The World's Greatest Books, Vol IV.
Editors: Arthur Mee and J.A. Hammerton
Part 2 out of 6
She heard Felix say the word, with an entreating cry, and went towards
him swiftly. He clasped her, and they kissed each other.
When the trial came on Esther went under Mrs. Transome's protection to
The case against Felix looked very black when the prosecution closed.
Various respectable witnesses swore to the prisoner's leadership of the
mob, to his fatal assault on Tucker, and to his attitude in front of the
drawing-room window at the Manor.
Felix then gave a concise narrative of his motives and conduct on the
day of the riot, and explained that in throwing the constable down he
had not foreseen the possibility of death ensuing. It was a good,
straightforward speech, not without a touch of defiant independence,
which did the prisoner little good with judge or jury.
Mr. Lyon and Harold Transome both gave evidence in favour of Felix,
stating that the prisoner had often expressed his hatred of rioting, and
had protested with indignation against the treating that went on during
the election by some of the Radical agents.
One or two witnesses were called who swore that Felix had tried to lead
the mob in the opposite direction to Treby Manor, and it was understood
that the case for the defence was closed.
Then it came to Esther that she must speak if Felix was to be saved.
There had been no witness to tell what had been his behaviour just
before the riot. There was time, but not too much time.
Before Harold Transome was aware of Esther's intention she was on her
way to the witness-box.
A sort of gleam shot across the face of Felix Holt, and anyone close to
the prisoner would have seen that his hand trembled, for the first time,
at Esther's beautiful aspect. There was no blush on her face: she stood,
divested of all personal consideration whether of vanity or shyness, and
gave her story as if she had been making a confession of faith.
She knew Felix Holt well, she said. He came to see her on the day of the
election, and told her he feared the men might collect again after
drinking. "It was the last thing he would have done to join in riot or
to hurt any man, if he could have helped it. He could never have had any
intention that was not brave and good."
When she was back in her place Felix could not help looking towards her,
and their eyes met in one solemn glance.
Esther stayed in court till the end. She heard the verdict, "Guilty of
Manslaughter," followed by the judge's sentence, "Imprisonment for four
years." But so great was the impression made by Esther's speech that a
petition to the Home Secretary was at once set on foot by the leading
men of the county.
_IV.--Felix and Esther_
One April day, when the sun shone on the lingering raindrops, Lyddy was
gone out, and Esther chose to sit in the kitchen. She was not reading,
but stitching, and as her fingers moved nimbly, something played about
her lips like a ray.
A loud rap came at the door.
"Mr. Lyon at home?" said Felix in his firm tones. "No, sir," said
Esther: "but Miss Lyon is, if you'll please to walk in."
"Esther!" exclaimed Felix, amazed.
They held each other by both hands, and looked into each other's faces
"You are out of prison?"
"Yes, till I do something bad again. But you--how is it all? Are you
come back to live here then?"
"You are not going to be married to Harold Transome, or to be rich?"
"Why?" said Felix in rather a low tone, leaning his elbow on the table,
and resting his head on his hand while he looked at her.
"I did not wish to marry him, or to be rich."
"You have given it all up?" said Felix, leaning forward a little and
speaking in a still lower tone. "Could you share the life of a poor man,
"If I thought well enough of him," she said, with a smile, and a pretty
movement of her head.
"Have you considered well what it would be?--that it would be a very
bare and simple life? and the people I shall live among, Esther? They
have not just the same follies and vices as the rich, but they have
their own forms of folly and vice. It is very serious, Esther."
"I know it is serious," said Esther, looking up at him. "Since I have
been at Transome Court I have seen many things very seriously. If I had
not, I should not have left what I did leave. I made a deliberate
She could not tell him that at Transome Court, all that finally seemed
balanced against her love for him, was the offer of a silken bondage
that arrested all motive, and was nothing better than a well-cushioned
despair. A vision of being restless amidst ease, of being languid among
all appliances had quickened her resignation of the Transome estates.
Esther explained, however, that she thought of retaining a little of the
"How?" said Felix, anxiously. "What do you mean?"
"I think even of two pounds a week: one needn't live up to the splendour
of all that, you know: we might live as simply as you liked. And then I
think of a little income for your mother, and a little income for my
father, to save him from being dependent when he is no longer able to
Felix put his hand on her shoulder, said, lifting up his eyes with a
"Why, I shall be able to set up a great library, and lend the books!"
They laughed merrily, each holding the other's arms, like girl and boy.
There was the ineffable sense of youth in common.
Then Felix leaned forward, that their lips might meet, and after that
his eyes roved tenderly over her face and curls.
"I'm a rough, severe fellow, Esther. Shall you never repent?--never be
inwardly reproaching me that I was not a man who could have shared your
wealth? Are you quite sure?"
The very next May, Felix and Esther were married. Everyone in those days
was married at the parish church; but Mr. Lyon was not satisfied without
an additional private solemnity, "so that he might have a more enlarged
utterance of joy and supplication."
It was a very simple wedding; but no wedding, even the gayest, ever
raised so much interest and debate in Treby Magna. Even the very great
people of the county went to the church to look at this bride, who had
renounced wealth, and chosen to be the wife of a man who said he would
always be poor.
Some few shook their heads; could not quite believe it; and thought
there was more behind. But the majority of honest Trebians were affected
somewhat in the same way as Mr. Wall, the brewer of the town, who
observed to his wife as they walked home, "I feel somehow as if I
believed more in everything that's good."
Felix and Esther did not take up their abode in Treby Magna; and after
awhile Mr. Lyon left the town too, and joined them where they dwelt.
As to the town in which Felix Holt now resides I will keep that a
I will only say that Esther has never repented. Felix, however, grumbles
a little that she has made his life too easy.
There is a young Felix, who has a great deal more science than his
father, but not much more money.
* * * * *
"Romola" was George Eliot's fifth book, and followed "Silas
Marner," which was published in 1861. It is a story of
Florence in the days of Savonarola, and was largely the
outcome of a visit the novelist paid to Italy with her
life-long friend, George Henry Lewes. With dim ideas for the
story in her mind, she made exhaustive researches in the
Florentine libraries, gathering historical and topographical
details of the city and its life as they were in the mediaeval
period which she was setting herself to re-create. After much
study there and at home, and after one false start, she made a
serious beginning in January, 1862. She was engaged upon it
for eighteen months, always in doubt and sometimes in despair
of her ability to accomplish the task, and by June of the
following year she had thankfully written the last words of
what is regarded by some as her greatest book. Meanwhile, the
romance had begun to appear serially in the "Cornhill" in
July, 1862. The writing of "Romola" is said to have "ploughed
into her" more than any of her other books.
_I.--Tito and Little Tessa_
Under the Loggia de Cerchi, in the heart of old Florence, in the early
morning of April 9, 1492, two men had their eyes fixed on each other.
One was looking downward with the scrutiny of curiosity; the other,
lying on the pavement, was looking upward with the startled gaze of a
suddenly awakened dreamer.
"Young man," said the standing figure, pointing to a ring on the finger
of the other, "when your chin has got a stiffer crop on it you'll know
better than to take your nap in street corners with a ring like that on
your forefinger. By the holy 'vangels, if it had been anybody but me
standing over you--but Bratti Ferravecchi is not the man to steal! Three
years ago, one San Giovanni, the saint, sent a dead body in my way--a
blind beggar, with his cap well lined with pieces. But how comes a young
man like you, with the face of Messer San Michele, to be sleeping on a
stone bed? Your tunic and hose match ill with that jewel, young man.
Anybody might say the saints had sent you a dead body; but if you took
the jewels, I hope you buried him--and you can afford a mass or two for
him into the bargain!"
Something like a painful thrill appeared to dart through the frame of
the listener, and arrest the careless stretching of his arms. But he
immediately recovered an air of indifference, took off the red Levantine
cap which hung like a great purse over his left ear, and pushing back
his long, dark brown curls, said smiling, "The fact is, I'm a stranger
in Florence, and when I came in footsore last night, I preferred
flinging myself in the corner of this hospitable porch to hunting for a
chance hostelry, which might turn out to be a nest of bloodsuckers. Can
you show me the way to a more lively quarter, where I can get a meal and
"That I can," said Bratti.
And, talking volubly as they went, Bratti led the way to the Mercato
Vecchio, or the Old Market, promising to conduct him to the prettiest
damsel in the Mercato for a cup of milk.
But as soon as they emerged from the narrow streets into the Old Market,
they found the place packed with excited groups of men and women humming
"Diavolo!" said Bratti. "The Mercato has gone as mad as if the Holy
Father had excommunicated us again! I must know what this is."
He pushed about among the crowd, inquiring and disputing, and was
presently absorbed in discussing the newest development of Florentine
politics, the death of Lorenzo de Medici, and whether or not this death
was the beginning of the time of tribulation that Savonarola had been
seeing in visions and foretelling in sermons.
Indifferent to this general agitation, the young stranger became tired
of waiting for Bratti's escort, and strolling on round the piazza, felt,
on a sudden thought, in the wallet that hung at his waist.
"Not an obolus, by Jupiter!" he murmured, in a language that was not
Tuscan or even Italian. "I must get my breakfast for love, then!"
In a corner, away from any group of talkers, two mules were standing.
One carried wooden milk vessels, the other a pair of panniers filled
with herbs and salads. Resting her elbow on the mule that carried the
milk, there leaned a young girl, apparently not more than sixteen, with
a red hood surrounding her face, which was all the more baby-like in its
prettiness from the entire concealment of her hair. The poor child was
weary, and it seemed to have gone to sleep in that half-standing,
half-leaning posture. Nevertheless, our stranger had no compunction in
awaking her. She opened her baby-blue eyes, and stared up with
astonishment and confusion.
"Forgive me, pretty one, for awaking you," he said. "I'm dying with
hunger, and the scent of milk makes breakfast seem more desirable than
She bestirred herself, and in a few moments a large cup of fragrant milk
was held out to him; and by the time he set the cup down she had brought
bread from a bag which hung by the side of the mule, and shyly and
mutely insisted on his taking it, even though he told her he had nothing
to pay her with; and just as he was leaning down to kiss her he was
harshly interrupted by Monna Ghita, Tessa's mother, who had come upon
The handsome presence of the stranger and his charm of manner were of no
avail with Monna Ghita; her noisy rating of him drew Bratti and the
barber, Nello, to the spot, and with these he was glad to make good his
escape, having waived a furtive adieu to the pretty Tessa.
