The trail had disappeared

When we had turned our backs on the Gnawing Bull and passed the kind of plateau where the path came to end and where the Lessay moor began, we found several paths in front of us.[Pg 28] parallels which streaked the moor, and separated from each other as one advanced in the plain, for they all ended, in different directions, at extremely distant points. Visible first on the ground and on the limit of the landage, they faded as we plunged into the expanse, and we had not walked much that we could no longer see any trace of them, even the day. Everything was moor. The trail had disappeared. This was an ever-present danger for the traveler. A few steps threw him out of his way, without his being able to notice it, into those spaces where involuntarily drifting from the line we are following is almost fatal, and he then went like a vessel without a compass, after a thousand turns and returns to himself, approaching on the other side of the moor, at a strong point distant from the goal of its destination. This accident, very common in the plains, when you have nothing in front of your eyes, in the void, no tree, no bush, no hill, for orientation and direction, the peasants of Cotentin express it with a superstitious word. and picturesque. They say of the traveler thus led astray, that he haswalked on grass , and by that they mean some wicked and hidden charm , the idea of ​​which satisfies them by the very vagueness of its mystery.

“This is the path we must follow,[Pg 29] said my companion, pointing to me with the end of his ash tree to one of the white lines which sank into the moor. Hold your horse further to the right, sir, and don’t be afraid to weigh on me! The path will soon disappear, and here it forms an almost insensitive curve traitor. In a few minutes, it will be dark, and we won’t be able to orient ourselves by turning around to look at the Red Bull . Fortunately, the Whiteknows the way she’s gone like a hunting dog knows her way. Many times, coming back from fairs and markets, sleep has caught me in my saddle, and I am nonetheless for that well arrived, as if I had whistled all the time, for myself. distracted, the song of M. de Matignon, the mind alert and eyes open.

“Wasn’t that a little reckless? I said; for traveling at night on roads little frequented, like this one, for example, do you not expose yourself to being attacked unexpectedly by a few miserable scoundrels, such as it often prowls in the evening in isolated countryside; especially if you are used to wearing a leather belt as swollen as the one I see you around your loins?

“I’m not saying no, sir,” he replied.[Pg 30] But by the grace of God, after all! There are times when, however solid you may be, after having drunk under ten different tents in a fair, and having slaughtered yourself to make the market of a dozen oxen, fatigue seizes you and knocks you down, and you would sleep on the bell tower of Colomby, in a windy Saint-François; all the more so on the Blanche , which has a mellow appearance like the movement of a ber [1] and sure-footed. But as for the bad guys you speak of, it is quite certain that they could have played some nasty trick on me if they had caught me snoring in my saddle, as in our priest’s sermon. Fortunately, the Whitenever noticed a suspicious face, in the moonlight or in the shade, that it did not neigh to drown out the noise of a mill! Come on! I was always on the defensive in time and ready to give the account to the smartest ones who came to torment me!


“And you gave it sometimes,” I asked him, “for I have heard that the roads are far from safe in this country?”

-Oh! two or three little times, sir, he replied, trifles which are not worth talking about; one or two blows of a stick here and there, which made my[Pg 31] rascals like a dog that is whipped in a crossroads. But never a complete scrape! They weren’t expecting him; or they scampered off, or they fell to the ground like a bundle of dirty laundry, and that was the best thing they had to do, because I could never hit a man on the ground … and the Whitejumped over! But that is years ago now; it was in the time of the famous Lemaire, who was guillotined in Caen, of those so-called tin spoon merchants who set fire to more than one farm … Now the roads are quiet, and perhaps, apart from this one, because of the moor, there is not a single one in the whole of the Channel where it is necessary, as I saw, in a while, when one passed there, stand up on the stirrups to look over the hedges and tie an additional knot in the thong of his stick around his arm.

“And how often do you travel in these parts?” I asked him again, being careful to adjust my horse’s pace to his.

“Five to six times a year, sir,” he said. I do my tour there. I come there, from foundation, to the Saint-Michel de Coutances fair, to La Crottée, to the big markets of Créance, and there are two in summer and two in winter. That’s about all,[Pg 32] without error. As you see, I’m not very big customary that following road. My business is on the other side, near Caen and Bayeux, where I am going to sell to the Augerons of this high country oxen which they lead to Poissy, and which leave, like all those they lead there, from our pastures of the lower Cotentin, and not of their valley of Auge, of which they are so proud.

“I see that you are,” I said, smiling with his patriotism as a breeder, “a herbivore from the tip of our peninsula; for, although you have taken me for a stranger and I have lost the accent which says in the ear of another that one is his compatriot, I am nevertheless from the country, and if my ear does not forgotten as much as my language the sounds which were familiar to me formerly, you must be, in your manner of speaking, near Saint-Sauveur-le-Vicomte or Briquebec.

