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Supposing you then arrived at Havre - get out of it again as fast as you can; rush across the river to Honfleurs; from Honfleurs dart back to Caen; and after you have paused five minutes to think about William the Conqueror, put yourself into the diligence for St. Malo, and when you have travelled just twelve leagues and a half, you will come to a long steep hill, crowned by a pretty airy-looking town, whose buildings, in some parts gathered on the very pinnacle, in others running far down the slope, seem as if coquetting with the rich valleys that woo them from below.
Go to bed; and if you bathe your feet beforehand, which if you are of my faction you will do, walk over the tiled floor of the inn bedroom, that you may have a fit opportunity of cursing tiled floors, and of relieving yourself of all the spleen in your nature before the next morning. Then, if both your lover and the day be favourably disposed, sally forth to the eastern corner of the town, and you will have a fair view over one of the loveliest valleys that nature's profuse hand ever gifted with beauty. The soft clear stream of the Vire winding sweetly along between the green sloping hills and the rich woods, and the fields and chateaux, and hamlets, and the sunshine catching upon all its meanderings, and the birds singing it their song of love, as its calm waters roll bountifully by them. Look upon it, and you will not find it difficult to imagine how the soul, even of an obscure artisan in a remote age, warmed into poetry and music
in the bosom of that valley, and by the side of that stream.
It was, then, in that beautiful Vale of Vire, some twenty years agone, that François Lormier went out to take his last May walk with Mareitte Duval, ere the relentless conscription called him from his happy home, his sweet valleys and his early love. It was a sad walk, as may well be imagined; for though the morning was bright, and nature, to her shame be it spoken, had put on her gayest smiles as if to mock their sorrow, yet the sunshine of the scene could not find its way to their hearts, and all seemed darkened and clouded around them. They talked a great deal, and they talked a long time; but far be it from me to betray their private conversation. I would not, for all the world — especially as I know not one word about it - except, indeed, that François Lormier vowed the image of Mariette should remain with him for ever; should inspire him in the battle, and cheer him in the bivouac; and that Mariette protested she would never marry anybody except François Lormier, even if rich old Monsieur Latoussefort, the great Foulan, were to lay himself and fortune at her feet ; and in short, that when his “seven long years were out,” François would find her still a spinster, and very much at his service. “Mais si je perdois une jambe ?" said François Lormier.—“Qu'est ce que c'a fait ? ”replied Mariette.
They parted, - and first to follow the lady. Mariette wept a great deal, but soon after got calm again, went about her ordinary work, sang her song, danced at the village fête, talked with the talkers, laughed with the laughers, and won the hearts of all the youths in the place, by her unadorned beauty and her native grace. But still she did not forget François Lormier; and when any one came to ask her in marriage, the good dame her mother referred them directly to Mariette, who had always her answer ready, and with a kind word and a gentle look sent them away refused, but not offended. At length good old Monsieur Latoussefort presented himself with all his money bags, declaring that his only wish was to enrich his gentille Mariette ; but Mariette was steady, and so touchingly did she talk to him about poor François Lormier, that the old man went away with the tears in his eye. Six months afterwards he died, when to the wonder of the whole place, he left his large fortune to Mariette Duval !
In the meanwhile François joined the army, and from a light handsome conscript, he soon became a brave, steady soldier. Attached to the great Northern army, he underwent all the hardships of the campaigns in Poland and Russia, but still he never lost his cheerfulness, for the thought of Mariette kept his heart warm, and even a Russian winter could not freeze him. All through that miserable retreat, he made the best of everything. As long as he had a good tender piece of saddle, he did not want a dinner; and when he met with a comfortable dead horse to creep into, he found board and lodging combined. His courage and his powers of endurance called upon him, from the first, the eyes of one whose best quality was the impartiality of his recompense. François was rewarded as well as he could be rewarded ; but at length, in one of those unfortunate battles by which Napoleon strove in vain to retrieve his fortune, the young soldier in the midst of his gallant daring was desperately wounded in the arm.
Pass we over the rest.-Mutilated; sick, weary and ragged, François approached his native valley, and doubtful of his reception-for misery makes sad misanthropeshe sought the cottage of Madame Duval. The cottage was gone; and on inquiring for Madame Duval, he was directed to a fine farm-house by the banks of the stream. He thought there must be some mistake, but yet he dragged his heavy limbs thither, and knocked timidly against the door.
“Entrez !” cried the good-humoured voice of the old Dame. François entered, and unbidden tottered to a chair. Madame Duval gazed on him for a moment, and then rushing to the stairs called loudly, Come down, Mariette, come down, here is François returned! Like lightning, Mariette darted down the stairs, saw the soldier's old great coat, and flew towards it-stoppedgazed on his haggard face, and empty sleeve; and gasping, fixed her eyes upon his countenance. ”T was for a moment she gazed on him thus, in silence; but the.e
was no forgetfulness, nor coldness, nor pride about her heart-- there was sorrow, and joy, and love, and memory in her very glance. “Oh François, François!” cried she, at length, casting her arms round his neck, “how thou hast suffered !” As she did so, the old great coat fell back, and on his breast appeared the golden cross of the legion of honour. “N'importe!” cried she, as she saw it, “Viola ta recompense.” He pressed her fondly to his bosom. “My recompense is here,” said he, “my recompense is here!”
Why have ye lingered on your way so long,