It was not until after Bratti, having business at home, had handed the
young stranger over to Nello, and in the barber's shop he had been
shaved and trimmed, and made to look presentable, that Tito Melema
became more confidential, and explained that he was a Greek; that he was
returning from adventures abroad, had suffered shipwreck, and found
himself in Florence with nothing saved from the disaster but some few
rare old gems for which he was anxious to obtain a purchaser.
"Let us see, let us see," said Nello, walking up and down his shop.
"What you want is a man of wealth and influence and scholarly tastes;
and that man is Bartolommeo Scala, the Secretary of our Republic. He
came to Florence as a poor adventurer himself, a miller's son; and that
may be a reason why he may be the more ready to do a good turn to a
strange scholar. I could take you to a man who, if he has a mind, can
help you to a chance of a favourable interview with Scala--a man worth
seeing for his own sake, too, to say nothing of his collections, or of
his daughter Romola, who is as fair as the Florentine lily before it got
quarrelsome and turned red."
"But if the father of this beautiful Romola makes collections, why
should he not like to buy some of my gems himself?"
Nello shrugged his shoulders. "For two good reasons--want of sight to
look at the gems and want of money to pay for them."
_II.--"More than a Man's Ransom"_
He was a moneyless, blind old scholar, the Bardo de Bardi, to whom Nello
introduced Tito Melema; a man who came of a proud, energetic stock,
whose ancestors had loved to play the signor, had been merchants and
usurers of keen daring, and conspicuous among those who clutched the
sword in the earliest world-famous quarrels of Florentine with
Florentine. The family passions lived on in Bardo under altered
conditions; he was a man with a deep-veined hand cramped by much copying
of manuscripts, who ate sparing dinners, and wore threadbare clothes, at
first from choice, and at last from necessity; who sat among his books
and manuscripts, and saw them only by the light of those far-off younger
days which still shone in his memory.
And among his books and antiquities and rare marble fragments, in a
spacious room surrounded with laden shelves, Romola was his daily
companion and assistant. There was a time when he had hoped that his
son, Dino, would have followed in his steps, to be the prop of his age,
and to take up and continue his scholarly labours after he was dead. But
Dino had failed him; Dino had given himself up to religion and entered
the priesthood, and the passion of Bardo's resentment had flamed into
fierce hatred towards this recreant son of his, and none dared so much
as to name him within his hearing.
Maso, the old serving-man ushered in the two visitors he had announced a
few minutes previously, and Nello introduced Tito to Bardo and his
daughter as a scholar of considerable learning.
Romola's astonishment could hardly have been greater if the stranger had
worn a panther-skin and carried a thyrsus, for the cunning barber had
said nothing of the Greeks age or appearance, and among her father's
scholarly visitors she had hardly ever seen any but gray-headed men.
Nevertheless, she returned Tito's bow with the same pale, proud face as
ever; but as he approached the snow melted, and when he ventured to look
towards her again a pink flush overspread her face, to vanish again
almost immediately, as if her imperious will had recalled it. Tito's
glance, on the other hand, as he looked at this tall maiden of seventeen
or eighteen, as she stood at the reading-desk with one hand on the back
of her father's chair, had that gentle, beseeching admiration in it
which is the most propitiating of appeals to a proud, shy woman, and is
perhaps the only atonement a man can make for being too handsome.
"Messere, I give you welcome," said Bardo with some condescension;
"misfortune wedded to learning, and especially to Greek learning, is a
letter of credit that should win the ear of every instructed
He proceeded to question Tito as to what part of Greece he came from,
learned that he was a young man of unusual scholastic attainments, and
that he had a father who was himself a scholar.
"At least," said Tito, "a father by adoption. He was a Neapolitan, but,"
he added, after another slight pause, "he is lost to me--was lost on a
voyage he too rashly undertook to Delos."
Bardo forbore to speak further on so painful a topic; he discoursed
freely upon his own studies, his past hopes, and the one great ambition
that remained to him--that his library and his magnificent collection of
treasures should not be dissipated on his death, but should become the
property of the public, and be honourably housed in Florence for all
time, with his name over the door.
In his eagerness he made passing reference to his son, of how Romola had
been filling his place to the best of her power, and plainly hinted--and
Tito was not slow to profit by the opportunity--that if he could have
the young Greek scholar to work with him instead of her, he might yet
look to fulfill some of the notable designs he had abandoned when his
blindness came upon him.
"But," he resumed, in his original tone of condescension, "we are
departing from what I believe is your most important business. Nello
informed me that you had certain gems which you would fain dispose of."
"I have one or two intagli of much beauty," said Tito. "But they are now
in the keeping of Messer Domenico Cennini, who has a strong and safe
place for such things. He estimates them as worth at least five hundred
"Ah, then, they are fine intagli!" said Bardo. "Five hundred ducats! Ah,
more than a man's ransom!"
Tito gave a slight, almost imperceptible start, and opened his long,
dark eyes with questioning surprise at Bardo's blind face, as if his
words--a mere phrase of common parlance at a time when men were often
being ransomed from slavery or imprisonment--had some special meaning
But Bardo had used the words in all innocence, and went on to talk of
superstitions that attached to certain gems, and to undertake that he
would use his influence with the Secretary of the Republic in Tito's
behalf. Both Romola and her father were attracted by the charm and
freshness and apparent simplicity of the young man; but just as he was
making ready to depart they were interrupted by the entrance of Bernardo
del Nero, one of the chief citizens of Florence, Bardo's oldest friend,
and Romola's godfather; and Bernardo felt an instant, instinctive
distrust of the handsome, ingratiating stranger, and did not hesitate to
say so after Tito had left them.
"Remember, Bardo," he said at length, "thou hast a rare gem of thy own;
take care no one gets it who is not like to pay a worthy price. That
pretty Greek has a sleekness about him that seems marvelously fitted for
slipping into any nest he fixes his mind on."
_III.--The Man who was Wronged_
It was undeniable that Tito's coming had been the dawn of a new life for
both father and daughter, and he grew to care for Romola supremely--to
wish to have her for his beautiful and loving wife.
He took her place as Bardo's assistant, and served him with an easy
efficiency that had been beyond her; and she, happier in her father's
happiness, had given her love to Tito even before he ventured to offer
her his own. He was thus sailing under the fairest breeze, and besides
convincing fair judges that his talents squared with his good fortune,
he wore that fortune so unpretentiously that no one seemed to be
offended by it.
And that was not the whole of Tito's good fortune, for he had sold his
jewels, and was master of full five hundred gold florins. Yet the moment
when he first had this sum in his possession was the crisis of the first
serious struggle his facile, good-humoured nature had known.
"A man's ransom!" Who was it that had said five hundred florins was more
than a man's ransom? If, now, under this mid-day sun, on some hot coast
far away, a man somewhat stricken in years--a man not without high
thoughts, and with the most passionate heart--a man who long years ago
had rescued a little boy from a life of beggary, filth, and cruel wrong,
and had reared him tenderly, if that man were now, under this summer
sun, toiling as a slave, hewing wood and drawing water? If he were
saying to himself, "Tito will find me. He had but to carry our gems to
Venice; he will have raised money, and will never rest till he finds me
out?" If that were certain, could he--Tito--see the price of the gems
lying before him, and say, "I will stay at Florence, where I am fanned
by soft airs of love and prosperity; I will not risk myself for his
sake?" No, surely not _if it were certain_. But the galley had been
taken by a Turkish vessel; that was known by the report of the companion
galley which had escaped; and there had been resistance and probable
bloodshed, a man had been seen falling overboard.
He quieted his conscience with such reasonings as these, and when
definite tidings reached him that his father was still a prisoner, he
contrived to keep the knowledge to himself, and still did nothing. The
death of the exhausted, emaciated monk who had brought these tidings
freed him of one fear; but this monk was Romola's brother, Dino, and
obeying his summons she had been in secret to see him as he lay dying.
"Romola," her brother began to speak, "in the deep night, as I lay
awake, I saw my father's room, and I saw you ... And at the _leggio_
where I used to stand stood a man whose face I could not see. I saw him
move and take thee, Romola, by the hand, and then I saw thee take my
father by the hand, and you all three went down the stone steps into the
streets, the man, whose face was a blank to me, leading the way. And you
stood at the altar of Santa Croce, and the priest who married you had
the face of death; and the graves opened and the dead in their shrouds
followed you like a bridal train. And it seemed to me that at last you
came to a stony place where there was no water, and no trees or herbage;
but instead of water I saw written parchment unrolling itself
everywhere, and instead of trees and herbage I saw men of bronze and
marble springing up and crowding round you. And my father was faint, and
fell to the ground; and the man loosed thy hand and departed; and as he
went I could see his face, and it was the face of the Great Tempter....
Thrice have I had that vision, Romola. I believe it is a revelation
meant for thee--to warn thee against marriage as a temptation of the
The words died away.
"Frate," said the dying voice. "Give her----"
"The crucifix," said the voice of Fra Girolamo Savonarola, who was
standing in the shadows behind her.
"Dino!" said Romola, with a low but piercing cry.
"Take the crucifix, my daughter," said Fra Girolamo, after a few
minutes. "His eyes behold it no more."
* * * * *
But, heedless of the distrust and opposition of Messer Bernardo del
Nero, and with this vision of Dino's menacing his highest hope, Tito
went gaily on his triumphant way.
Also he had renewed acquaintance with the little Tessa. He came upon her
in the thronged streets during carnival time, and seeing her, a
timorous, tearful little _contadin_, terrified by the burlesque threats
of a boisterous conjurer, took her under his protection.
Thereafter, he met her again at intervals, finding her naive love and
humble adoration and obedience very pleasant; and, meeting her once at a
peasant's fair, he jestingly yielded to the burlesque solicitations of a
mountebank in a white mitre, paid a small fee, and went through an
absurd ceremony of mock-marriage with her.
Tessa herself believed the marriage to be real enough, and he would not
mar her delight by undeceiving her. Later, since she was wretched at
home with her scolding mother and a brutal step-father, and there were
dangers in allowing her to go on waylaying him in streets when too long
a period elapsed between his visits to her, he quietly took her away and
established her in a small house on the outskirts of the city, with the
deaf, discreet old Monna Lisa as her servant and companion.
