Voss more than once proposed that she should
go up and see what was happening. It was impossible, she declared,
that they should be talking together all that time. But her husband
had stayed her. 'Whatever they have to say, let them say it out.' It
seemed to him that Marie must be giving way, if she submitted herself
to so long an interview. When at last Madame Voss did go up-stairs,
she learned from the maid that M. Urmand had been in bed ever so long;
and on going to Marie's chamber, she found her sitting where she had
sat before. 'Yes, Aunt Josey, I will go to bed at once,' she said.
'Give uncle my love.' Then Aunt Josey had returned to her husband,
and neither of them had been able to extract any comfort from the
affairs of the evening.
Early on the following morning, M. le Cure was called to a
consultation. This was very distasteful to Michel Voss, because he
was himself a Protestant, and, having lived all his life with a
Protestant son and two Roman Catholic women in the house, he had come
to feel that Father Gondin's religion was a religion for the weaker
sex. He troubled himself very little with the doctrinal differences,
having no slightest touch of an idea that he was to be saved because
he was a Protestant, and that they were in peril because they were
Roman Catholics. Nor, indeed, was there any such idea on either side
prevalent in the valley. What M. le Cure himself may have believed,
who can say? But he never taught his parishioners that their
Protestant uncles and wives and children were to be damned. Michel
Voss was averse to priestly assistance; but now he submitted to it.
He hardly knew himself how far that betrothal was a binding ceremony.
But he felt strongly that he had committed himself to the marriage;
that it did not become him to allow that his son had been right; and
also that if Marie would only marry the man, she would find herself
quite happy in her new home. So M. le Cure was called in, and there
was a consultation. M. le Cure was quite as hot in favour of the
marriage as were the other persons concerned. It was, in the first
place, infinitely preferable in his eyes that his young parishioner
should marry a Roman Catholic. But he was not able to undertake to
use any special thunders of the Church. He could tell the young woman
what was her duty, and he had done so. If her guardians wished it, he
would do so again, very strongly. But he did not know how he was to
do more. Then the priest told the story of Annette Lolme, pointing out
how well Marie was acquainted with all the bearings of the case.
'But both consented to break it off in that case,' said Michel. It
was singular to observe how cruel he had become against the girl whom
he so dearly loved. The Cure explained to him again that neither the
Church nor the law could interfere to make her marry M. Urmand. It
might be explained to her that she would commit a sin requiring
penitence and absolution if she did not marry him. The Church could
go no farther than that. But—such was the Cure's opinion—there was
no power at the command of Michel Voss by which he could force his
niece to marry the man, unless his own internal power as a friend and
a protector might enable him to do so. 'She doesn't care a straw for
that now,' said he. 'Not a straw. Since that fellow was over here,
she thinks nothing of me, and nothing of her word.' Then he went out
to the hotel door, leaving the priest with his wife, and he had not
stood there for a minute or two before he saw his son's arrival.
Marie, in the mean time, had not left her room. She had sent word
down to her uncle that she was ill, and that she would beg him to go
up to her. As yet he had not seen her; but a message had been taken
to her, saying that he would come soon. Adrian Urmand had breakfasted
alone, and had since been wandering about the house by himself. He
also, from the windows of the billiard-room, had seen the arrival of
Michel Voss, when he saw George, did not move from his place. He
was still very angry with his son, vehemently angry, because his son
stood in the way of the completion of his desires. But he had
forgotten all his threats, spoken now nearly a week ago. He was
altogether oblivious of his declaration that he would have George
turned away from the door by the servants of the inn. That his own
son should treat his house as a home was so natural to him, that it
did not even occur to him now that he could bid him not to enter.
There he was again, creating more trouble; and, as far as our friend
the innkeeper could see, likely enough to be successful in his
object. Michel stood his ground, with his hands in his pockets,
because he would not even shake hands with his son. But when George
came up, he bowed a recognition with his head; as though he should
have said, 'I see you; but I cannot say that you are welcome to
Granpere.' George stood for a moment or two, and then addressed his
'Adrian Urmand is here with you, is he not, father?'
'He is in the house somewhere,' said Michel, sullenly.
'May I speak to him?'
'I am not his keeper; not his,' and Michel put a special accent on
the last word, by which he implied that though he was not the keeper
of Adrian Urmand, he was the keeper of somebody else. George stood
awhile, hesitating, by his father's side, and as he stood he saw
through the window of the billiard-room the figure of Urmand, who was
watching them. 'Your mother is in her own room; you had better go to
her,' said Michel. Then George entered the hotel, and his father went
across the court to seek Urmand in his retreat. In this way the
difficulty of the first meeting was overcome, and George did not find
himself turned out of the Lion d'Or.
He knew of course nothing of the state of affairs at the inn. It
might be that Marie had already given way, and was still the promised
bride of this man. Indeed, to him it seemed most probable that such
should be the case. He had been sent to look for Madame Voss, and
Madame Voss he found in the kitchen.
'O, George, who expected to see you here to-day!' she exclaimed.
'Nobody, I daresay,' he replied. The cook was there, and two or
three other servants and hangers-on. It was impossible that he
should speak out before so many persons, and he had not a friend
about the place, unless Marie was his friend. After a few moments he
went into the inner room, and Madame Voss followed him. 'Well,' said
he, 'has anything been settled?'
'I am sorry to say that everything is as unsettled as it can be,'
said Madame Voss.
Then Marie must be true to him! And if so, she must be the
grandest woman, the finest girl that had ever been created. If so,
would he not be true to her? If so, with what a true worship would he
offer her all that he had to give in the world! He had come there
before determined to crush her with his thunderbolt. Now he would
swear to cherish her and keep her warm with his love for ever and
ever. 'Is she here?' he asked.
'She is up-stairs, in bed. You cannot see her.'
'She is not ill?'