“Just as a good weight! he cried with an explosion of gaiety caused by the idea that I was his compatriot, you have got your hands on the rose pot, my dear sir! Real! I am on the side of Saint-Sauveur-le-Vicomte, because I hold on lease the big farm of Mont-de-Rouville which, as you know, since you are from the country, is between Saint-Sauveur and Valognes. I am a herder and a farmer, like[Pg 33] have been all mine, honest red jackets from father to son, and as will be my seven boys, God protect them! The Tainnebouy race owes everything to the land and will never deal with anything other than land, at least during Master Louis’ lifetime, because children have their whims. Who can answer for what must happen after we have fallen? …

He said these last words almost melancholy. I praised the honest Cotentinais very much for this intelligent and courageous resolution, which unfortunately one hardly finds any more among the farmers of our provinces, enriched by agriculture. I believe that the strongest societies, if not the most brilliant, live by imitation, by tradition, from things taken up again in the same place where time interrupted them; I, finally, who feel myself more fond of the caste system, despite its harshness, than for the system of full development of all human faculties, and who, on the other hand, admired ease, the frankness, the attitude of body and soul, this aplomb, this simplicity, all these virilities which circulated nobly and peacefully in this man, I found that

I saw that this big head, placed on[Pg 34] shoulders so robust and solid as the crenel which crowns a tower, had not let himself be let down by these false ideas which run the world and which he must have heard often expressed in the fairs and the markets where he went. He was a man from the old days. When he had spoken of God, he had put his hand unaffectedly on his hat and lifted it up. The night had not come so well that I could not have discerned this silent gesture very well. As we walked through the moor, surrounded by a moving mist which gradually came towards us under a cold and veiled moon, I resumed the conversation, which my reflections on the right direction of my companion had suspended for a moment.

“My faith! I said to him, looking around me, for the fog was not yet thick enough so that we could not see in front of and next to us at great distances, I am very disposed to believe you, Master Louis Tainnebouy, when you except safe roads in your department this Lessay moor. I am like you a night traveler; I have already run well, and in more than one country in my life; but I have never seen, that I remember, a place which lent itself better to a nocturnal attack than this one. There are no trees, it is true, behind which one can[Pg 35] hide to adjust or surprise the traveler, but here are folds of the ground, kinds of mounds behind which a rascal can lie face down to avoid the gaze of the passing man and send him a good shot when he happened.

“By the bird of Saint Luke, who is the patron saint of herdsmen,” said the honest farmer, “you would be very guessing , sir, as they say among us. You guessed earlier by hearing me talk , that I was from Saint-Sauveur-le-Vicomte, and now you can guess what the sacred bandits were used to do, when there were some. in these parts. Ver, monsieur, as you say, they huddled behind these mounds, like a hare at the lodge, for there are many places like this in the moor, which is hunched up like the old copper pot of ‘a magnan [2]. More often than not, if there were two of them, they would put themselves as if one would say one here, the other there, and as you passed, one would get up straight from his mound and jump on the bridle of your horse, while the other, who also came out of his hiding place, grabbed your thigh, and between them they had soon dismounted you. Sometimes they didn’t do so much[Pg 36] ceremonies: they were content to send you a load of lead as a tip of the hat. Who the hell heard the gunshot in these spaces? At most, on this side of the moor, Mother Giguet du Tauret rouge , who was careful not to breathe a word about it, for fear of discrediting her house.

[2]Traveling dealer.

“And a house that doesn’t smell like balm! friend, I said. I was told at Coutances that we shouldn’t stop there too much.

“These are bad words and gossip,” replied Master Louis Tainnebouy, a sort of wicked renown who cares about the vicinity of the moor and the inn’s face more than anything else. I have known Mother Giguet for over twenty years, sir. Her husband was a butcher at Sainte-Mère-Église. I sold him more than a couple of oxen which he always paid me well, ruby ​​on the nail, as they say. But misfortune entered his house with the death of his daughter, a beautiful strand of blonde, with cheeks like her crimson Sunday apron, who died at the age of her wedding. She wasn’t eighteen when God took her. Poor youth! From that moment, luck changed for the Giguets. The father no longer had his heart to work. He was always so angry, people said everywhere that he had a black disease. To drown his sorrow, he[Pg 37] indulged in brandy and it was promptly turned. As for the mother, she withered on her feet like a tree struck at the roots. She had no boy, and bleeding oxen and washing their runs is not a job suitable for scissors or for a woman’s hands. So she closed her stall and went to establish herself to sell cider at Tauret rouge.. So, he added with a big laugh, that she will have spent half of her life feeding the world and the other half watering it. As for the people who haunt his house, sir, they are like those who frequent cabarets and inns. They are neither better nor worse; it’s like everywhere: five bad figures for one good! When you have a stopper on your door, it’s not to close it. And besides, when it is earned honestly, the rascal’s penny has no more verdigris than that of the honest man, is it not true, sir? …