Neither this nor the darker secret of his treachery to his adoptive
father cast any cloud over his habitual cheerfulness. His love for
Romola was a higher and deeper passion than anything he felt for the
child-like, submissive little Tessa, and when she told him frankly of
her brother's warning vision, he set himself to convince her it was the
mere nightmare of a diseased imagination, and the perfect love and trust
she had for him made the task easy.
For a while after their marriage she was ideally happy; she was not even
separated from her father, for Tito came to live with them, and was to
Bardo, in his scholastic labours, all that he had wished his own son to
be. Then came the first cloud.
On November 17, 1494, more than eighteen months after the marriage of
Tito and Romola, the King of France marched his army into Florence on
his way to take possession of Naples and impose peace on the warring
little states into which Italy was divided. There were those in Florence
who were prepared to welcome the invaders, but the majority, the common
people in particular, resented their coming.
With the soldiery came three wretched prisoners; they were led in ropes
by their captors, and with blows from knotted cords were stimulated to
beg. Two, as they passed, held out their hands, crying piteously, "For
the love of God and the Holy Madonna, give us something towards our
But the third remained obstinately silent. He was old, white-haired,
emaciated, with a thick-set figure that seemed to express energy in
spite of age; yet there was something fitful in his eyes.
This sight was witnessed by the Florentines with growing exasperation,
and presently from jeering at the French soldiers and hustling them,
they became bent upon rescuing this third prisoner from his tormentors;
one venturesome youth suddenly dashed in, cut the old man's bonds and
urged him to run; and the next moment he had plunged into the crowd,
which closed behind him and hampered the pursuit.
With one soldier struggling desperately on his track, the fugitive sped
towards the Duomo, to seek refuge in that sanctuary, but in mounting the
steps his foot slipped, he was precipitated towards a group of signori
who stood there with their backs to him, and clutched one to save
It was Tito Melema who felt the clutch. He turned, and saw the face of
his adoptive father, Baldassarre Calvo, close to his own. The two men
looked at each other silent as death; Tito with cheeks and lips all
bloodless, fascinated by terror. The next instant the grasp on his arm
relaxed, and Baldassarre disappeared within the church.
With Baldassarre lurking in Florence, Tito went in hourly fear. At any
moment the story of his baseness might be blown abroad; at any moment,
worse still, he might be struck down by the old man, in whose wild eyes
he had read only a fierce yearning for vengeance.
As a precaution, Tito took to wearing a coat of fine chain-mail under
his doublet, and the discovery of this alarmed Romola for his safety,
and shocked her with a suspicion that he was something of a coward.
But by now Tito was deeply involved in Florentine politics, and easily
persuaded her that it was against secret political intriguers that he
thus shielded himself. He went on to confess that his life was no longer
safe in Florence, and he was resolved to leave the city for good. But to
this she demurred; her father had died and left his library and his
collection as a sacred trust to her and Tito, and until they had carried
out his wish and made them over to the city authorities, she felt she
could not go.
Tito made light of her scruples. Her father's wish, he said, had been a
mere foolish vanity; they had need of money, and he intended to sell
both the library and collection, and when, for the first time in her
life, she spoke bitterly, in scorn and anger of his faithlessness, he
told her flatly it was useless to bandy words for he had sold them
already, and they were to be removed that day.
Frantic with grief and resentment, she thought of desperate ways of
preventing the accomplishment of his heartless plans, even to borrowing
of her godfather and buying back the treasures, so that Tito might keep
his ill-gotten gain and her father's last wish still be fulfilled; but
he convinced her that all interference was too late, for the things had
been purchased by the Count di San Severino and the Seneschal de
Beaucaire, who were already on their way with the French king to Sienna.
Latterly, in many ways, Romola had been disappointed in her husband's
character; she had found that his handsome face and gay air masked a
cowardice, a cunning meanness, a sordid selfishness of disposition that
were all at variance with her high ideal of him; but that final
unspeakable treachery of the dead man who had trusted him so implicitly
shattered her love for Tito utterly.
As soon as her father's library was dismantled and his treasures taken
away, Romola went from the house with the old man-servant, Maso, and
would never have looked upon Tito's face again, but that Fra Girolamo
"I have a command to call you back," he said. "My daughter, you must
return to your place. You are flying from your debts; the debt of a
Florentine woman to her fellow citizens; the debt of a wife. You are
turning your back on the lot that has been appointed for you--you are
going to choose another. My daughter, you are fleeing from the presence
of God into the wilderness. My daughter, if the cross comes to you as a
wife, you must carry it as a wife. You may say, 'I will forsake my
husband,' but you cannot cease to be a wife."
There was hunger and misery in the streets, and he urged upon her that
if she had no other purpose in life she could stay, and help the poor of
her own city. Her pride was broken, and she yielded.
_V.--Baldassarre is Avenged_
Meanwhile, Baldassarre, lurking about Florence, had armed himself with a
knife, and was ravenous for revenge. Being homeless, he called by chance
at Tessa's little house, and she, not knowing who he was, took pity on
his age and misery, gave him shelter in a shed, and food and drink.
Whilst he was there, Tito came, and, too frankly simple to keep anything
from him, Tessa confessed that she had disobeyed his injunctions against
holding converse with strangers, and was sheltering a strange, weary old
man in the shed without. Her description of this guest left Tito in no
doubt as to his identity, and, subduing his first perturbation, he
conceived that he might turn the situation to his own advantage. He went
out to the shed, and looking down upon Baldassarre in the moonlight,
sought to propitiate him with honeyed words, specious explanations, and
a plea for pardon. But the old man answered nothing, till his
smouldering fury burst into a flame, then he precipitated himself upon
the intruder and struck with all his force; but the blade of the knife
broke off short against the hidden coat of mail.
Tito insisted that he was welcome to remain there, and said what he
could to soothe him, but Baldassarre would stay no longer when he knew
whose roof covered him. Presently, he armed himself anew, and waited for
another opportunity. He learned all that was to be known of Tito's
career since his arrival in Florence; ascertained that he was married,
and had thoughts of winning his wife's sympathy and telling her of
Tessa. Then one night he contrived to get into the Rucellai Gardens,
where Tito was at supper with a gathering of Florentine notabilities,
and, seized in time and held back from assassinating him, he
passionately denounced him before the company as a scoundrel, a liar,
and a robber.
There were those present who had been on the church steps that day when
Baldassarre had clutched Tito by the arm, and Tito had then explained
away his momentary panic. Questioned now by one of these, he declared
that though when first he encountered his accuser he did not recognise
him, he now saw that he was the servant who years ago accompanied him
and his adoptive father to Greece, and was dismissed on account of
misdemeanours, and that the story of his being rescued from beggary was
the vision of a disordered brain.
Baldassarre was given a chance to prove that he was not the servant, but
the great scholar to whom Tito was indebted for his learning.
"The ring I possess," said Rucellai, "is a fine sard that I myself
purchased from Messer Tito. It is engraved with a subject from Homer.
Will you turn to the passage in Homer from which that subject was
But sitting to look over the book, Baldassarre realised that the
sufferings through which he had passed had unhinged his mind and his
memory; the words he stared at had no meaning for him, and he lifted his
hands to his head in despair.
The consequence of this fresh failure was that Baldassarre was cast into
prison, and Tito was at liberty to pursue his political ambitions
unhaunted by that dogging shadow that was to him as the shadow of death.
He managed his affairs so cleverly that whichever party came uppermost
he was secure of favour and money.
But by-and-by the tide began to turn against him. Baldassarre was at
large again, and met Romola and told her not only of his own wrongs, but
of Tessa. She saw Tessa and her two children, and befriended them, and
was so far from blaming that innocent little creature that she did not
even disclose the truth to her; but she was importunate with Tito that
he should make atonement to the man who had been a father to him. Then
came a day when Tito's treacheries were discovered by the party he was
supposed to serve, and he had to flee for his life through Florence.
Scattering jewels and gold to delay his pursuers, he leaped from the
bridge into the river, and swam in the darkness, leaving the bellowing
mob to think he was drowned.
But far down the stream there were certain eyes that saw him from the
banks of the river, and when he landed and fell, faint and helpless,
Baldassarre's hands closed on his throat; and next evening a passer-by
found the two dead bodies there.
* * * * *
"Silas Marner, the Weaver of Raveloe," begun about November,
1860, and published early in 1861, is in many respects the
most admirable of all George Eliot's works. It is not a long
story, but it is a most carefully finished novel--"a perfect
gem, a pure work of art," Mr. Oscar Browning describes it. Mr.
Blackwood, the publisher, found it rather sombre, and George
Eliot replied to him, "I hope you will not find it at all a
sad story as a whole, since it sets--or is intended to set--in
a strong light the remedial influences of pure, natural, human
relations. I have felt all through as if the story would have
lent itself best to metrical rather than to prose fiction,
especially in all that relates to the psychology of Silas;
except that, under that treatment, there could not be an equal
play of humour." No novel of George Eliot's has received more
praise from men of letters than "Silas Marner."
_I.--Why Silas Came to Raveloe_
In the early years of the nineteenth century a linen-weaver named Silas
Marner worked at his vocation in a stone cottage that stood among the
nutty hedgerows near the village of Raveloe, and not far from the edge
of a deserted stone-pit.
It was fifteen years since Silas Marner had first come to Raveloe; he
was then simply a pallid young man with prominent, short-sighted brown
eyes. To the villagers among whom he had come to settle he seemed to
have mysterious peculiarities, chiefly owing to his advent from an
unknown region called "North'ard." He invited no comer to step across
his door-sill, and he never strolled into the village to drink a pint at
the Rainbow, or to gossip at the wheel-wrights'; he sought no man or
woman, save for the purposes of his calling, or in order to supply
himself with necessaries.
At the end of fifteen years the Raveloe men said just the same things
about Silas Marner as at the beginning. There was only one important
addition which the years had brought; it was that Master Marner had laid
by a fine sight of money somewhere, and that he could buy up "bigger men
But while his daily habits presented scarcely any visible change,
Marner's inward life had been a history and a metamorphosis as that of
every fervid nature must be when it has been condemned to solitude. His
life, before he came to Raveloe, had been filled with the close
fellowship of a narrow religious sect, where the poorest layman had the
chance of distinguishing himself by gifts of speech; and Marner was
highly thought of in that little hidden world, known to itself as the
church assembling in Lantern Yard. He was believed to be a young man of
exemplary life and ardent faith, and a peculiar interest had been
centred in him ever since he had fallen at a prayer-meeting into a
trance or cataleptic fit, which lasted for an hour.
