Paul loved horses, and before looking at the rider
looked at the horse.
It was indeed Jean, who, when he saw in the distance the Cure and Paul de
Lavardens, waved in the air his kepi adorned with two golden stripes.
Jean was lieutenant in the regiment of artillery quartered at Souvigny.
Some moments after he stopped by the little carriage, and, addressing the Cure, said:
“I have just been to your house, ‘mon parrain’. Pauline told me that you had gone to Souvigny about the sale. Well, who has bought the castle?”
“An American, Mrs. Scott.”
“The same, Mrs. Scott.”
“And La Rozeraie?”
“Mrs. Scott again.”
“And the forest? Mrs. Scott again?”
“You have said it,” replied Paul, “and I know Mrs. Scott, and I can promise you that there will be something going on at Longueval. I will introduce you. Only it is distressing to Monsieur l’Abbe because she is an American—a Protestant.”
“Ah! that is true,” said Jean, sympathizingly. “However, we will talk about it to-morrow. I am going to dine with you, godfather; I have warned Pauline of my visit; no time to stop to-day. I am on duty, and must be in quarters at three o’clock.”
“Stables?” asked Paul.
“Yes. Good-by, Paul. To-morrow, godfather.”
The lieutenant galloped away. Paul de Lavardens gave his little horse her head.
“What a capital fellow Jean is!” said Paul.
“Oh, yes, indeed!”
“There is no one on earth better than Jean.”
“No, no one.”
The Cure turned round to take another look at Jean, who was almost lost in the depths of the forest.
“Oh, yes, there is you, Monsieur le Cure.”
“No, not me! not me!”
“Well, Monsieur l’Abbe, shall I tell you what I think? I think there is no one better than you two—you and Jean. That is the truth, if I must tell you. Oh! what a splendid place for a trot! I shall let Niniche go; I call her Niniche.”
With the point of his whip Paul caressed the flank of Niniche, who started off at full speed, and Paul, delighted, cried:
“Just look at her action, Monsieur l’Abbe! just look at her action! So regular—just like clockwork. Lean over and look.”
To please Paul de Lavardens the Abbe Constantin did lean over and look at Niniche’s action, but the old priest’s thoughts were far away.
THE NEW CHATELAINE
This sub-lieutenant of artillery was called Jean Reynaud. He was the son of a country doctor who slept in the churchyard of Longueval.
In 1846, when the Abbe’ Constantin took possession of his little living, the grandfather of Jean was residing in a pleasant cottage on the road to Souvigny, between the picturesque old castles of Longueval and Lavardens.