OF the pleasantest streets in Viger was that which
led from the thoroughfare of the village to the
common. It was a little street with little
houses, but it looked as if only happy people
lived there. The enormous old willows which
shaded it through its whole length made a perpetual
shimmer of shadow and sun, and towered so above
the low cottages that they seemed to have crept
under the guardian trees to rest and doze a while.
There was something idyllic about this contented
spot; it seemed to be removed from the rest of
the village, to be on the boundaries of Arcadia,
the first inlet to its pleasant, dreamy fields.
In the spring the boys made a veritable Arcadia
of it, coming there in bands, cutting the willows
for whistles, and entering into a blithe contest
for supremacy in making them, accompanying their
labours by a perpetual sounding of their pleasant
pipes, as if a colony of uncommon birds had taken
up their homes in the trees. [Page 37]
Even in the winter there was something
pleasant about it; the immense boles of the willows,
presiding over the collection of houses, seemed
to protect them, and the sunshine had always a
suggestion of warmth as it dwelt in the long branches.
It was on this street, just a little distance
from the corner, that Paul Arbique kept his inn,
which was famous in its way. He called it
The Turenne, after the renowned commander of that
name, for they had the same birthplace, and Arbique
himself had been a soldier, as his medals would
testify. The location was favourable for
such a house as Arbique was prepared to keep,
and in choosing it he appealed to a crotchet in
man which makes it pleasanter for him to go around
the corner for anything he may require.
A pleasant place it was, particularly in summer.
The very exterior had an air about it, the green
blinds and the green slatted door, and the shadows
from the willow-leaves playing over the legend
"Fresh Buttermilk," a sign dear to the
lover of simple pleasures.
From all the appearances one
would have supposed that The Turenne was a great
success, and everyone thought Arbique was romancing
when he said he was just getting along, and that
was all. But so far as he knew he spoke
the truth, for his wife managed everything, including
himself. There was only one thing she could
not do; she could not make him stop drinking brandy.
The Arbiques considered themselves
very much superior to the village people, because
they had come from old France. "I am
a Frenchman," Paul would say, when [Page
38] he had had too much brandy; but no
one would take offence at him, he was too good
a fellow. When he had had a modicum of his
favourite liquor he talked of his birthplace,
Sedan, the dearest spot on earth to him, and his
Crimean experiences; and when he had reached a
stage beyond that he talked of his wife.
It was a pathetic sight to see him at such times,
as he leaned close to his auditor, and explained
to him how superior a woman Felice was, and what
a cruel, inexplicable mistake she had made in
marrying him, and how all his efforts to make
her happy had failed, not through any fault of
her own, but because it was impossible that he
could ever make her happy; thus taking all the
blame of their domestic infelicity upon his own
shoulders, with the simple idea that it must be
his own fault when no fault of any kind could
possibly rest with Felice.
He was a tall, chivalrous-looking
fellow, with a military air, and despite his fifty
years and the extent of his potations there was
yet a brave flourish in his manner. He was
seen at his best on Sunday, when, clothed in a
complete suit of black, with a single carnation
in his buttonhole, and with an irreproachable
silk hat, he promenaded with Madame Arbique on
his arm. Madame on such occasions was as
fine as her lord, and held her silk gown far above
the defilement of the street, in order to show
her embroidered petticoat and a pair of pretty
feet. But no matter how finely she was dressed
she always wore an expression of discontent.
She had the instincts of a miser, but she also
had enough good sense not to let them interfere
[Page 39] with the sources of
profit, and so, although she was as keen to save
a cent as anyone could have been, The Turenne
showed no sign of it. The provision for
the entertainment of guests was ample and sufficient.
Felice had always had her own way, and owing to
Paul's incapacity, which had overtaken him gradually,
the affairs of the house had been left in her
They had only had one child,
who had died when she was a baby, and this want
of children was a great trial to Paul. They
had attempted to fill her place by adopting a
little girl, but the experiment had not been a
success, and she grew to be something between
a servant and a poor relation working for her
board. This was owing to no fault of Paul's,
who would have prevented it if he could, but his
wife had taken a dislike to the child, and she
simply neglected her. Latulipe, for in the
family she was known by no other name, was a strange
girl. She had been frightened and subdued
by Madame Arbique, and at times she would scarcely
speak a word, and then again she would talk boldly
and defiantly, as if she were protesting, no matter
how insignificant her remarks might be.