Among the members of his church there was one young man, named William
Dane, with whom he lived in close friendship; and it seemed to the
unsuspecting Silas that the friendship suffered no chill, even after he
had formed a closer attachment, and had become engaged to a young
At this time the senior deacon was taken dangerously ill, and Silas and
William, with others of the brethren, took turns at night-watching. On
the night the old man died, Silas fell into one of his trances, and when
he awoke at four o'clock in the morning death had come, and, further, a
little bag of money had been stolen from the deacon's bureau, and
Silas's pocket-knife was found inside the bureau. For some time Silas
was mute with astonishment, then he said, "God will clear me; I know
nothing about the knife being there, or the money being gone. Search me
and my dwelling."
The search was made, and it ended in William Dane finding the deacon's
bag, empty, tucked behind the chest of drawers in Silas's chamber.
According to the principles of the church in Lantern Yard prosecution
was forbidden to Christians. But the members were bound to take other
measures for finding out the truth, and they resolved on praying and
drawing lots; there was nothing unusual about such proceedings a hundred
years ago. Silas knelt with his brethren, relying on his own innocence
being certified by immediate Divine interference. _The lots declared
that Silas Marner was guilty_. He was solemnly suspended from church-
membership, and called upon to render up the stolen money; only on
confession and repentance could he be received once more within the fold
of the church. Marner listened in silence. At last, when everyone rose
to depart, he went towards William Dane and said, in a voice shaken by
agitation, "The last time I remember using my knife was when I took it
out to cut a strap for you. I don't remember putting it in my pocket
again. _You_ stole the money, and you have woven a plot to lay the sin
at my door. But you may prosper for all that; there is no just God, but
a God of lies, that bears witness against the innocent!"
There was a general shudder at this blasphemy. Poor Marner went out with
that despair in his soul--that shaken trust in God and man which is
little short of madness to a loving nature. In the bitterness of his
wounded spirit, he said to himself, "_She_ will cast me off, too!" and
for a whole day he sat alone, stunned by despair.
The second day he took refuge from benumbing unbelief by getting into
his loom and working away as usual, and, before many hours were past,
the minister and one of the deacons came to him with a message from
Sarah, the young woman to whom he had been engaged, that she held her
engagement at an end. In little more than a month from that time Sarah
was married to William Dane, and not long afterwards it was known to the
brethren in Lantern Yard that Silas Marner had departed from the town.
_II.--The Second Blow_
When Silas Marner first came to Raveloe he seemed to weave like a
spider, from pure impulse, without reflection. Then there were the calls
of hunger, and Silas, in his solitude, had to provide his own breakfast,
dinner, and supper, to fetch his own water from the well, and put his
own kettle on the fire; and all these immediate promptings helped to
reduce his life to the unquestioning activity of a spinning insect. He
hated the thought of the past; there was nothing that called out his
love and fellowship towards the strangers he had come amongst; and the
future was all dark, for there was no Unseen Love that cared for him.
It was then, when all purpose of life was gone, that Silas got into the
habit of looking towards the money he received for his weaving, and
grasping it with a sense of fulfilled effort. Gradually, the guineas,
the crowns, and the half-crowns, grew to a heap, and Marner drew less
and less for his own wants, trying to solve the problem of keeping
himself strong enough to work sixteen hours a day on as small an outlay
as possible. He handled his coins, he counted them, till their form and
colour were like the satisfaction of a thirst to him; but it was only in
the night, when his work was done, that he drew them out, to enjoy their
companionship. He had taken up some bricks in his floor underneath his
loom, and here he had made a hole in which he set the iron pot that
contained his guineas and silver coins, covering the bricks with sand
whenever he replaced them.
So, year after year, Silas Marner lived in this solitude, his guineas
rising in the iron pot, and his life narrowing and hardening itself more
and more as it became reduced to the functions of weaving and hoarding.
This is the history of Silas Marner until the fifteenth year after he
came to Raveloe. Then, about the Christmas of that year, a second great
change came over his life.
It was a raw, foggy night, with rain, and Silas was returning from the
village, plodding along, with a sack thrown round his shoulders, and
with a horn lantern in his hand. His legs were weary, but his mind was
at ease with the sense of security that springs from habit. Supper was
his favourite meal, because it was his time of revelry, when his heart
warmed over his gold.
He reached his door in much satisfaction that his errand was done; he
opened it, and to his short-sighted eyes everything remained as he had
left it, except that the fire sent out a welcome increase of heat.
As soon as he was warm he began to think it would be a long while to
wait till after supper before he drew out his guineas, and it would be
pleasant to see them on the table before him as he ate his food.
He rose and placed his candle unsuspectingly on the floor near his loom,
swept away the sand, without noticing any change, and removed the
bricks. The sight of the empty hole made his heart leap violently, but
the belief that his gold was gone could not come at once--only terror,
and the eager effort to put an end to the terror. He passed his
trembling hand all about the hole, then he held the candle and examined
it curiously, trembling more and more. He searched in every corner, he
turned his bed over, and shook it, and kneaded it; he looked in his
brick oven; and when there was no other place to be searched, he felt
once more all round the hole.
He could see every object in his cottage, and his gold was not there. He
put his trembling hands to his head, and gave a wild, ringing scream--
the cry of desolation. Then the idea of a thief began to present itself,
and he entertained it eagerly, because a thief might be caught and made
to restore the gold. The robber must be laid hold of. Marner's ideas of
legal authority were confused, but he felt that he must go and proclaim
his loss; and the great people in the village--the clergyman, the
constable, and Squire Cass--would make the thief deliver up the stolen
It was to the village inn Silas Marner went, where the parish clerk and
a select company were assembled, and told the story of his loss--L272
12s. 6d. in all. The machinery of the law was set in motion, but no
thief was ever captured, nor could grounds be found for suspicion
against any persons.
What had really happened was that Dunsey Cass, Squire Cass's second
son--a mean, boastful rascal--on his way home on foot from hunting, saw
the light in the weaver's cottage, and knocked, hoping to borrow a
lantern, for the lane was unpleasantly slippery, and the night dark. But
all was silence in the cottage, for the weaver at that moment had not
yet reached home. For a minute Dunsey thought that old Marner might be
dead, fallen over into the stone pits. And from that came the decision
that he must be dead. If so, the question arose, what would become of
the money that everybody said the old miser had put by?
Dunstan Cass was in difficulties for want of money, and he had killed
his brother's horse that day on the hunting-field. Who would know, if
Marner was dead, that anybody had come to take his hoard of money away?
There were only three hiding-places where he had heard of cottagers'
hoards being found: the thatch, the bed, and a hole in the floor. His
eyes travelling eagerly over the floor, noted a spot where the sand had
been more carefully spread.
Dunstan found the hole and the money, now hidden in two leathern bags.
From their weight he judged they must be filled with guineas. Quickly he
hastened out into the darkness with the bags, and Dunstan Cass was seen
no more alive.
At the very moment when he turned his back on the cottage Silas Marner
was not more than a hundred yards away.
_III.--Silas Marner's Visitor_
It was New Year's Eve, and Squire Cass was giving a dance to the
neighbouring gentry of Raveloe. There had been snow in the afternoon,
but at seven o'clock it had ceased, and a freezing wind had sprung up.
A woman, shabbily dressed, with a child in her arms, was making her way
towards Raveloe, seeking the Red House, where Squire Cass lived. It was
not the squire she wanted, but his eldest son, Godfrey, to whom she was
secretly married. The marriage--the result of rash impulse--had been an
unhappy one from the first, for Godfrey's wife was the slave of opium.
The squire had long desired that his son should marry Miss Nancy
Lammeter, and would have turned him out of house and home had he known
of the unfortunate marriage already contracted. Cold and weariness drove
the woman, even while she walked, to the only comfort she knew. She
raised the black remnant to her lips, and then flung the empty phial
away. Now she walked, always more and more drowsily, and clutched more
and more automatically the sleeping child at her bosom. Soon she felt
nothing but a supreme longing to lie down and sleep; and so sank down
against a straggling furze-bush, an easy pillow enough; and the bed of
snow, too, was soft. The cold was no longer felt, but her arms did not
at once relax their instinctive clutch, and the little one slumbered on.
The complete torpor came at last; the fingers lost their tension, the
arms unbent; then the little head fell away from the bosom, and the blue
eyes of the child opened wide on the cold starlight. At first there was
a little peevish cry of "Mammy," as the child rolled downward; and then,
suddenly, its eyes were caught by a bright gleaming light on the white
ground, and with the ready transition of infancy it decided the light
must be caught.
In an instant the child had slipped on all fours, and, after making out
that the cunning gleam came from a very bright place, the little one,
rising on its legs, toddled through the snow--toddled on to the open
door of Silas Marner's cottage, and right up to the warm hearth, where
was a bright fire.
The little one, accustomed to be left to itself for long hours without
notice, squatted down on the old sack spread out before the fire, in
perfect contentment. Presently the little golden head sank down, and the
blue eyes were veiled by their delicate half-transparent lids.
But where was Silas Marner while this strange visitor had come to his
hearth? He was in the cottage, but he did not see the child. Since he
had lost his money he had contracted the habit of opening his door, and
looking out from time to time, as if he thought that his money might,
somehow, be coming back to him.
That morning he had been told by some of his neighbours that it was New
Year's Eve, and that he must sit up and hear the old year rung out, and
the new rung in, because that was good luck, and might bring his money
back again. Perhaps this friendly Raveloe way of jesting had helped to
throw Silas into a more than usually excited state. Certainly he opened
his door again and again that night, and the last time, just as he put
out his hand to close it, the invisible wand of catalepsy arrested him,
and there he stood like a graven image, powerless to resist either the
good or evil that might enter.
When Marner's sensibility returned he was unaware of the break in his
consciousness, and only noticed that he was chilled and faint.
Turning towards the hearth it seemed to his blurred vision as if there
was a heap of gold on the floor; but instead of hard coin his fingers
encountered soft, warm curls. In utter amazement, Silas fell on his
knees to examine the marvel: it was a sleeping child, a round, fair
thing, with soft, yellow rings all over its head. Could this be the
little sister come back to him in a dream--his little sister whom he had
carried about in his arms for a year before she died? That was the first
thought. _Was_ it a dream? It was very much like his little sister. How
and when had the child come in without his knowledge?