'She is making everybody else ill about the place, I know that,'
said Madame Voss. 'And as for you, George, you owe a different kind
of treatment to your father; you do indeed. It will make an old man
of him. He has set his heart upon this, and you ought to have
It was at any rate evident that Marie was holding out, was true to
her first love, in spite of that betrothal which had appeared to
George to be so wicked, but which had in truth been caused by his own
fault. If Marie would hold out, there would be no need that he should
lay violent hands upon Adrian Urmand, or have resort to any process of
choking. If she would only be firm, they could not succeed in making
her marry the linen-merchant. He was not in the least afraid of M. le
Cure Gondin; nor was he afraid of Adrian Urmand. He was not much
afraid of Madame Voss. He was afraid only of his father. 'A man
cannot yield on such a matter,' he said. 'No man yields in such an
affair,—though he may be beaten.' Madame Voss listened to him, but
said nothing farther. She was busy with her work, and went on
intently with her needle.
He had asked to see Urmand, and he now went out in quest of him.
He passed across the court, and in at the door of the cafe, and up
into the billiard-room. Here he found both his father and the young
man. Urmand got up to salute him, and George took off his hat.
Nothing could be more ceremonious than the manner in which the two
rivals greeted each other. They had not seen each other for nearly
two years, and had never been intimate. When George had been living
at Granpere, Urmand had only been an occasional sojourner at the inn,
and had not as yet fallen into habits of friendship with the Voss
'Have you seen your mother?' Michel asked.
'Yes; I have seen her.' Then there was silence for awhile. Urmand
knew not how to speak, and George was doubtful how to proceed in
presence of his father.
Then Michel asked another question. 'Are you going to stay long
with us, George?'
'Certainly not long, father. I have brought nothing with me but
what you see.'
'You have brought too much, if you have come to give us trouble.'
Then there was another pause, during which George sat down in a
corner, apart from them. Urmand took out a cigar and lit it,
offering one to the innkeeper. But Michel Voss shook his head. He
was very unhappy, feeling that everything around him was wrong. Here
was a son of his, of whom he was proud, the only living child of his
first wife, a young man of whom all people said good things; a son
whom he had always loved and trusted, and who even now, at this very
moment, was showing himself to be a real man; and yet he was forced to
quarrel with this son, and say harsh things to him, and sit away from
him with a man who was after all no more than a stranger to him, with
whom he had no sympathy; when it would have made him so happy to be
leaning on his son's shoulder, and discussing their joint affairs with
unreserved confidence, asking questions about wages, and suggesting
possible profits. He was beginning to hate Adrian Urmand. He was
beginning to hate the young man, although he knew that it was his duty
to go on with the marriage. Urmand, as soon as his cigar was lighted,
got up and began to knock the balls about on the table. That gloom of
silence was to him most painful.
'If you would not mind it, M. Urmand,' said George, 'I should like
to take a walk with you.'
'To take a walk?'
'If it would not be disagreeable. Perhaps it would be well that
you and I should have a few minutes of conversation.'
'I will leave you together here,' said the father, 'if you, George,
will promise me that there shall be no violence.' Urmand looked at
the innkeeper as though he did not like the proposition, but Michel
took no notice of his look.
'There certainly shall be none on my part,' said George. 'I don't
know what M. Urmand's feelings may be.'
'O dear, no; nothing of the kind,' said Urmand. 'But I don't
exactly see what we are to talk about.' Michel, however, paid no
attention to this, but walked slowly out of the room. 'I really
don't know what there is to say,' continued Urmand, as he knocked the
balls about with his cue.
'There is this to say. That girl up there was induced to promise
that she would be your wife, when she believed that—I had forgotten
'O dear, no; nothing of the kind.'
'That is her story. Go and ask her. If it is so, or even if it
suits her now to say so, you will hardly, as a man, endeavour to
drive her into a marriage which she does not wish. You will never do
it, even if you do try. Though you go on trying till you drive her
mad, she will never be your wife. But if you are a man, you will not
continue to torment her, simply because you have got her uncle to back
'Who says she will never marry me?'
'I say so. She says so.'
'We are betrothed to each other. Why should she not marry me?'
'Simply because she does not wish it. She does not love you. Is
not that enough? She does love another man; me—me—me. Is not that
enough? Heaven and earth! I would sooner go to the galleys, or break
stones upon the roads, than take a woman to my bosom who was thinking
of some other man.'
'That is all very fine.'
'Let me tell you, that the other thing, that which you propose to
do, is by no means fine. But I will not quarrel with you, if I can
help it. Will you go away and leave us at peace? They say you are
rich and have a grand house. Surely you can do better than marry a
poor innkeeper's niece—a girl that has worked hard all her life?'
'I could do better if I chose,' said Adrian Urmand.
'Then go and do better. Do you not perceive that even my father is
becoming tired of all the trouble you are making? Surely you will
not wait till you are turned out of the house?'
'Who will turn me out of the house?'
'Marie will, and my father. Do you think he'll see her wither and
droop and die, or perhaps go mad, in order that a promise may be kept
to you? Take the matter into your own hands at once, and say you will
have no more to do with it. That will be the manly way.'
'Is that all you have to say, my friend?' asked Urmand, assuming a
voice that was intended to be indifferent.
'Yes—that is all. But I mean to do something more, if I am driven
'Very well. When I want advice from you, I will come to you for
it. And as for your doing, I believe you are not master here as yet.
Good-morning.' So saying, Adrian Urmand left the room, and George
Voss in a few minutes followed him down the stairs.
The rest of the day was passed in gloom and wretchedness. George
hardly spoke to his father; but the two sat at table together, and
there was no open quarrel between them. Urmand also sat with them,
and tried to converse with Michel and Madame Voss. But Michel would
say very little to him; and the mistress of the house was so cowed by
the circumstances of the day, that she was hardly able to talk. Marie
still kept her room; and it was stated to them that she was not well
and was in bed. Her uncle had gone to see her twice, but had made no
report to any one of what had passed between them.
It had come to be understood that George would sleep there, at any
rate for that night, and a bed had been prepared for him. The party
broke up very early, for there was nothing in common among them to
keep them together. Madame Voss sat murmuring with the priest for
half an hour or so; but it seemed that the gloom attendant upon the
young lovers had settled also upon M. le Cure. Even he escaped as
early as he could.
When George was about to undress himself there came a knock at his
door, and one of the servant-girls put into his hand a scrap of
paper. On it was written, 'I will never marry him, never—never—
never; upon my honour!'