Her personal appearance was as odd as her manner;
she had an abundance of hair, of a light, pleasant
shade of red, her complexion was a clear white,
her lips were intensely crimson, her dark eyes
were small but quick, and very clear. Her
manner was shy, and rather awkward. Her
one claim to distinction was that she had some
influence over Arbique, whom she could now and
then prevent drinking. He was sorry for
her, and ashamed of the [Page 40] position
she occupied in the house, which was so different
from what he had intended.
When the Franco-Prussian war
broke out, and for months before, The Turenne
was the rendezvous for those of the villagers
who had any desire to discuss the situation.
Arbique was the oracle of this group, and night
after night he held forth on the political situation,
on the art of war, and his personal experiences
in the army. There was only one habitué
of The Turenne who was silent on these occasions,
that was Hans Blumenthal, the German watchmaker.
He had had his corner in the bar-room ever since
he had come to Viger, and was one of Arbique's
best customers. But when the war excitement
broke out Arbique expected to see no more of him;
the warmth of the discussions and the violence
of the treatment his nation received nightly would
have been expected to drive him away. But
instead, he returned again and again to his place
at the little table by the window, peering through
his glasses with his imperturbable, self-absorbed
expression, not seeming to heed the wordy storms
that beset his ears.
Arbique, when hostilities had
actually broken out, pasted a map of the seat
of war upon the wall; above this he placed a coloured
picture of a French chasseur, and scrawled below
it the words "A Berlin!"
Even this did not disturb the German. He
took advantage of the map, and as Arbique had
set pins, to which were attached red and blue
pieces of wool, to show the positions of the armies,
he even studied the locations and movements with
interest. He read his paper, gave his orders,
paid his [Page 41] score, came
and went as he had always done. This made
Paul very angry, and he would have turned him
out of the house if he had not remembered that
he was his guest, and his sense of honour would
not permit it. He was drinking very heavily
and wanted to fight someone, but every one had
agreed with him except the German, and he kept
silence. He had serious thoughts of challenging
him to a duel, if the opportunity offered.
Latulipe was the only one who
stood up for Hans. She had been accustomed
to wait on the guests sometimes, when Arbique
was incapacitated, and his gentle manner had won
her regard. One day he turned on Paul, who
was abusing Hans behind his back, and gave him
a piece of her mind. She was so sudden and
sharp with it that she sobered him a little, and
in thinking it over he came to the conclusion
that if he could help it she would see the German
no more. Hans noticed her absence, and said
to Paul one night when he was ordering his beer:
"Where is Madmoiselle Latulipe?"
By the way he said it, in his odd French, anyone
could have told when he thought of Latulipe.
"Mademoiselle Latulipe," said Arbique,
with a dramatic flourish, "is my daughter."
So Hans saw her no more in the evening.
He had other trials besides
this. Once in a while the lads in the street
hooted after him, and this sort of attention became
more frequent. One in a while the lads in
the street hooted after him, and this sort of
attention became more frequent. One evening,
after the news of Woerth had been received, someone
threw a stone through the window of his shop.
That very night he stood before the map with his
hands behind him, peering into it; as he [Page
42] altered the pins, which Arbique had
now lost all interest in, he heard someone mutter
"Scélérat!" He thought
it must be intended for him, but he drank his
beer quietly and went home rather early.
After he had gone some of his enemies, becoming
valiant with liquor, made a compact to go out
when it was late enough, break into his house,
and give him a sound beating. But Latulipe
overheard their plan from the stairway, and as
soon as she could get away without being noticed,
she ran over to the watchmaker's shop. It
was quite late and there was not a soul on the
street. She was wondering how she could
warn him, but when she reached the door she noticed
a ladder which led to a scaffold running along
below the windows of the second storey, where
some workmen had been making repairs. There
was a light burning in one of the second storey
windows, and without waiting to reflect Latulipe
ran up the ladder and tapped at the window.
Hans opened it, and said something in German when
he saw who it was. Latulipe did not wait
for salutations, but told him exactly what he
might expect. When that was over she tried
to escape as she had come, but the darkness below
frightened her, and she could not go down the
ladder. Hans tried to coax her to come in
at the window and go out by the street door, but
she would not hear to that; she leaned against
the house, shrinking away from the edge.
So Hans got out upon the scaffolding. "Mademoiselle
Latulipe," he said, in his rough French,
"you need not be alarmed at me; I have only
a good heart toward you." He held out
his hand, but Latulipe knew [Page 43]
by the sound of his voice that he was
going to make love to her, and before he could
say another word she was at the bottom of the
ladder. When the bravos came to give Hans
his beating he confronted them with a lamp in
one hand and a pistol in the other, and they fell
over one another in their haste to retreat.