But there was a cry on the hearth; the child had awakened, and Marner
stooped to lift it on to his knee. He had plenty to do through the next
hour. The porridge, sweetened with some dry brown sugar, stopped the
cries of the little one for "mammy." Then it occurred to Silas's dull
bachelor mind that the child wanted its wet boots off, and this having
been done, the wet boots suggested that the child had been walking on
He made out the marks of the little feet in the snow, and, holding the
child in his arms, followed their track to the furze-bush. Then he
became aware that there was something more than the bush before
him--that there was a human body, half covered with the shifting snow.
With the child in his arms, Silas at once went for the doctor, who was
spending the evening at the Red House. And Godfrey Cass recognised that
it was his own child he saw in Marner's arms.
The woman was dead--had been dead for some hours, the doctor said; and
Godfrey, who had accompanied him to Marner's cottage, understood that he
was free to marry Nancy Lammeter.
"You'll take the child to the parish to-morrow?" Godfrey asked, speaking
as indifferently as he could.
"Who says so?" said Marner sharply. "Will they make me take her? I shall
keep her till anybody shows they've a right to take her away from me.
The mother's dead, and I reckon it's got no father. It's a lone thing,
and I'm a lone thing. My money's gone--I don't know where, and this is
come from I don't know where."
Godfrey returned to the Red House with a sense of relief and gladness,
and Silas kept the child. There had been a softening of feeling to him
in the village since the day of his robbery, and now an active sympathy
was aroused amongst the women. The child was christened Hephzibah, after
Marner's mother, and was called Eppie for short.
Eppie had come to link Silas Marner once more with the whole world. The
disposition to hoard had utterly gone, and there was no longer any
repulsion around to him.
As the child grew up, one person watched with keener, though more
hidden, interest than any other the prosperous growth of Eppie under the
weaver's care. The squire was dead, and Godfrey Cass was married to
Nancy Lammeter. He had no child of his own save the one that knew him
not. No Dunsey had ever turned up, and people had ceased to think of
Sixteen years had passed, and now Aaron Winthrop, a well-behaved young
gardener, is wanting to marry Eppie, and Eppie is willing to have him
"'Everybody's married some time,' Aaron says," said Eppie. "But I told
him that wasn't true, for I said look at father--he's never been
"No, child," said Silas, "your father was a lone man till you was sent
"But you'll never be lone again, father," said Eppie tenderly. "That was
what Aaron said--'I could never think o' taking you away from Master
Marner, Eppie.' And I said, 'It 'ud be no use if you did, Aaron.' And he
wants us all to live together, so as you needn't work a bit, father,
only what's for your own pleasure, and he'd be as good as a son to
you--that was what he said."
The proposal to separate Eppie from her foster-father came from Godfrey
When the old stone-pit by Marner's cottage went dry, owing to drainage
operations, the skeleton of Dunstan Cass was found, wedged between two
great stones. The watch and seals were recognised, and all the weaver's
money was at the bottom of the pit. The shock of this discovery moved
Godfrey to tell Nancy the secret of his earlier marriage.
"Everything comes to light, Nancy, sooner or later," he said. "That
woman Marner found dead in the snow--Eppie's mother--was my wife. Eppie
is my child. I oughtn't to have left the child unowned. I oughtn't to
have kept it from you."
"It's but little wrong to me, Godfrey," Nancy answered sadly. "You've
made it up to me--you've been good to me for fifteen years. It'll be a
different coming to us, now she's grown up."
They were childless, and it hadn't occurred to them as they approached
Silas Marner's cottage that Godfrey's offer might be declined. At first
Godfrey explained that he and his wife wanted to adopt Eppie in place of
"Eppie, my child, speak," said old Marner faintly. "I won't stand in
your way. Thank Mr. and Mrs. Cass."
"Thank you, ma'am--thank you, sir," said Eppie dropping a curtsy; "but I
can't leave my father, nor own anybody nearer than him."
Godfrey Cass was irritated at this obstacle.
"But I've a claim on you, Eppie," he returned. "It's my duty, Marner, to
own Eppie as my child, and provide for her. She's my own child. Her
mother was my wife. I've a natural claim on her."
"Then, sir, why didn't you say so sixteen years ago, and claim her
before I'd come to love her, i'stead o' coming to take her from me now,
when you might as well take the heart out o' my body? When a man turns a
blessing from his door, it falls to them as take it in. But let it be as
you will. Speak to the child. I'll hinder nothing."
"Eppie, my dear," said Godfrey, looking at his daughter not without some
embarrassment, "it'll always be our wish that you should show your love
and gratitude to one who's been a father to you so many years; but we
hope you'll come to love us as well, and though I haven't been what a
father should ha' been to you all these years, I wish to do the utmost
in my power for you now, and provide for you as my only child. And
you'll have the best of mothers in my wife."
Eppie did not come forward and curtsy as she had done before, but she
held Silas's hand in hers and grasped it firmly.
"Thank you, ma'am--thank you, sir, for your offers--they're very great
and far above my wish. For I should have no delight in life any more if
I was forced to go away from my father."
In vain Nancy expostulated mildly.
"I can't feel as I've got any father but one," said Eppie. "I've always
thought of a little home where he'd sit i' the corner, and I should fend
and do everything for him. I can't think o' no other home. I wasn't
brought up to be a lady, and," she ended passionately, "I'm promised to
marry a working man, as'll live with father and help me to take care of
Godfrey Cass and his wife went out.
A year later Eppie was married, and Mrs. Godfrey Cass provided the
wedding dress, and Mr. Cass made some necessary alterations to suit
Silas's larger family.
"Oh, father," said Eppie, when the bridal party returned from the
church, "what a pretty home ours is! I think nobody could be happier
than we are!"
* * * * *
The Mill on the Floss
In "The Mill on the Floss," published in 1860, George Eliot
went to her own early life for the chief characters in the
story, and in the relations of Tom and Maggie Tulliver we get
a picture of the youth of Mary Ann Evans and her brother
Isaac. Lord Lytton objected that Maggie was too passive in the
scene at Red Deeps, and that the tragedy of the flood was not
adequately prepared. To this criticism George Eliot answered,
"Now that the defect is suggested to me, if the book were
still in manuscript I should alter, or rather expand, that
scene at Red Deeps." She also admitted that there was "a want
of proportionate fulness" in the conclusion. But, with all its
faults, "The Mill on the Floss" deserves the reputation it has
won. The reception of the story at first was disappointing,
and we find the authoress telling her publisher that "she does
not want to see any newspaper articles." But the book made its
way, and prepared an ever-growing public for "Silas Marner."
_I.--The Tullivers of Dorlcote Mill_
"What I want, you know," said Mr. Tulliver, "what I want is to give Tom
a good eddication--an eddication as'll be a bread to him. I mean to put
him to a downright good school at midsummer. The two years at th'
academy 'ud ha' done well enough if I'd meant to make a miller and
farmer of him, but I should like Tom to be a bit of a scholard. It 'ud
be a help to me wi' these lawsuits, and arbitrations, and things. I
wouldn't make a downright lawyer o' the lad--I should be sorry for him
to be a raskill--but a sort of engineer, or a surveyor, or an auctioneer
and vallyer, like Riley, or one o' them smartish businesses as are all
profits and no outlay, only for a big watch-chain and a high stool.
They're pretty nigh all one, and they're not far off being even wi' the
law, I believe; for Riley looks Lawyer Wakem i' the face as hard as one
cat looks another. _He's_ none frightened at him."
Mr. Tulliver was speaking to his wife, a blonde, comely woman, nearly
forty years old.
"Well, Mr. Tulliver, you know best. _I've_ no objections. But if Tom's
to go to a new school, I should like him to go where I can wash him and
mend him, else he might as well have calico as linen. And then, when the
box is goin' backwards and forwards, I could send the lad a cake, or a
pork-pie, or an apple."
"Well, well, we won't send him out o' reach o' the carrier's cart, if
other things fit in," said Mr. Tulliver. "Riley's as likely a man as any
to know o' some school; he's had schooling himself, an' goes about to
all sorts o' places--arbitratin' and vallyin', and that."
So a day or two later Mr. Riley, the auctioneer, came to Dorlcote Mill,
and stayed the night, the better that Mr. Tulliver, who was slow at
coming to a point, might consult him on the all-important subject of his
"You see, I want to put him to a new school at midsummer," said Mr.
Tulliver, when the topic had been reached. "I want to send him to a
downright good school, where they'll make a scholard of him. I don't
mean Tom to be a miller an' farmer. I see no fun i' that. I shall give
Tom an eddication and put him to a business as he may make a nest for
himself, an' not want to push me out o' mine."
At the sound of her brother's name, Maggie, the second and only other
child of the Tullivers, who was seated on a low stool close by the fire,
with a large book open on her lap, looked up eagerly. Tom, it appeared,
was supposed capable of turning his father out of doors. This was not to
be borne, and Maggie jumped up from her stool, and going up between her
father's knees, said, in a half-crying, half-indignant voice, "Father,
Tom wouldn't be naughty to you ever; I know he wouldn't."
Mr. Tulliver's heart was touched.
"What! They mustn't say any harm o' Tom, eh?" he said, looking at Maggie
with a twinkling eye. Then, in a lower voice, turning to Mr. Riley, "She
understands what one's talking about so as never was. And you should
hear her read--straight off, as if she knowed it all beforehand. But
it's bad--it's bad. A woman's no business wi' being so clever; it'll
turn to trouble, I doubt. It's a pity, but what she'd been the
lad--she'd ha' been a match for the lawyers, she would."
Mr. Riley took a pinch of snuff before he said, "But your lad's not
stupid, is he? I saw him, when I was here last, busy making
fishing-tackle; he seemed quite up to it."
"Well, he isn't not to say stupid; he's got a notion o' things out o'
door, an' a sort o' commonsense, as he'd lay hold o' things by the right
handle. But he's slow with his tongue, you see, and reads but poorly,
and can't abide the books, and spells all wrong, they tell me, an' as
shy as can be wi' strangers. Now, what I want is to send him to a school
where they'll make him a bit nimble with his tongue and his pen, to make
a smart chap of him. I want my son to be even wi' these fellows as have
got the start o' me with schooling."