Michel Voss at this time was a very unhappy man. He had taught
himself to believe that it would be a good thing that his niece
should marry Adrian Urmand, and that it was his duty to achieve this
good thing in her behalf. He had had it on his mind for the last
year, and had nearly brought it to pass. There was, moreover, now,
at this present moment, a clear duty on him to be true to the young
man who with his consent, and indeed very much at his instance, had
become betrothed to Marie Bromar. The reader will understand how
ideas of duty, not very clearly looked into or analysed, acted upon
his mind. And then there was always present to him a recurrence of
that early caution which had made him lay a parental embargo upon
anything like love between his son and his wife's niece. Without
much thinking about it,—for he probably never thought very much
about anything,—he had deemed it prudent to separate two young
people brought up together, when they began, as he fancied, to be
foolish. An elderly man is so apt to look upon his own son as a boy,
and on a girl who has grown up under his nose as little more than a
child! And then George in those days had had no business of his own,
and should not have thought of such a thing! In this way the mind of
Michel Voss had been forced into strong hostility against the idea of
a marriage between Marie and his son, and had filled itself with the
spirit of a partisan on the side of Adrian Urmand. But now, as things
had gone, he had been made very unhappy by the state of his own mind,
and consequently was beginning to feel a great dislike for the
merchant from Basle. The stupid mean little fellow, with his white
pocket-handkerchief, and his scent, and his black greasy hair, had
made his way into the house and had destroyed all comfort and
pleasure! That was the light in which Michel was now disposed to
regard his previously honoured guest. When he made a comparison
between Adrian and George, he could not but acknowledge that any girl
of spirit and sense would prefer his son. He was very proud of his
son,—proud even of the lad's disobedience to himself on such a
subject; and this feeling added to his discomfort.
He had twice seen Marie in her bed during that day spoken of in the
last chapter. On both occasions he had meant to be very firm; but it
was not easy for such a one as Michel Voss to be firm to a young woman
in her night-cap, rather pale, whose eyes were red with weeping. A
woman in bed was to him always an object of tenderness, and a woman in
tears, as his wife well knew, could on most occasions get the better
of him. When he first saw Marie, he merely told her to lie still and
take a little broth. He kissed her however and patted her cheek, and
then got out of the room as quickly as he could. He knew his own
weakness, and was afraid to trust himself to her prayers while she lay
before him in that guise. When he went again, he had been unable not
to listen to a word or two which she had prepared, and had ready for
instant speech. 'Uncle Michel,' she said, 'I will never marry any one
without your leave, if you will let M. Urmand go away.' He had almost
come to wish by this time that M. Urmand would go away and never come
back again. 'How am I to send him away?' he had said crossly. 'If
you tell him, I know he will go,—at once,' said Marie. Michel had
muttered something about Marie's illness and the impossibility of
doing anything at present, and again had left the room. Then Marie
began to take heart of grace, and to think that victory might yet be
on her side. But how was George to know that she was firmly
determined to throw those odious betrothals to the wind? Feeling it
to be absolutely incumbent on her to convey to him this knowledge, she
wrote the few words which the servant conveyed to her lover,—making
no promise in regard to him, but simply assuring him that she would
never,— never,—never become the wife of that other man.
Early on the following morning Michel Voss went off by himself. He
could not stay in bed, and he could not hang about the house. He did
not know how to demean himself to either of the young men when he met
them. He could not be cordial as he ought to be with Urmand; nor
could he be austere to George with that austerity which he felt would
have been proper on his part. He was becoming very tired of his
dignity and authority. Hitherto the exercise of power in his
household had generally been easy enough, his wife and Marie had
always been loving and pleasant in their obedience. Till within
these last weeks there had even been the most perfect accordance
between him and his niece. 'Send him away;—that's very easily
said,' he muttered to himself as he went up towards the mountains;
'but he has got my engagement, and of course he'll hold me to it.' He
trudged on, he hardly knew whither. He was so unhappy, that the mills
and the timber-cutting were nothing to him. When he had walked
himself into a heat, he sat down and took out his pipe, but he smoked
more by habit than for enjoyment. Supposing that he did bring himself
to change his mind,—which he did not think he ever would,—how could
he break the matter to Urmand? He told himself that he was sure he
would not change his mind, because of his solemn engagement to the
young man; but he did acknowledge that the young man was not what he
had taken him to be. He was effeminate, and wanted spirit, and smelt
of hair-grease. Michel had discovered none of these defects,—had
perhaps regarded the characteristics as meritorious rather than
otherwise,—while he had been hotly in favour of the marriage. Then
the hair-grease and the rest of it had in his eyes simply been signs
of the civilisation of the town as contrasted with the rusticity of
the country. It was then a great thing in his eyes that Marie should
marry a man so polished, though much of the polish may have come from
pomade. Now his ideas were altered, and, as he sat alone upon the
log, he continued to turn up his nose at poor M. Urmand. But how was
he to be rid of him,—and, if not of him, what was he to do then? Was
he to let all authority go by the board, and allow the two young
people to marry, although the whole village heard how he had pledged
himself in this matter?
As he was sitting there, suddenly his son came upon him. He
frowned and went on smoking, though at heart he felt grateful to
George for having found him out and followed him. He was altogether
tired of being alone, or, worse than that, of being left together with
Adrian Urmand. But the overtures for a general reconciliation could
not come first from him, nor could any be entertained without at least
some show of obedience. 'I thought I should find you up here,' said
'And now you have found me, what of that?'
'I fancy we can talk better, father, up among the woods, than we
can down there when that young man is hanging about. We always used
to have a chat up here, you know.'
'It was different then,' said Michel. 'That was before you had
learned to think it a fine thing to be your own master and to oppose
me in everything.'
'I have never opposed you but in one thing, father.'
'Ah, yes; in one thing. But that one thing is everything. Here
I've been doing the best I could for both of you, striving to put you
upon your legs, and make you a man and her a woman, and this is the
return I get!'
'But what would you have had me do?'
'What would I have had you do? Not come here and oppose me in
'But when this Adrian Urmand—'
'I am sick of Adrian Urmand,' said Michel Voss. George raised his
eyebrows and stared. 'I don't mean that,' said he; 'but I am
beginning to hate the very sight of the man. If he'd had the pluck
of a wren, he would have carried her off long ago.'
'I don't know how that may be, but he hasn't done it yet. Come,
father; you don't like the man any more than she does. If you get
tired of him in three days, what would she do in her whole life?'
