Uncle Bernac eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 171 pages of information about Uncle Bernac.
I first landed; but my companion walked with a brisk and assured step, so that it was evident that he guided himself by landmarks which were invisible to me.  For my part, wet and miserable, with my forlorn bundle under my arm, and my nerves all jangled by my terrible experiences, I trudged in silence by his side, turning over in my mind all that had occurred to me.  Young as I was, I had heard much political discussion amongst my elders in England, and the state of affairs in France was perfectly familiar to me.  I was aware that the recent elevation of Buonaparte to the throne had enraged the small but formidable section of Jacobins and extreme Republicans, who saw that all their efforts to abolish a kingdom had only ended in transforming it into an empire.  It was, indeed, a pitiable result of their frenzied strivings that a crown with eight fleurs-de-lis should be changed into a higher crown surmounted by a cross and ball.  On the other hand, the followers of the Bourbons, in whose company I had spent my youth, were equally disappointed at the manner in which the mass of the French people hailed this final step in the return from chaos to order.  Contradictory as were their motives, the more violent spirits of both parties were united in their hatred to Napoleon, and in their fierce determination to get rid of him by any means.  Hence a series of conspiracies, most of them with their base in England; and hence also a large use of spies and informers upon the part of Fouche and of Savary, upon whom the responsibility of the safety of the Emperor lay.  A strange chance had landed me upon the French coast at the very same time as a murderous conspirator, and had afterwards enabled me to see the weapons with which the police contrived to thwart and outwit him and his associates.  When I looked back upon my series of adventures, my wanderings in the salt-marsh, my entrance into the cottage, my discovery of the papers, my capture by the conspirators, the long period of suspense with Toussac’s dreadful thumb upon my chin, and finally the moving scenes which I had witnessed—­the killing of the hound, the capture of Lesage, and the arrival of the soldiers—­I could not wonder that my nerves were overwrought, and that I surprised myself in little convulsive gestures, like those of a frightened child.

The chief thought which now filled my mind was what my relations were with this dangerous man who walked by my side.  His conduct and bearing had filled me with abhorrence.  I had seen the depth of cunning with which he had duped and betrayed his companions, and I had read in his lean smiling face the cold deliberate cruelty of his nature, as he stood, pistol in hand, over the whimpering coward whom he had outwitted.  Yet I could not deny that when, through my own foolish curiosity, I had placed myself in a most hopeless position, it was he who had braved the wrath of the formidable Toussac in order to extricate me.  It was evident also that he might have made his achievement more striking by delivering up two prisoners instead of one to the troopers.  It is true that I was not a conspirator, but I might have found it difficult to prove it.  So inconsistent did such conduct seem in this little yellow flint-stone of a man that, after walking a mile or two in silence, I asked him suddenly what the meaning of it might be.

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Uncle Bernac from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.