The talk ended in Mr. Riley recommending a country parson named Stelling
as a suitable tutor for Tom, and Mr. Tulliver decided that his son
should go to Mr. Stelling at King's Lorton, fifteen miles from Dorlcote
Tom Tulliver's sufferings during the first quarter he was at King's
Lorton, under the distinguished care of the Rev. Walter Stelling, were
rather severe. It had been very difficult for him to reconcile himself
to the idea that his school-time was to be prolonged, and that he was
not to be brought up to his father's business, which he had always
thought extremely pleasant, for it was nothing but riding about, giving
orders, and going to market.
Mr. Stelling was not a harsh-tempered or unkind man--quite the contrary,
but he thought Tom a stupid boy, and determined to develop his powers
through Latin grammar and Euclid to the best of his ability.
As for Tom, he had no distinct idea how there came to be such a thing as
Latin on this earth. It would have taken a long while to make it
conceivable to him that there ever existed a people who bought and sold
sheep and oxen, and transacted the everyday affairs of life through the
medium of this language, or why he should be called upon to learn it,
when its connection with those affairs had become entirely latent. He
was of a very firm, not to say obstinate disposition, but there was no
brute-like rebellion or recklessness in his nature; the human
sensibilities predominated, and he was anxious to acquire Mr. Stelling's
approbation by showing some quickness at his lessons, if he had known
how to accomplish it.
In his secret heart Tom yearned to have Maggie with him, and, before the
first dreary half-year was ended, Maggie actually came. Mrs. Stelling
had given a general invitation for the little girl to come and stay with
her brother; so when Mr. Tulliver drove over to King's Lorton late in
October, Maggie came too, with the sense that she was taking a great
journey, and beginning to see the world.
"Well, my lad," Mr. Tulliver said, "you look rarely! School agrees with
"I don't think I _am_ well, father," said Tom; "I wish you'd ask Mr.
Stelling not to let me do Euclid--it brings on the toothache, I think."
"Euclid, my lad--why, what's that?" said Mr. Tulliver.
"Oh, I don't know! It's definitions and axioms and triangles and things.
It's a book I've got to learn in--there's no sense in it."
"Go, go!" said Mr. Tulliver reprovingly. "You mustn't say so. You must
learn what your master tells you. He knows what it's right for you to
In the second term Mr. Stelling had a second pupil--Philip, the son of
Lawyer Wakem, Mr. Tulliver's standing enemy.
Philip was a very old-looking boy, Tom thought. His spine had been
deformed through an accident in infancy, and to Tom he was simply a
humpback. He had a vague notion that the deformity of Wakem's son had
some relation to the lawyer's rascality, of which he had so often heard
his father talk with hot emphasis.
There was a natural antipathy of temperament between the two boys; for
Tom was an excellent bovine lad, and Philip was sensitive, and suffered
acute pain when the other blurted out offensive things.
Maggie, on her second visit to King's Lorton, pronounced Philip to be "a
"He couldn't choose his father, you know," she said to Tom. "And I've
read of very bad men who had good sons, as well as good parents who had
"Oh, he's a queer fellow," said Tom curtly, "and he's as sulky as can be
with me because I told him his father was a rogue. And I'd a right to
tell him so, for it was true--and he began it with calling me names."
An accident to Tom's foot brought the two boys nearer again, and also
threw Philip and Maggie together.
"Maggie," said Philip one day, "if you had had a brother like me, do you
think you should have loved him as well as Tom?"
"Oh, yes, better," she answered immediately. "No, not better; because I
don't think I could love you better than Tom. But I should be so
sorry--so sorry for you."
Philip coloured. He had meant to imply, would she love him as well in
spite of his deformity, and yet when she alluded to it so plainly he
winced under her pity. Maggie, young as she was, felt her mistake.
"But you are so very clever, Philip, and you can play and sing," she
added quickly. "I wish you were my brother. I'm very fond of you."
"But you'll go away soon, and go to school, Maggie, and then you'll
forget all about me, and not care for me any more."
"Oh, no, I shan't forget you, I'm sure." And Maggie put her arm round
his neck, and kissed him quite earnestly.
When Tom had turned sixteen, and Maggie, three years younger, was at
boarding school, came the downfall of the Tullivers. A long and
expensive law-suit concerning rights of water, brought by Mr. Tulliver,
ended in defeat. Wakem was his opponent's lawyer.
Maggie broke the news to Tom. Not only would mill and lands and
everything be lost, and nothing left, but their father had fallen off
his horse, and knew nobody, and seemed to have lost his senses.
"They say Mr. Wakem has got a mortgage or something on the land, Tom,"
said Maggie, on their way home from King's Lorton. "It was the letter
with that news in it that made father ill, they think."
"I believe that scoundrel's been planning all along to ruin my father,"
said Tom, leaping from the vaguest impressions to a definite conclusion.
"I'll make him feel for it when I'm a man. Mind you never speak to
For more than two months Mr. Tulliver lay ill in his room, oblivious to
all that was taking place around him. From time to time recognition came
to him of his wife and family, but there was no remembrance of recent
The mill and land of the Tullivers were sold to Wakem the lawyer, and
the bulk of their household goods were disposed of by public auction;
but the Tullivers were not turned out of Dorlcote Mill. And, indeed,
when Mr. Tulliver, known to be a man of proud honesty, was once more
able to be up and about, it was proposed that he should remain and
accept employment as manager of the mill for Mr. Wakem.
It was with difficulty that poor Tulliver could bring himself to accept
the situation, but he saw the possibility, by much pinching, of saving
money out of the thirty shillings a week salary promised by Wakem, and
paying a second dividend to his creditors. The strongest influence of
all was the love of the old premises where he had run about when he was
a boy, just as Tom had done after him.
Tom, who had at once applied to his Uncle Deane, partner in a wealthy
merchant's business, for work, and was now earning a pound a week, had
protested against entertaining the proposition; he shouldn't like his
father to be under Wakem; he thought it would look nothing but mean
But Mr. Tulliver had come to a decision. The first evening of his new
life downstairs, he called his family round him, and began to speak,
looking first at his wife.
"I've made up my mind, Bessy. I'll stop in the old place, and I'll serve
under Wakem, and I'll serve him like an honest man; there's no Tulliver
but what's honest, mind that, Tom. They'll have it to throw up against
me as I paid a dividend--but it wasn't my fault--it was because there's
raskills in the world. They've been too many for me, and I must give in.
But I'll serve him as honest as if he was no raskill. I'm an honest man,
though I shall never hold my head up no more! I'm a tree as is broke--a
tree as is broke."
He paused, and looked on the ground. Then suddenly raising his head, he
said, in a louder yet deeper tone, "But I won't forgive him! I know what
they say--he never meant me any harm! I shouldn't ha' gone to law they
say. But who made it so as there was no arbitrating and no justice to be
got? It signifies nothing to him--I know that he's one o' them fine
gentlemen as get money by doing business for poorer folks, and when he's
made beggars of 'em he'll give 'em charity. I won't forgive him! I wish
he might be punished with shame till his own son 'ud like to forget him.
And you mind this, Tom--you never forgive him, neither, if you mean to
be my son. Now write--write it i' the Bible!"
"Oh, father, what?" said Maggie. "It's wicked to curse and bear malice."
"It isn't wicked, I tell you," said her father, fiercely. "It's wicked
as the raskills should prosper--it's the devil's doing. Do as I tell
you, Tom! Write."
The big Bible was open at the beginning, where many family entries were
"What am I to write, father?" said Tom, with gloomy submission.
"Write as your father, Edward Tulliver, took service under John Wakem,
the man as had helped to ruin him, because I'd promised my wife to make
her what amends I could, and because I wanted to die in th' old place
where I was born, and my father was born. Put that i' the right
words--you know how--and then write as I don't forgive Wakem for all
that; and for all I'll serve him honest, I wish evil may befall him.
There was a dead silence as Tom's pen moved along the paper.
"Now let me hear what you've wrote," said Mr. Tulliver; and Tom read
"Now, write--write as you'll remember what Wakem's done to your father,
and you'll make him and his feel it, if ever the day comes. And sign
your name--Thomas Tulliver!"
"Oh, no, father, dear father!" said Maggie, trembling like a leaf. "You
shouldn't make Tom write that!"
"Be quiet, Maggie!" said Tom, impatiently, "I shall write it!"
_IV.--In Death They Were Not Divided_
The Red Deeps was always a favourite place to Maggie to walk in. An old
stone quarry, so long exhausted that both mounds and hollows were now
clothed with brambles and trees, and with here and there a stretch of
grass which a few sheep kept close nibbled. This was the Red Deeps, and
it was here in June that Maggie once more met Philip Wakem, five years
after their first meeting at Mr. Stelling's. He told her that she was
much more beautiful than he had thought she would be, and assured her,
in answer to the difficulties she raised as to their meeting, that there
was no enmity in his father's mind.
And Maggie went home with an inward conflict already begun, and Philip
went home to do nothing but remember and hope.
In the following April they met again, after Philip had been abroad.
And now he took her hand, and asked her the simple question, "_Do_ you
"I think I could hardly love anyone better; there is nothing but what I
love you for," Maggie answered. But she pointed out how impossible even
their friendship was, if it were discovered.
Philip, on his side, refused to give up hope, and before they parted
that day she had kissed him.
Tom intervened before the next visit to the Red Deeps. He had heard that
Philip Wakem had been seen there with his sister, and Maggie admitted,
on his questioning her, that she had told Philip that she loved him.
"Now, then, Maggie," Tom said coldly, "there are but two courses for you
to take. Either you vow solemnly to me, with your hand on father's
Bible, that you will never have another meeting or speak another word in
private to Philip Wakem, or you refuse and I tell my father everything!"
In vain Maggie pleaded. Tom was obdurate, and she repeated the words of
But that was not enough for Tom Tulliver; he accompanied Maggie to Red
Deeps, and in a voice of harsh scorn told Philip that he had been taking
a mean, unmanly advantage.
"It was for my father's sake, Philip," said Maggie, imploringly. "Tom
threatens to tell my father--and he couldn't bear it. I have promised, I
have vowed solemnly, that we will not have any intercourse without my
"It is enough, Maggie. _I_ shall not change, but I wish you to hold
yourself entirely free. But trust me--remember that I can never seek for
anything but good to what belongs to you."
Tom only replied with angry contempt, and led Maggie away. All his
sister's remonstrances he answered with cold obstinacy.
For his character in its strength was hard. Tom had laboured to one end
in these years: to pay off his father's creditors, and regain Dorlcote
Mill. By his industry, and by some successful private ventures in trade,
the day came when the first of the objects was realised, and Mr.