'Why did she accept him, then?'
'Perhaps, father, we were all to blame a little in that.'
'I was not to blame—not in the least. I won't admit it. I did
the best I could for her. She accepted him, and they are betrothed.
The Cure down there says it's nearly as good as being married.'
'Who cares what Father Gondin says?' asked George.
'I'm sure I don't,' said Michel Voss.
'The betrothal means nothing, father, if either of them choose to
change their minds. There was that girl over at Saint Die.'
'Don't tell me of the girl at Saint Die. I'm sick of hearing of
the girl at Saint Die. What the mischief is the girl at Saint Die to
us? We've got to do our duty if we can, like honest men and women;
and not follow vagaries learned from Saint Die.'
The two men walked down the hill together, reaching the hotel about
noon. Long before that time the innkeeper had fallen into a way of
acknowledging that Adrian Urmand was an incubus; but he had not as
yet quite admitted that there was any way of getting rid of the
incubus. The idea of having the marriage on the 1st of the present
month was altogether abandoned, and Michel had already asked how they
might manage among them to send Adrian Urmand back to Basle. 'He must
come again, if he chooses,' he had said; 'but I suppose he had better
go now. Marie is ill, and she mustn't be worried.' George proposed
that his father should tell this to Urmand himself; but it seemed that
Michel, who had never yet been known to be afraid of any man, was in
some degree afraid of the little Swiss merchant.
'Suppose my mother says a word to him,' suggested George.
'She wouldn't dare for her life,' answered the father.
'I would do it.'
'No, indeed, George; you shall do no such thing.'
Then George suggested the priest; but nothing had been settled when
they reached the inn-door. There he was, swinging a cane at the foot
of the billiard-room stairs—the little bug-a-boo, who was now so much
in the way of all of them! The innkeeper muttered some salutation,
and George just touched his hat. Then they both passed on, and went
into the house.
Unfortunately the plea of Marie's illness was in part cut from
under their feet by the appearance of Marie herself. George, who had
not as yet seen her, went up quickly to her, and, without saying a
word, took her by the hand and held it. Marie murmured some pretence
at a salutation, but what she said was heard by no one. When her
uncle came to her and kissed her, her hand was still grasped in that
of George. All this had taken place in the passage; and before
Michel's embrace was over, Adrian Urmand was standing in the doorway
looking on. George, when he saw him, held tighter by the hand, and
Marie made no attempt to draw it away.
'What is the meaning of all this?' said Urmand, coming up.
'Meaning of what?' asked Michel.
'I don't understand it—I don't understand it at all,' said Urmand.
'Don't understand what?' said Michel. The two lovers were still
holding each other's hands; but Michel had not seen it; or, seeing
it, had not observed it.
'Am I to understand that Marie Bromar is betrothed to me, or not?'
demanded Adrian. 'When I get an answer either way, I shall know what
to do.' There was in this an assumption of more spirit than had been
expected on his part by his enemies at the Lion d'Or.
'Why shouldn't you be betrothed to her?' said Michel. 'Of course
you are betrothed to her; but I don't see what is the use of your
talking so much about it.'
'It is the first time I have said a word on the subject since I've
been here,' said Urmand. Which was true; but as Michel was
continually thinking of the betrothal, he imagined that everybody was
always talking to him of the matter. Marie had now managed to get her
hand free, and had retired into the kitchen. Michel followed her, and
stood meditative, with his back to the large stove. As it happened,
there was no one else present there at the moment.
'Tell him to go back to Basle,' whispered Marie to her uncle.
Michel only shook his head and groaned.
'I don't think I am at all well-treated here among you,' said
Adrian Urmand to George as soon as they were alone.
'Any special friendship from me you can hardly expect,' said
George. 'As to my father and the rest of them, if they ill-treat you,
I suppose you had better leave them.'
'I won't put up with ill-treatment from anybody. It's not what I'm
'Look here, M. Urmand,' said George. 'I quite admit you have been
badly used; and, on the part of the family, I am ready to apologise.'
'I don't want any apology.'
'What do you want, M. Urmand?'
'I want—I want—Never mind what I want. It is from your father
that I shall demand it, not from you. I shall take care to see
myself righted. I know the French law as well as the Swiss.'
'If you're talking of law, you had better go back to Basle and get
a lawyer,' said George.
There had been no word spoken of George returning to Colmar on that
morning. He had told his father that he had brought nothing with him
but what he had on; and in truth when he left Colmar he had not looked
forward to any welcome which would induce him to remain at Granpere.
But the course of things had been different from that which he had
expected. He was much too good a general to think of returning now,
and he had friends in the house who knew how to supply him with what
was most necessary to him. Nobody had asked him to stay. His father
had not uttered a word of welcome. But he did stay, and Michel would
have been very much surprised indeed if he had heard that he had gone.
The man in the stable had ventured to suggest that the old mare would
not be wanted to go over the mountain that day. To this George
assented, and made special request that the old mare might receive
And so the day passed away. Marie, who had recovered her health,
was busy as usual about the house. George and Urmand, though they
did not associate, were rarely long out of each other's sight; and
neither the one nor the other found much opportunity for pressing his
suit. George probably felt that there was not much need to do so, and
Urmand must have known that any pressing of his suit in the ordinary
way would be of no avail. The innkeeper tried to make work for
himself about the place, had the carriages out and washed, inspected
the horses, and gave orders as to the future slaughter of certain
pigs. Everybody about the house, nevertheless, down to the smallest
boy attached to the inn, knew that the landlord's mind was
pre-occupied with the love affairs of those two men. There was
hardly an inhabitant of Granpere who did not understand what was
going on; and, had it been the custom of the place to make bets on
such matters, very long odds would have been wanted before any one
would have backed Adrian Urmand. And yet two days ago he was
considered to be sure of the prize. M. le Cure Gondin was a good
deal at the hotel during the day, and perhaps he was the stanchest
supporter of the Swiss aspirant. He endeavoured to support Madame
Voss, having that strong dislike to yield an inch in practice or in
doctrine, which is indicative of his order. He strove hard to make
Madame Voss understand that if only she would be firm and cause her
husband to be firm also, Marie would, of course, yield at last. 'I
have ever so many young women just in the same way,' said the Cure,
'and you would have thought they were going to break their hearts;
but as soon as ever they have been married, they have forgotten all
that.' Madame Voss would have been quite contented to comply with
the priest's counsel, could she have seen the way with her husband.
