“But you are some way from the water.’
“Yes, but I have a cart.”
We then parted, La Croissette kissing me on both cheeks with the utmost kindness; and I turned away with Antoine. Looking round as we quitted the court, I had my last glimpse of his tall, meagre figure, as he stood with his hand on his hip, looking after me; and I thought how strange and disproportionate a return his kindness to me had been for mine to him, in lifting him up and saving him from a kicking horse on the way to Beaucaire. The whole scene at once started up before me—our family party in the wagon—the girls’ blooming faces and gay dresses—the crowded road—the music—the bustle. Then my thoughts flew on to what followed—the humors of the fair—the crowded table at my uncle’s—my betrothal to Madeleine. What a different future then seemed to lie before us to what awaited us now! Where was she? Should we meet soon? Might we not be separated for ever? I cannot tell how many thoughts like these passed through my mind as I limped after Antoine, who was himself somewhat awkward in his gait, like many of the silk-weavers from sitting so constantly at the loom.
Thus we passed through some of the by-ways of Montauban, and entered a small house.
“My native land, good-night”
The room we entered was destitute of furniture and blackened with smoke. Heaps of broken fragments impeded our entrance and lay on the floor. A man sitting on the ground was restlessly taking up one piece after another, and laying them down again, muttering to himself, without noticing us.
“I know not why they should have done so,” he said hurriedly; “the poor chairs and tables could not hurt. And, after all, when they hung me up I gave in, and kissed the cross made by their swords; and they knocked me about after that. If that was justice, I don’t know what justice is. They hurt my wife, too, or she would not have shrieked out so. And her word always had been—’Hold out; pain may be borne; and they dare not kill us!’ But when she saw them tie me up, she cried out, ’Oh, Pierre, Pierre, give in—give in!’ So what was I to do? Answer me that.”
“This poor fellow has lost his senses,” said Antoine, softly. “Wait here a minute. I will soon return.”
I stood where I was. It seemed to me from the charred remains that the furniture had been just broken up and then partially burnt. There was a great beam across the ceiling, with large iron hooks on which to hang bacon, onions, and such-like. From one of these hooks dangled a strong chain.
“They drew me up with that,” said he, turning his dull eyes on me, and the next instant looking away. “They passed the chain under one of my armpits, and so suspended me; and then beat me. I was not going to stand that, you know. My wife ran away, calling on me to give in; so what could I do? Could I help it? Am I a renegade?”