Tulliver lived to see himself free of debt.
But Mr. Tulliver's satisfaction was short-lived. Excited by the dinner
given to celebrate the payment of his creditors, he met Mr. Wakem near
the mill. From angry words it came to blows, and Tulliver fell on the
lawyer furiously, only ceasing from attack when Maggie and Mrs. Tulliver
appeared. Wakem went off without serious injury, but Tulliver only lived
through the night; the excitement had killed him.
"You must take care of her, Tom," said the dying man, turning to his
daughter. "You'll manage to pay for a brick grave, Tom, so as your
mother and me can lie together? This world's...too many...honest man..."
At last there was total stillness, and poor Tulliver's dimly lighted
soul had ceased to be vexed with the painful riddle of this world.
Tom and Maggie went downstairs together, and Maggie spoke. "Tom, forgive
me; let us always love each other"--and they clung and wept together.
But they were not to be always united.
Tom lived in lodgings in the town, and was anxious to provide for his
sister, but Maggie preferred to take up teaching in her old boarding-
school. She met Philip Wakem again, and though Tom released her from her
old promise, he could not regard Philip with any feelings of friendship.
It was when Tom had, by years of steady work, fulfilled his father's
wishes and become once more master of Dorlcote Mill that Maggie
returned--to be no more separated from her brother. She was staying in
the town near the river on the night when the flood came, and the river
rose beyond its banks. Her first thought, as the water entered the lower
part of the house, was of the mill, where Tom was. There was no time to
get assistance; she must go herself, and alone. Hastily she procured a
boat, and at last reached the mill. The water was up to the first story,
but still the mill stood firm.
"Tom, where are you? Here is Maggie!" she called out, in a loud,
piercing voice. Tom opened the middle window, and got into the boat. Tom
rowed with vigour, but a new danger was before them in the river.
"Get out of the current!" was shouted at them, but it could not be done
at once. Huge fragments of machinery, swept off one of the wharves,
blocked the stream in one wide mass, and the current swept the boat
swiftly on to its doom.
"It is coming, Maggie!" Tom said, in a deep, hoarse voice, loosing the
oars and clasping her.
The next instant the boat was no longer seen upon the water, and brother
and sister had gone down in an embrace never to be parted; living
through again in one supreme moment the days when they had clasped their
little hands in love.
"In their death they were not divided."
* * * * *
Emile Erckmann was born at Phalsbourg, in Alsace, on May 20,
1822, and Alexandre Chatrian, at Soldatenthal, on December 18,
1826. Erckmann, the son of a bookseller, became a law student,
and was admitted to the Bar in 1858. But the law studies were
always uncongenial, and Erckmann meeting Chatrian as a fellow
student in the gymnasium at Phalsbourg, the two young men
decided to join forces in authorship. The Erckmann-Chatrian
partnership lasted from 1860 to 1885, and resulted in a
remarkable series of novels, short stories, plays, and operas.
"Waterloo" was published in 1865, and has enjoyed a wide
popularity in many languages. Like "The Conscript," its
predecessor, the charm of "Waterloo" consists largely in the
character of Joseph Bertha, the young clockmaker of
Phalsbourg, who tells the story. Bertha is a peaceful citizen
who hates war and has no taste for glory. Yet he is nothing of
a coward, and behaves like a man when he is forced to fight.
To the student of history, the light thrown on the rise and
fall of the Bourbon popularity in France, 1813-14, in this
novel, will always be of interest. Chatrian died in Paris on
September 4, 1890, and Erckmann at Luneville, on March 14,
Never was anything so joyous as the spring of 1814 Louis XVIII. was
king, and the war was over. All except the old soldiers were content;
and only when the nobles, who had fled at the Revolution, returned, and
it was said that they were going to bring back all their old ideas, did
M. Goulden express any dissatisfaction. There were great religious
processions everywhere and expiatory services, and talk of rebuilding
all the convents, and setting up the nobles again in their castles. But
these things did not trouble me, because I was married to Catherine, and
knew nothing about politics.
The treatment of the old soldiers enraged me. On the day of the
religious procession at Phalsbourg, half a dozen old veterans, restored
prisoners, were set upon in our town by that rascal Pinacle and the
people of Baraques, and knocked about. Pinacle did this to curry favour
with Louis XVIII., and M. Goulden warned us that if ruffians like
Pinacle got the upper hand it would open people's eyes.
Sure enough, Pinacle received the cross of honour in the autumn when the
Duc de Berry came to review the troops at Phalsbourg, and even Aunt
Gredel, who was fond of abusing Napoleon and the Jacobins, and
applauding the king and the clergy, thought this a shameful thing.
It really was scandalous the way titles and honours were given to
worthless people who shouted for the king. Worse than this was the way
Napoleon's old officers were treated. Men who had fought and bled for
France for twenty years were now well-nigh starving, driven out of the
army to make room for the king's favourites.
We read all this in the "Gazette," and Zebede, who had come back alive
and in time for my wedding, and was still in the army, would often come
in and tell us of the growing indignation of the soldiers. The whole of
that winter the indignation was spreading in the town at the sight of so
many brave officers, the heroes of Marengo, Austerlitz, and Wagram,
wandering forlornly about, starving on half-pay, and deprived of their
How well I remember one day in January, 1815, two of these officers,
pale and gaunt, coming into the workshop to sell a watch.
M. Goulden examined the watch with great care and said, "Do not be
offended, gentlemen; I, too, served France under the Republic, and I
know it must cut to the heart to be forced to sell something which
recalls sacred memories."
"It was given me by Prince Eugene," said one of the officers, Commandant
Margarot, a hussar.
"It is worth more than 1,000 francs," said M. Goulden, "and I cannot
afford to buy it. But I will advance you 200 francs, and the watch shall
remain here if you like, and shall be yours whenever you come to reclaim
The old hussar broke down at this, and though his comrade, Colonel
Falconette, tried to restrain him, he poured forth thanks and bitter
words against the government.
From that time it always seemed to me that things would end badly, and
that the nobles had gone too far. The old commandant had said that the
government behaved like Cossacks to the army, and this was horrible.
M. Goulden read the "Gazette" aloud to us every day, and both Catherine
and I were pleased to find there were men in Paris maintaining the very
things we thought ourselves.
All this time the clergy were going on with their processions, and
sermons were being preached about the rebellion of 1790, the restitution
of property to the landowners, and the re-establishment of convents, and
the need for missionaries for the conversion of France. From such ideas
what good could come?
It is no wonder that when a report came early in March that Napoleon had
landed at Cannes and was marching on Paris we were all very agitated at
"It is plain," said M. Goulden, "that the emperor will reach Paris. The
soldiers are for him; so are the peasantry, whose property is
threatened; and so are the middle classes, provided he will make
treaties of peace."
For some days, though all knew Napoleon had set foot in France, no one
dared talk of it aloud. Only the looks of the half-pay officers betrayed
their anxiety. If they had possessed horses and arms I am sure they
would have set out to meet their emperor.
On March 8, Zebede entered our house and said abruptly, "The two first
batallions are starting."
"They are going to stop him?" said M. Goulden.
"Yes, they'll stop him, that is very likely," Zebede answered, winking.
At the foot of the stairs he drew me aside and whispered, "Look inside
my cap, Joseph; all the soldiers have got it, too."
Sure enough it was the old tricolour cockade, which had been removed on
the return of Louis XVIII.
At last the papers had to admit that Buonaparte had escaped from Elba.
What a scene it was in the cafe the night the papers arrived! M. Goulden
and I were hardly seated before the place was filled with people, and it
was so close the windows had to be opened.
Commandant Margarot mounted on a table with other officers all around
him, and began to read the "Gazette" aloud. It took a long time, the
reading, and the people laughed and jeered at the passages that said the
troops were faithful to the king, that Buonaparte was surrounded and
would soon be taken, and that the illustrious Ney and the other marshals
had hastened to place their swords at the service of the king. The
commandant read on firmly in that distinct voice of his until he came to
the order calling upon the French to seize Buonaparte and give him up
dead or alive.
Then his whole face changed and his eyes glittered. He took the
"Gazette" up and tore it into little pieces, and, drawing himself up,
his long arms stretched out, cried, "Vive l'Empereur!" with all his
might. Immediately all the half-pay officers took up the cry, and "Vive
l'Empereur!" was repeated again by the very soldiers posted outside the
town hall when they heard the shout.
The commandant was carried shoulder high round the cafe, and everyone
was now calling out, "Vive l'Empereur!" I saw the tears in the eyes of
the commandant, tears at hearing the name he loved best acclaimed once
As for me, I felt as if cold water was being forced down my back. "It's
all over," I said to myself. "It's no good talking about peace."
But M. Goulden was more hopeful, and after we got home spoke cheerfully
of the blessings of liberty and a good constitution.
Aunt Gredel did not take this view. She came to see us the morning after
the scene in the cafe, when all the town was discussing the great news,
and began at once, "So it seems the villain has run away from his
Both M. Goulden and I were anxious to avoid a dispute, for Aunt Gredel
was really angry, and she couldn't leave the subject.
M. Goulden admitted that he preferred Napoleon to the Bourbons, with
their nobles and missionary priests, because the emperor was bound to
respect the national property, whereas the later would have destroyed
all that the Revolution had accomplished. "Still, I am now, and always
shall be till death, for the Republic and the rights of man," M. Goulden
The old gentleman took his hat and went out to escape further argument,
and Aunt Gredel turned to me and told me that M. Goulden was an old fool
and always had been, and that I should have to go to Switzerland now,
unless Buonaparte was taken before he reached Paris.
In the evening, however, when Aunt Gredel had gone, and we three were
together, Catherine said quietly, "M. Goulden is right; he knows more
about these things than my mother does, and we will always listen to his
I thought to myself, "Yes, that's all very well; but it will be a
horrible thing to have to put on one's knapsack again and be off. I
would rather be in Switzerland than in Leipzig."
Each day now brought news of Napoleon's advance, from Grenoble to Lyons,
from Lyons to Macon and Auxerre. There was no opposition anywhere to his
progress, and the only question that troubled M. Goulden's mind was the
attitude of Ney to the emperor. Could Ney, an old soldier of the
Revolution, though he had kissed the hand of Louis XVIII., betray the
country to please the king? The uneasiness disappeared when we learnt
that Ney had followed the example of the army, the citizens, and of all
who did not wish to go back to the customs and laws of twenty-five years
On March 21, just as it was getting dark, we knew that something
decisive must have happened at Paris. The drums were calling to arms in
the market-place, and a great crowd soon assembled.