But it had become almost manifest even to her, with the Cure to
support her, that the star of Adrian Urmand was on the wane. She
felt from every word that Marie spoke to her, that Marie herself was
confident of success. And it may be said of Madame Voss, that
although she had been forced by Michel into a kind of enthusiasm on
behalf of the Swiss marriage, she had no very eager wishes of her own
on the subject. Marie was her own niece, and was dear to her; but the
girl was sure of a well-to-do husband whichever way the war went; and
what aunt need desire more for her most favourite niece than a
The day went by, and the supper was eaten, and the cigars were
smoked, and then they all went to bed. But nothing more had been
settled. That obstinate young man, M. Adrian Urmand, though he had
talked of his lawyer, had said not a word of going back to Basle.
It is probable that all those concerned in the matter who slept at
the Lion d'Or that night, made up their minds that on the following
day the powers of the establishment must come to some decision. It
was not right that a young woman should have to live in the house
with two favoured lovers; nor, as regarded the young men, was it
right that they should be allowed to go on glaring at each other.
Both Michel and Madame Voss feared that they would do more than
glare, seeing that they were so like two dogs with one bone between
them, who, in such an emergency, will generally fight. Urmand
himself was quite alive to the necessity of putting an end to his
present exceptionally disagreeable position. He was very angry; very
angry naturally with Marie, who had, he thought, treated him
villainously. Why had she made that little soft, languid promise to
him when he was last at Granpere, if she had not then loved him? And
of course he was angry with George Voss. What unsuccessful lover
fails of being angry with his happy rival? And then George had
behaved with outrageous impropriety. Urmand was beginning now to have
a clear insight of the circumstances. George and Marie had been
lovers, and then George, having been sent away, had forgotten his love
for a year or more. But when the girl had been accommodated with
another lover, then he thrust himself forward and disturbed
everybody's arrangements! No conduct could have been worse than this.
But, nevertheless, Urmand's anger was the hottest against Michel Voss
himself. Had he been left alone at Basle, had he been allowed to
receive Marie's letter, and act upon it in accordance with his own
judgment, he would never have made himself ridiculous by appearing at
Granpere as a discomfited lover. But the innkeeper had come and
dragged him away from home, had misrepresented everything, had carried
him away, as it were, by force to the scene of his disgrace, and
now—threw him over! He, at any rate, he, Michel Voss, should, as
Adrian Urmand felt very bitterly, have been true and constant; but
Michel, whose face could not lie, whatever his words might do, was
clearly as anxious to be rid of his young friend as were any of the
others in the hotel. Urmand himself would have been very glad to be
back at Basle. He had come to regard any farther connection with the
inn at Granpere as extremely undesirable. The Voss family was low.
He had found that out during his present visit. But how was he to
get away, and not look, as he was going, like a dog with his tail
between his legs? He had so clear a right to demand Marie's hand,
that he could not bring himself to bear to be robbed of his claim.
And yet he had come to perceive how very foolish such a marriage
would be. He had been told that he could do better. Of course he
could do better. But how could he be rid of his bargain without
submitting to ill- treatment? If Michel had not come and fetched him
away from his home the ill-treatment would have been by comparison
slight, and of that normal kind to which young men are accustomed.
But to be brought over to the house, and then to be deserted by
everybody in the house! How, O how, was he to get out of the house?
Such were his reflections as he sat solitary in the long public room
drinking his coffee, and eating an omelet, with which Peter Veque had
supplied him, but which had in truth been cooked for him very
carefully by Marie Bromar herself. In her present frame of mind
Marie would have cooked ortolans for him had he wished for them.
And while Urmand was eating his omelet and thinking of his wrongs,
Michel Voss and his son were standing together at the stable door.
Michel had been there some time before his son had joined him, and
when George came up to him he put out his hand almost furtively.
George grasped it instantly, and then there came a tear into the
innkeeper's eye. 'I have brought you a little of that tobacco we
were talking of,' said George, taking a small packet out of his
'Thank ye, George; thank ye; but it does not much matter now what I
smoke. Things are going wrong, and I don't get satisfaction out of
'Don't say that, father.'
'How can I help saying it? Look at that fellow up there. What am
I to do with him? What am I to say to him? He means to stay there
till he gets his wife.'
'He'll never get a wife here, if he stays till the house falls on
'I can see that now. But what am I to say to him? How am I to get
rid of him? There is no denying, you know, that he has been treated
badly among us.'
'Would he take a little money, father?'
'No. He's not so bad as that.'
'I should not have thought so; only he talked to me about his
'Ah;—he did that in his anger. By George, if I was in his
position I should try and raise the very devil. But don't talk of
giving him money, George. He's not bad in that way.'
'He shouldn't have said anything about his lawyer.'
'You wait till you're placed as he is, and you'll find that you'll
say anything that comes uppermost. But what are we to do with him,
Then the matter was discussed in the utmost confidence, and in all
its bearings. George offered to have a carriage and pair of horses
got ready for Remiremont, and then to tell the young man that he was
expected to get into it, and go away; but Michel felt that there must
be some more ceremonious treatment than that. George then suggested
that the Cure should give the message, but Michel again objected. The
message, he felt, must be given by himself. The doing this would be
very bitter to him, because it would be necessary that he should
humble himself before the scented shiny head of the little man: but
Michel knew that it must be so. Urmand had been undoubtedly
ill-treated among them, and the apology for that ill-treatment must be
made by the chief of the family himself. 'I suppose I might as well go
to him alone,' said Michel, groaning.
'Well, yes; I should say so,' replied his son. 'Soonest begun,
soonest over;—and I suppose I might as well order the horses.'
To this latter suggestion the father made no reply, but went slowly
into the house. He turned for a moment into Marie's little office,
and stood there hesitating whether he would tell her his mission. As
she was to be made happy, why should she not know it?
'You two have got the better of me among you,' he said.
'Which two, Uncle Michel?'