This is how we went while chatting. We had been riding the moor for about an hour, and the fog had finally enveloped us completely in its diaphanous web. The moon filtered a pale and uncertain light through the vapor. While trotting, master Louis Tainnebouy had detached the leather lanyards which held his[Pg 38] coat on the rump of his horse and had extended it to its full extent as much on his mount as on him, so that one would have said, in this mist, that the rider and the horse were no longer one. to be, weird and monstrous. Myself, I had tightened mine around my body to oppose it to the moisture that penetrated. If we had kept silent, we would have looked like two shadows as Dante must have seen wandering in the limbo of his Purgatory. The footsteps of our horses could hardly be heard on this moor, which dampened its noise. We went, and the more we went, the more we became communicative, the more I also had occasion to notice how much on all the questions my companion the herbage showed of accuracy and information., as the English say … The intelligence of this crude man was as healthy as his body. His knowledge was limited, but exact. What had established itself in this excellent judiciary had entered it without the aid of the schools, by the eyes, by the hand, by experience. If therefore there were sometimes in him those original ways of feeling that we call backward in this poor century of perpetual movement and cerebral gesticulation, he did not have them, as one might have believed, on account of his inferiority.[Pg 39] relative of peasant. On all the grounds of real life, he would have beaten the most curious, when the ground had been extremely high. A mixture of Norman and Celtic, for the neighborhood of Brittany and Normandy has often poured families from one province to another, he was the most expressive type that I had seen of his double race. Through the somewhat rustic forms, which one passes to me the word “a little brown” of his language, he pierced with fine sagacity and he burst with good sense. And then, what suited him above all was that he was and always remained in his place, that he was one with his life; it was because he adjusted, like a glove in his hand, to his destiny. Everything must smell of its fruit, said Henri IV. He felt his in full nostrils; he was conforming without knowing it to the precepts of Michaud’s friend. It was only a piece of barley bread, but it tasted good.

Suddenly, at one of these folds in the ground that we had noticed, master Louis Tainnebouy’s mare stumbled, and perhaps she would have fallen if he had not supported her with his vigorous hand and a thick strap. But when she got up she was limping.

-Sacre! … he said, and the curse that I dare not write, he let go throughout with a roundness of intonation that resembled a stroke of[Pg 40] bass drum, here is the White limp now! May the devil take away the damned moor! How could she have hurt herself on this level ground without stones? I must see this , and soon! Many apologies, sir! he added, tumbling down more than he dismounted from his horse. I despise the man who does not take care of his mount. What would I become without Blanche , the best mare on the peninsula, on which I have been bursting for seven years all the broths of the Cotentin? …

I had stopped, seeing him stop. But when I saw him empty the stirrup with a leg so swift, I believed that the love of the Whitehis head was completely turned. Indeed, although the night was not dark and the moon drowned its pale light in the fog, it would have been necessary to be more woodworm than all the cats that have ever meowed at the door of a farm at midnight, to distinguish this which was under the hoof of a horse at such an hour. But as he had caused my astonishment, he dispelled it as quickly as he had given birth to it. I saw him flick the lighter for a second and pull a little stable lantern from his sleeved coat pocket, which he lit. Helped by the light of this lantern, he lifted his horse’s feet one after the other, and he exclaimed that the front foot was bare!

[Pg 41]

“And perhaps a long time ago,” he added, repeating the observation he had already made; because on this dusty ground, one would lose the four shoes of his horse that one would not notice it! It is probable that it is from this foot that the beast will have stung itself. Only, he said worriedly, I don’t see anything.

And he brought up his lantern, and he looked at the horn of the horse, as a farrier would have done:

“I see nothing, neither blood nor swelling, and yet the poor beast hardly sets foot on the ground and seems to be in terrible pain!

He took her by the lack of the bit and made her walk, pulling her towards him. But the mare, so dashing only a moment ago, was limping miserably, and there was really reason to fear that she might not be able to continue on her way.

“Here we are! he said again, but with the accent of an annoyance that I understood, and that I even began to share, here we are, at mittan of the moor, with a limping horse, and without a living soul, nor a house. , nothing, two leagues around, and a long way to go! The first forge we will find is a quarter of a league from La Haie-du-Puits. It’s funny! What are we going to become? The devil takes me if I know it! I don’t want to put the White on the[Pg 42] litter for a fortnight, because it is the first of next month on All Saints’ Day, in Bayeux, a famous fair which lasts three days, and which has no equal between now and Candlemas!