During the whole of the month
of August Arbique had been wild with excitement;
he could think of nothing but the war, and would
talk of nothing else. At first he would
not believe in any reverse to the French arms;
it was impossible—lies, lies, everything was lies.
His cry was "A Berlin!"
But although he could manage to deceive himself
by this false enthusiasm, sometimes the truth
would stab straight to his heart like a knife,
and he would tremble as if he had the ague, for
the honour of his country was the thing dearest
to him in all the world. If he could only
have died for her! But there, day after
day, he saw the pins on the map, moved by that
cold German, close around Metz. He could
no longer cry "A Berlin"; the
French army was facing Paris, with Berlin at its
back. He drank fiercely now, and even Latulipe
could do nothing with him. Madame Arbique
knew that he would drink himself to death, as
his father had done. He would sit and mutter
by the hour, thinking all the time of what revenge
he could have on Blumenthal, who had become to
his eyes the incarnation of hated Prussia.
But so long as Hans came to the house quietly
to sit at his table and drink his beer Arbique
would not say an uncivil word to him. [Page
On the evening of the 28th
of August there was an unusual crowd at The Turenne,
and a group had surrounded the map gesticulating
and discussing. Hans had finished reading
his paper, and went towards them. They parted
when they saw him coming, and he stood peering
down at the map through his glasses. Arbique
had not been seen all evening, but he appeared
suddenly, looking haggard and shattered, and caught
sight of his friends grouped round the German.
He went slowly toward them, and he approached
he heard Hans say: "There, there they must
fight," and saw him put his finger on the
map between Mézières and Carignan, almost over
Paul had been in bed all day,
and had not had anything to drink, and when he
saw the German with his finger on Sedan he could
not stand it any longer. He broke out: "No,
not there—here," his voice trembling with
rage. "Here they will fight—you for
your abonimable Prussia, I for my beautiful France."
He fell into a dramatic attitude. Drawing
two pistols from his pocket, he presented one
to his nearest friend to hand to Blumenthal.
The man held the pistol for a moment, but Hans
never moved. Madame Arbique, seeing the
commotion, and catching sight of the weapons,
screamed as loud as she could, and Latulipe, running
in, threw herself upon Arbique. He turned
deadly pale and had to use the girl's strength
to keep from falling. Hans went away quietly,
and sat down near the window. Arbique was
fluttering like a leaf in the wind, and Latulipe
and Felice half carried him upstairs. The
men left in the room shook their heads. [Page
The next evening Hans was walking
in the starlight, under the willows. With
his dim vision he saw someone leaning against
one of the trees, but when he passed again he
knew it was Latulipe. He stopped and spoke
to her. When she spoke she did not answer
his question. "Oh," she said,
"he will never get better, never."
"Yes," said Hans, "he will be better."
"No," said Latulipe, "I know by
the way he looks, and he says now that France
is beaten and crushed he does not want to live."
"Brave soul!" said Hans. "And
when he goes," said Latulipe, "what
is to become of me?" He laid his hand
upon her arm, and when she did not resist, he
took her hand in both his own. She was giving
herself to the enemy. A cloud above had
taken the starlight, and in the willows a little
rain fell with a timorous sound. Latulipe
was crying softly on Hans's shoulder.
It was September, and around
Viger the harvest was nearly finished. The
days were clear as glass; already the maples were
stroked with fire, with the lustre of wine and
gold; early risers felt the keener air; the sunsets
reddened the mists which lay light as lawn on
the low fields. But Paul Arbique thought
and spoke of Sedan alone, the place where he was
born, of the Meuse, the bridges, of his father's
farm, just without the walls of the city, and
of his boyhood, and the friends of his youth.
His thoughts were hardly of the war, or of the
terror of the downfall which had a little while
before so haunted him.
It was the evening of the day
upon which the news of the battle had come.
They had resolved not to tell him, [Page
46] but there was something in Latulipe's
manner which disturbed him. Waking from
a light doze, he said: "That Prussian spy,
what did he say?—they must fight there—between
Mézières and Carignan? I have been at Carignan—and
he had his hound's paw on Sedan." He
was quiet for a while; then he said, dreamily:
who was watching with him, wept. In the
night his lips moved again. "France,"
he murmured, "France will rise—again."
It was toward the morning of the next day when
his true heart failed. Latulipe had just
opened the blinds. A pale light came through
the windows. When she bent over him she
caught his last word. "Sedan."
He sighed. "Sedan." [Page