'Which two? Why, you and George. And what I'm to do with the
gentleman upstairs, it passes me to think. Thank heaven, it will be
a great many years before Flos wants a husband.' Flos was the little
daughter up-stairs, who was as yet no more than five years old.
'I hope, Uncle Michel, you'll never have anybody else as naughty
and troublesome as I have been,' said Marie, pressing close to him.
She was indescribably happy. She was to be saved from the lover whom
she did not want. She was to have the lover whom she did want. And,
over and above all this, a spirit of kind feeling and full sympathy
existed once more between her and her dear friend. As she offered no
advice in regard to the disposal of the gentleman up- stairs, Michel
was obliged to go upon his painful duty, trusting to his own wit.
In the long room up-stairs he found Adrian Urmand sitting at the
closed window, looking out at the ducks who were paddling in a
temporary pool made by the late rains. He had been painfully in want
of something to do,—so much so that he had more than once almost
resolved to put his things into his bag, and leave the house without
saying a word of farewell to any one. Had there been any means for
him to escape from Granpere without saying a word, he would have done
so. But at Granpere there was no railway, and the only public
conveyance in and out of the place started from the door of the Lion
d'Or; started every morning, with much ceremony, so that it was
impossible for him to fly unobserved. There he was, watching the
ducks, when Michel entered the room, and very much disposed to quarrel
with any one who approached him.
'I'm afraid you find it rather dull here,' said Michel, beginning
'It is dull; very dull indeed.'
'That is the worst of it. We are dull people here in the country.
We have not the distractions which you town folk can always find.
There's not much to do, and nothing to look at.'
'Very little to look at, that's worth the trouble of looking,' said
There was a malignity of satire intended in this; for the young man
in his wrath, and with a full conviction of what was coming upon him,
had intended to include his betrothed in the catalogue of things of
Granpere not worthy of inspection. But Michel Voss did not at all
follow him so far as that.
'I never saw such a place,' continued Urmand. 'There isn't a soul
even to play a game of billiards with.'
Now Michel Voss, although for a purpose he had been willing to make
little of his own village, did in truth consider that Granpere was at
any rate as good a place to live in as Basle. And he felt that though
he might abuse Granpere, it was very uncourteous in Adrian Urmand to
do so. 'I don't think much of playing billiards in the morning, I
must own,' said he.
'I daresay not,' said Urmand, still looking at the ducks.
Michel had made no progress as yet, so he sat down and scratched
his head. The more he thought of it, the larger the difficulty seemed
to be. He was quite aware now that it was his own unfortunate
journey to Basle which had brought so heavy a burden on him. It was
as yet no more than three or four days since he had taken upon
himself to assure the young man that he, by his own authority, would
make everything right; and now he was forced to acknowledge that
everything was wrong. 'M. Urmand,' he said at last, 'it has been a
very great grief to me, a very great grief indeed, that you should
have found things so uncomfortable.'
'What things do you mean?' said Urmand.
'Well—everything—about Marie, you know. When I went over to
Basle the other day, I didn't think how it was going to turn out. I
'And how is it going to turn out?'
'I can't make the young woman consent, you know,' said the
'Let me tell you, M. Voss, that I wouldn't have the young woman, as
you call her, if she consented ever so much. She has disgraced me.'
To this Michel listened with perfect equanimity.
'She has disgraced you.'
At hearing this Michel bit his lips, telling himself, however, that
there had been mistakes made, and that he was bound to bear a good
'And she has disgraced herself,' said Adrian Urmand, with all the
emphasis that he had at command.
'I deny it,' said Marie's uncle, coming close up to his opponent,
and standing before him. 'I deny it. It is not true. That shall
not be said in my hearing, even by you.'
'But I do say it. She has disgraced herself. Did she not give me
her troth, when all the time she intended to marry another man?'
'No! She did nothing of the kind. And look here, my friend, if
you wish to be treated like a man in this house, you had better not
say anything against any of the women who live in it. You may abuse
me as much as you please,—and George too, if it will do you any good.
There have been mistakes made, and we owe you something.'
'By heavens, yes; you do.'
'But you sha'n't take it out in saying anything against Marie
Bromar,—not in my hearing.'
'Why;—what will you do?'
'Don't drive me to do anything, M. Urmand. If there is any
'Of course there must be compensation.'
'What is it you will take? Is it money?'
'Money;—no. As for money, I'm better off than any of you.'
'What is it, then? You don't want the girl herself?'
'No;—certainly not. I would not take her if she came and knelt to
'What can we do, then? If you will only say.'
'I want—I want—I don't know what I want. I have been cruelly
ill- used, and made a fool of before everybody. I never heard of such
a case before;—never. And I have been so generous and honest to you!
I did not ask for a franc of dot; and now you come and offer me
money. I don't think any man ever was so badly used anywhere.' And
on saying this Adrian Urmand in very truth burst into tears.
The innkeeper's heart was melted at once. It was all so true!
Between them they had treated him very badly. But then there had
been so many unfortunate and unavoidable mistakes! When the young
man talked of compensation, what was Michel Voss to think? His son
had been led into exactly the same error. Nevertheless, he repented
himself bitterly in that he had said anything about money, and was
prepared to make the most abject apologies. Adrian Urmand had fallen
into a chair, and Michel Voss came and seated himself close beside
'I beg your pardon, Urmand; I do indeed. I ought not to have
mentioned money. But when you spoke of compensation—'
'It wasn't that. It wasn't that. It's my feelings!'
Then the white cambric handkerchief was taken out and used with
From that moment the innkeeper's goodwill towards Urmand returned,
though of course he was quite aware that there was no place for him
in that family.
'If there is anything I can do, I will do it,' said Michel
piteously. 'It has been unfortunate. I know it has been very
unfortunate. But we didn't mean to be untrue.'
'If you had only left me alone when I was at home?' said the
unfortunate young man, who was still sobbing bitterly.
They two remained in the long room together for a considerable
time, during all of which Michel Voss was as gentle as though Urmand
had been a child. Nor did the poor rejected lover again have recourse
to any violence of abuse, though he would over and over again repeat
his opinion that surely, since lovers were first known in the world,
and betrothals of marriage first made, no one had ever been so ill-
used as was he. It soon became clear to Michel that his great grief
did not come from the loss of his wife, but from the feeling that
everybody would know that he had been ill-used. There wasn't a
shopkeeper in his own town, he said, who hadn't heard of his
approaching marriage. And what was he to say when he went back?