The soldiers fell into their ranks, Commandant Gemeau, who had only just
recovered from his wounds, drew his sword, and gave the order to form
M. Goulden and I got on a bench to listen; we knew that the fate of
France depended on the message we were to hear.
"Present arms!" called out the commandant in the same clear voice which
had bidden us at Luetzen and Leipzig, "Close up your ranks!"
Then came the news we had been waiting for.
"Soldiers, his Majesty Louis XVIII. left Paris on March 20, and the
Emperor Napoleon entered the capital the same day."
For a second there was a dead silence, and then the commandant spoke of
the banner of France, the banner of Marengo, Austerlitz, and Jena,
stained with our blood; and the old sergeant drew out the tattered
tricolour flag from its case.
"I know no other flag!" cried the commandant, raising his sword. "Vive
la France! Vive l'Empereur!"
What a shout there was of "Vive l'Empereur! Vive la France!" at this.
The people and the soldiers embraced one another, and that night and for
the next five or six days there was, if anything, even more rejoicing
than there had been on the return of Louis XVIII. We still hoped for the
continuance of peace, but who could say how long the peace would last?
Phalsbourg was ordered to put itself into a state of defence, a large
workshop was set up at the arsenal for the repairing of arms, and
engineers and artillerymen came over from Metz to make earthworks in the
fortifications. It seemed to me that a large number of men would be
required for all the guns and forts, and that my watchmaking days would
soon be exchanged for active service. I began to think that, after all,
religious processions were better than being sent to fight against
people one knew nothing about.
_III.--On the Road to Waterloo_
Aunt Gredel had not been to see us for a month, and it was a great
comfort to Catherine and me when one Sunday M. Goulden proposed that we
should all three pay her a visit at Quatre Vents. As soon as she saw us,
Aunt Gredel rushed to kiss her daughter, and called out, "You are a good
man, M. Goulden, better a thousand times than I am. How glad I am to see
you! It doesn't matter about being a Jacobin or anything else; the main
thing is to have a good heart."
It was not until the afternoon that M. Goulden explained that he had
known for some days that I should be called up to rejoin my old
regiment, and that he had arranged with the commandant of artillery that
I should be received at the arsenal as a workman. What relief this was
to us, for I could not bear the thought of separation from Catherine. So
from that day I went to work at the arsenal, and Aunt Gredel came to see
us again as she had been accustomed to do.
It can be guessed with what spirit I worked at the arsenal, and how
pleased I was when the commandant expressed satisfaction at my work. But
I was not allowed to stop at Phalsbourg.
On May 23 the commandant told me that I must go to Metz with the 3rd
battalion, to which I belonged. He assured me, however, that I should be
kept at Metz in the workshops, and we all did our best to believe that I
was fortunate in my destination. M. Goulden, however, warned me before I
left that France was threatened by her enemies, that the allies would
make no peace with the emperor, but were determined to set Louis XVIII.
once more on the throne, and that now the question was not of invading
other countries, but of defending our own.
Catherine was asleep when the morning came for my departure, and I was
glad to escape the pain of saying "good-bye." At the barracks, Zebede,
who was now a sergeant, led me into the soldiers' room, and I put on my
uniform. Then the battalion defiled through the gates, the soldiers at
the outworks presented arms, and we were on the way to Waterloo.
It was useless to think of stopping in Metz. We arrived in that city of
Jews and soldiers after five days' march, and were at once, after our
night's rest, supplied with ammunition. I saw that my only chance of
staying at the workshops of Metz would be after the campaign was over,
for we were on the march the very next morning. Zebede was not always
with me now, and my closest comrade was Jean Buche, the son of a
sledge-maker at Harberg, who had never eaten anything better than
potatoes before he became a conscript. Buche turned in his feet in
walking, but he never seemed to know the meaning of being tired, and in
his own fashion was a wonderful pedestrian.
From Metz we marched through Thionville, Chatelet, Etain, Dannevoux,
Yong, Vivier, and Cul-de-Sard. All our troops were pouring into
Belgium--cavalry, infantry, and artillery--and though there were no
signs of the enemy, it was reported that we were to attack the English.
I thought as well English as Prussians, Austrians, or Russians, since we
were to kill each other.
On the night of June 14 we bivouacked outside the village of Roly, and
General Pecheux read a proclamation by the emperor, reminding us that
this was the anniversary of Marengo, that the powers were in coalition
against France, and that the hour had come for France to conquer or
It is impossible to describe the enthusiasm at this message from the
emperor; our courage was stronger, and the conscripts were even more
anxious than the veterans for the fighting to begin.
We were up at daybreak next day and on the march, eager to get a sight
of the Prussians, who had been repulsed from Charleroi by the emperor,
we were told. At the village of Chatelet we halted, and heard the noise
of firing away across the River Sambre, in the direction of Gilly. An
old bald peasant told us that evening that the Prussians had men in the
villages of Fleurus and Lambusart, that the English and Belgians were on
the great Brussels road, and that the causeway through Quatre Bras and
Ligny enabled the Prussians and English to communicate freely with each
other. He also told us that the Prussians said insulting things of the
French army, and were generally hated by the people. When I heard of the
way the Prussians boasted, my blood boiled, and I said to myself, "There
shall be no more compassion. Either they or we must be utterly
I can recall with what splendour the sun rose next morning above a
cornfield--it was the morning of the battle of Ligny. Zebede and one or
two comrades whom I had known in 1813 came and chattered while we lit
our fires. We could see the Prussians before us, posting themselves
behind hedges and walls, and preparing to defend the villages, and all
the time we were kept roasting in the corn, waiting for the signal to
attack. The emperor arrived, and held a short conference with the
superior officers, and I saw him at close quarters before he rode off
again to the village of Fleurus, already vacated by the Prussians.
And still we waited, though we knew the attack on St. Amand had begun.
At last came our turn to advance on Ligny. "Forward! Forward!" cried the
officers. "Vive l'Empereur!" we shouted. The Prussian bullets whizzed
like hail upon us, and then we could see or hear nothing till we were in
No quarter was given that day; we fought in houses and gardens, in barns
and lanes, with muskets and bayonets. Those who fell were lost. At one
time fifteen of us were in possession of a barn, and the Prussians, for
a time outnumbering us, drove us up a ladder. They fired up at our
floor, and finally, when it seemed we were lost, and were all to be
massacred we heard the shout of "Vive l'Empereur!" and the Prussians
fled. Out of that fifteen only six were left alive, but Zebede and Buche
were among the survivors.
The battle still raged in the village streets, dead and dying were
everywhere. Towards nightfall it was plain we were the victors; Ligny
and St. Amand were in our hands, and the Prussians had moved away. On
the plateau behind Ligny, where our cavalry had been at work, the
slaughter had been terrible.
The dozen or so remaining of our company rested for a few hours that
night in the ruins of a farmhouse, and next day came the roll-call of
our battalion, and the sending off of the wounded. More than 360 of our
men, including Commandant Gemeau and Captain Vidal, were disabled, and
we were busy all day over the wounded.
It was wet and muddy that evening, and we were hungry and dispirited
when we reached Quatre Bras, about eight o'clock. We were not allowed to
halt here, but marched on to a village called Jemappes, and at midnight
we settled down in a furrow to wait for morning.
The red coats of the English were visible before us when we awoke next
morning; behind their lines was the village of Mont St. Jean, and they
had also the farmhouses of La Haie-Sainte and Hougomont. At six o'clock
I looked at their position, with Zebede, Captain Florentin, and Buche,
and it seemed to me it was a difficult task before us. It was Sunday,
and I could hear the bells of villages, recalling Phalsbourg. But in a
very little while we heard no more bells, for at half-past eight our
battalion was on its way to the high road in front, and the battle of
Waterloo had begun.
_IV.--The Hour of Disaster_
I have often heard veterans describe the order of battle given by the
emperor. But all I remember of that terrible day is that we marched out
with the bands playing, that we got to close quarters with the English,
were repulsed, and were assisted by regiments of cuirassiers, that we
carried La Haie-Sainte with terrible slaughter at Ney's command.
Hougomont we could not carry. When we thought we were winning, the news
was spread that Bluecher, with 60,000 men, was advancing on our flank,
and that unless Grouchy, with his 30,000, arrived in time to reinforce
us the day might be lost.
All the world knows now that Grouchy did not arrive, that we threw
ourselves again and again upon the English squares, and that at last,
when regiment after regiment had tried in vain to break the enemy's
line, the Old Guard were called up by the emperor. It was the last
chance of retrieving the day, the grand stroke--and it failed.
The four battalions of the Guards, reduced from 3,000 to 1,200 men, were
assailed by so fierce a fire that they were compelled to retire. They
retired slowly, defending themselves with muskets and bayonets, but with
their retirement, and the approach of night, the battle ended for us in
the confusion of a rout. It was like a flood. We were surrounded on all
sides when Bluecher arrived. The Old Guard formed a square for the
emperor and his officers, and the rest of us simply straggled away, back
to France. The most awful thing of all was the beating of the drum of
the Old Guard in that hour of disaster. It was like a fire-bell, the
last appeal of a burning nation.
Buche was by my side in the retreat. Several times the Prussians
attacked us. We heard that the emperor had departed for Paris, and we
struggled on, only hoping to escape with our lives. At Charleroi the
inhabitants shut the city gates in our face, and Buche shared in the
general rage, and proposed to destroy the town. But I thought we had had
enough massacres, and that it was not right we should be killing our own
countrymen, and I persuaded Buche to come on with me.
In a few days we felt ourselves safe from pursuing Prussians, and at the
village of Bouvigny I wrote a letter to Catherine, telling her I was
safe. In this village some officers of our regiment, the 6th of the
Line, found us, and we had to rejoin. Presently we saw all that was left
of Grouchy's army corps in retreat, and a day or two later we heard of
the emperor's abdication. On July 1, we reached Paris, and outside the
city, near the village of Issy, we once more fell in with the Prussians;
for two days we fought them with fury, and then some generals announced
that peace had been made.
We believed that this truce was to give the enemy time to leave the
country, and that otherwise France would rise, as it rose in '92, and
drive them out.
Unhappily, we soon learnt that the Prussians and English were to occupy
Paris, and that the remains of the French army were to be kept beyond
Back to Full Books