'Just say that you found us so rough and rustic,' said Michel Voss.
But Urmand knew well that no such saying on his part would be
'I think I shall go to Lyons,' said he, 'and stay there for six
months. What's the business to me? I don't care for the business.'
There they sat all the morning. Two or three times Peter Veque
opened the door, peeped in at them, and then brought down word that
the conference was still going on.
'The master is sitting just over him like,' said Peter, 'and
they're as close and loving as birds.'
Marie listened, and said not a word to any one. George had made
two or three little attempts during the morning to entice her into
some lover-like privacy. But Marie would not be enticed. The man to
whom she was betrothed was still in the house; and, though she was
quite secure that the betrothals would now be absolutely annulled,
still she would not actually entertain another lover till this was
At length the door of the long room was opened, and the two men
came out. Adrian Urmand, who was the first to be seen in the passage,
went at once to his bedroom, and then Michel descended to the little
parlour. Marie was at the moment sitting on her stool of authority
in the office, from whence she could hear what was said in the
parlour. Satisfied with this, she did not come down from her seat.
In the parlour was Madame Voss and the Cure, and George, who had seen
his father from the front door, at once joined them.
'Well,' said Madame Voss, 'how is it to be?'
'I've arranged that we're to have a little picnic up the ravine to-
morrow,' said Michel.
'A picnic!' said the Cure.
'I'm all for a picnic,' said George.
'A picnic!' said Madame Voss, 'and the ground as wet as a sop, and
the wind from the mountains enough to cut one in two.'
'Never mind about the wind. We'll take coats and umbrellas. It's
better to have some kind of an outing, and then he'll recover
himself.' Marie, as she heard all this, made up her mind that if any
possible store of provisions packed in hampers could bring her late
lover round to equanimity, no efforts on her part should be wanting.
She would pack up cold chickens and champagne bottles with the
greatest pleasure, and would eat her dinner sitting on a rock, even
though the wind from the mountains should cut her in two.
'And so it's all to end in a picnic,' said M. le Cure, with evident
It appeared from Michel's description of what had taken place
during that very long interview that Adrian Urmand had at last become
quite gentle and confidential. In what way could he be let down the
most easily? That was the question for the answering which these two
heads were kept together in conference so long. How could it be made
to appear that the betrothal had been annulled by mutual consent? At
last the happy idea of a picnic occurred to Michel himself. 'I never
thought about the time of the year,' he said; 'but when friends are
here and we want to do our best for them, we always take them to the
ravine, and have dinners on the rocks.' It had seemed to him, and as
he declared to Urmand also, that if something like a jubilee could be
got up before the young man's departure, it would appear as though
there could not have been much disappointment.
'We shall all catch our death of cold,' said Madame Voss.
'We needn't stay long, you know,' said Michel. 'And, Marie,' said
he, going into the little office in which his niece was still seated,
'Marie, mind you behave yourself.'
'O, I will, Uncle Michel,' she said. 'You shall see.'
They all sat down together at supper that evening, Marie dispensing
her soup as usual before she went to the table. She sat next to her
uncle on one side, and below her there were vacant seats. Urmand
took a chair on the left hand of Madame Voss, next to him was the
Cure, and below the Cure the happy rival. It had all been arranged
by Marie herself, with the greatest care. Urmand seemed to have got
over the worst of his trouble, and when Marie came to the table bowed
to her graciously. She bowed in return, and then eat her soup in
silence. Michel Voss overdid his part a little by too much talking,
but his wife restored the balance by her prudence. George told them
how strong the French party was at Colmar, and explained that the
Germans had not a leg to stand upon as far as general opinion went.
Before the supper was over, Adrian Urmand was talking glibly enough;
and it really seemed as though the terrible misfortunes of the Lion
d'Or would arrange themselves comfortably after all. When supper was
done, the father, son, and the discarded lover smoked their pipes
together amicably in the billiard room. There was not a word said then
by either of them in connection with Marie Bromar.
On the next morning the sun was bright, and the air was as warm as
it ever is in October. The day, perhaps, might not have been
selected for an out-of-doors party had there been no special reason
for such an arrangement; but seeing how strong a reason existed, even
Madame Voss acknowledged that the morning was favourable. While those
pipes of peace were being smoked over night, Marie had been preparing
the hampers. On the next morning nobody except Marie herself was very
early. It was intended that the day should be got through at any rate
with a pretence of pleasure, and they were all to be as idle, and
genteel, and agreeable as possible. It had been settled that they
should start at twelve. The drive, unfortunately, would not consume
much more than half an hour. Then what with unpacking, climbing about
the rocks, and throwing stones down into the river, they would get
through the time till two. At two they would eat their dinner—with
all their shawls and greatcoats around them—then smoke their cigars,
and come back when they found it impossible to drag out the day any
longer. Marie was not to talk to George, and was to be specially
courteous to M. Urmand. The two old ladies accompanied them, as did
also M. le Cure Gondin. The programme for the day did not seem to be
very delightful; but it appeared to Michel Voss that in this way,
better than in any other, could some little halo be thrown over the
parting hours of poor Adrian Urmand.
Everything went as well as could have been anticipated. They
managed to delay their departure till nearly half-past twelve, and
were so lost in wonder at the quantity of water running down the fall
in the ravine, that there had hardly been any heaviness of time when
they seated themselves on the rocks at half-past two.
'Now for the business of the day,' said Michel, as, standing up, he
plunged a knife and fork into a large pie which he had placed on a
boulder before him. 'Marie has got no soup for us here, so we must
begin with the solids at once.' Soon after that one cork might have
been heard to fly, and then another, and no stranger looking on would
have believed how dreadful had been the enmity existing on the
previous day—or, indeed, how great a cause for enmity there had
been. Michel himself was very hilarious. If he could only
obliterate in any way the evil which he had certainly inflicted on
that unfortunate young man! 'Urmand, my friend, another glass of
wine. George, fill our friend Urmand's glass; not so quickly,
George, not so quickly; you give him nothing but the froth. Adrian
Urmand, your very good health. May you always be a happy and
successful man!' So saying, Michel Voss drained his own tumbler.
Urmand, at the moment, was seated in a niche among the rocks, in
which a cushion out of the carriage had been placed for his special
accommodation. Indeed, every comfort and luxury had been showered
upon his head to compensate him for his lost bride. This was the
third time that he had been by name invited to drink his wine, and
three times he had obeyed. Now, feeling himself to be summoned in a
very peculiar way—feeling also, perhaps, that that which might have
made others drunk had made him bold, he extricated himself from his
niche, and stood upon his legs among the rocks. He stood upon his
legs among the rocks, and with a graceful movement of his arm, waved
the glass above his head.
'We are delighted to have you here among us, my friend,' said
Michel Voss, who also, perhaps, had been made bold. Madame Voss, who
was close to her husband, pulled him by the sleeve. Then he seated
himself, but Adrian Urmand was left standing among them.
'My friend,' said he, 'and you, Madame Voss particularly, I feel
particularly obliged to you for this charming entertainment.' Then
the innkeeper cheered his guest, whereupon Madame Voss pulled her
husband's sleeve harder than before. 'I am, indeed,' continued
Urmand. 'The best thing will be,' said he, 'to make a clean breast
of it at once. You all know why I came here,—and you all know how
I'm going back.' At this moment his voice faltered a little, and he
almost sobbed. Both the old ladies immediately put their
handkerchiefs to their eyes. Marie blushed and turned away her face
on to her uncle's shoulder. Madame Voss remained immovable. She
dreaded greatly any symptoms of that courage which follows the flying
of corks. In truth, however, she had nothing now to fear. 'Of course,
I feel it a little,' continued Adrian Urmand. 'That is only natural.
I suppose it was a mistake; but it has been rather trying to me. But
I am ready to forget and forgive, and that is all I've got to say.'
This speech, which astonished them all exceedingly, remained
unanswered for some few moments, during which Urmand had sunk back
into his niche. Michel Voss was not ready- witted enough to reply to
his guest at the moment, and George was aware that it would not be
fitting for him, the triumphant lover, to make any reply. He could
hardly have spoken without showing his triumph. During this short
interval no one said a word, and Urmand endeavoured to assume a look
of gloomy dignity.
But at last Michel Voss got upon his legs, his wife giving him
various twitches on the sleeve as he did so. 'I never was so much
affected in my life,' said he, 'and upon my word I think that our
excellent friend Adrian Urmand has behaved as well in a trying
difficulty as,—as,—as any man ever did. I needn't say much about
it, for we all know what it was. And we all know that young women
will be young women, and that they are very hard to manage.' 'Don't,
Uncle Michel' said Marie in a whisper. But Michel was too bold to
attend either to whisperings or pullings of the sleeve, and went on
with his speech. 'There has been a slight mistake, but I hope
sincerely that everything has now been made right. Here is our friend
Adrian Urmand's health, and I am quite sure that we all hope that he
may get an excellent, beautiful young wife, with a good dowry, and
that before long.' Then he too sat down, and all the ladies drank to
the health and future fortunes of M. Adrian Urmand.
Upon the whole the rejected lover liked it. At any rate it was
better so than being alone and moody and despised of all people. He
would know now how to get away from Granpere without having to plan a
surreptitious escape. Of course he had come out intending to be
miserable, to be known as an ill-used man who had been treated with
an amount of cruelty surpassing all that had ever been told of in
love histories. To be depressed by the weight of the ill-usage which
he had borne was a part of the play which he had to act. But the play
when acted after this fashion had in it something of pleasing
excitement, and he felt assured that he was exhibiting dignity in very
adverse circumstances. George Voss was probably thinking ill of the
young man all the while; but every one else there conceived that M.
Urmand bore himself well under most trying circumstances. After the
banquet was over Marie expressed herself so much touched as almost to
incur the jealousy of her more fortunate lover. When the speeches
were finished the men made themselves happy with their cigars and wine
till Madame Voss declared that she was already half-dead with the cold
and damp, and then they all returned to the inn in excellent spirits.
That which had made so bold both Michel and his guest had not been
allowed to have any more extended or more deleterious effect.
On the next morning M. Urmand returned home to Basle, taking the
public conveyance as far as Remiremont. Everybody was up to see him
off, and Marie herself gave him his cup of coffee at parting. It was
pretty to see the mingled grace and shame with which the little
ceremony was performed. She hardly said a word; indeed what word she
did say was heard by no one; but she crossed her hands on her breast,
and the gravest smile came over her face, and she turned her eyes down
to the ground, and if any one ever begged pardon without a word
spoken, Marie Bromar then asked Adrian Urmand to pardon her the evil
she had wrought upon him. 'O, yes;—of course,' he said. 'It's all
right. It's all right.' Then she gave him her hand, and said
good-bye, and ran away up into her room. Though she had got rid of
one lover, not a word had yet been said as to her uncle's acceptance
of that other lover on her behalf; nor had any words more tender been
spoken between her and George than those with which the reader has
been made acquainted.
'And now,' said George, as soon as the diligence had started out of
'Well;—and what now?' asked the father.
'I must be off to Colmar next.'
'Not to-day, George.'
'Yes; to-day;—or this evening at least. But I must settle
something first. What do you say, father?' Michel Voss stood for a
while with his hands in his pockets and his head turned away. 'You
know what I mean, father.'
'O yes; I know what you mean.'
'I don't suppose you'll say anything against it now.'
'It wouldn't be any good, I suppose, if I did,' said Michel,
crossing over the courtyard to the other part of the establishment.
He gave no farther permission than this, but George thought that so
much was sufficient.
George did return to Colmar that evening, being in all matters of
business a man accurate and resolute; but he did not go till he had
been thoroughly scolded for his misconduct by Marie Bromar. 'It was
your fault,' said Marie. 'Your fault from beginning to end.'
'It shall be if you say so,' answered George; 'but I can't say that
I see it.'
'If a person goes away for more than twelve months and never sends
a word or a message or a sign, what is a person to think, George?' He
could only promise her that he would never leave her again even for a
How they were married in November, and how Madame Faragon was
brought over to Granpere with infinite trouble, and how the household
linen got itself marked at last, with a V instead of a U, the reader
can understand without the narration of farther details.