And still armed with his lantern, he drew towards him the mare, the object of his complaints; but the crippled beast could hardly drag itself.

—My fingue! sir, he said at last, like a man who takes a resolution, I believe that now our caravans are finished and that it would be wise for you to leave me and go away on your own, because the the weather is not good and the night is cold, as if the air was full of needles. You may be in a hurry to arrive … Everyone has their own things. You must not suffer from the delay of mine. Me, I got it in my head to go on foot to La Haie-du-Puits. I’ll arrive, God knows when, it’s true … tomorrow morning! But I am used to pain. I’ve seen some gray onesin my life. I often spent the night under Garnetot or under Aureville, sunk in the mud of the marsh to the waist, to have the pleasure of killing wild ducks and teals. So it’s not one or two leagues in the buhan that scare me … especially as Jeannine has doubled her man’s houppelande like a housewife who prefers to put a slice of ham on the grill and him pour a[Pg 43] a good pot of cider than to make him herbal tea, when he comes home from all his shopping.

But I assured him that I would not leave him thus alone in the embarrassment, after having traveled so kindly with him; that my business, in the end, was no more rushed than his, maybe less … and that a little fog had never terrified me either.

“Here,” I said to him, “Maître Louis Tainnebouy, let’s stop for a moment. We will whistle our horses and we will smoke a little to ward off the bitter vapors of the night. Perhaps after a time of rest, you will be able to get back on your beast, since you do not see, you say, neither sore nor swelling on its foot.

“I’m afraid,” he said thoughtfully, nodding his head, “that I can’t climb up on the White this night , if that’s what I’m crying out for holding her.

“And what do you think, Master Louis?” I asked him, seeing, by the light of the lantern, a cloud covering his frank and bold features where gaiety usually shone.

“My finguette! he said, scratching his ear like a man who experiences a little anxiety, I am not very inclined to tell you, sir, because you may be laughing.[Pg 44] of me. But if it’s the truth, why would I keep it quiet? A laughing stock is just a laughing stock, after all! Our priest keeps repeating that it always feels good to go to confession, and, on my own account, I noticed that when I had some weight on my mind and I said it to Jeannine, my head on the pillowcase, my mind was more relieved the next day, Besides, you are from the country and you are not without having heard of certain things that have been proven among us other herbagers and farmers … like, for example, secrets that no one has and that we call spells among us.

“Sure, yes, I’ve heard of it,” I told him, “and even a lot in my childhood. I was lulled with these stories … But I believed that all these secrets were lost.

“Lost, sir! he said reassured, seeing that I did not dispute the possibility of the fact, but its current existence, no, sir, these secrets have never been lost and probably they will never be lost, as long as I have in the country, of those rascals of shepherds who come from who knows not where and who go one fine day as they came, and to whom we must give bread to eat and flocks to lead, if we do not does not want to see all the animals of his pastures die like rats stuffed with arsenic.

[Pg 45]

Master Tainnebouy only taught me what I knew. There has been in the Cotentin peninsula, for how long? we do not know about these wandering shepherds who are silent on their origin and who rent themselves for a month or two on the farms, sometimes more, sometimes less. Species of Bohemian shepherds, to whom the voice of the people of the countryside attributes occult powers and the knowledge of secrets and spells. Where do they come from? Where are they going? they pass. Are they the descendants of these populations of Bohemia who dispersed over Europe in all directions in the Middle Ages? Nothing announces it in their physiognomy or in the conformation of their features. It is a blonde population, with almost yellow hair, light gray or green eyes, tall, and who has kept all the characters of the men who once came from the North on their wicker boats. By a singular anomaly, these men who, according to my uncertain and trembling lights, must be a branch of Normans modified with unknown elements, have neither the bitter taste for work, nor the deep foresight, nor the practical genius of their work. race. They are lazy, contemplative, sluggish at work, as if they were the children of a scorching sun which poured dissolving laziness into their limbs with the heat of its rays. But nor the practical genius of their race. They are lazy, contemplative, sluggish at work, as if they were the children of a scorching sun which poured dissolving laziness into their limbs with the heat of its rays. But nor the practical genius of their race. They are lazy, contemplative, sluggish at work, as if they were the sons of a scorching sun which poured dissolving laziness into their limbs with the heat of its rays. But[Pg 46] wherever they come from, moreover, they have in them what acts most powerfully on the imagination of ignorant and sedentary populations. They are vagabonds and mysterious. Many times we have tried to ban them from parishes. They went away, then came back. Sometimes solitary, sometimes in a troop of five to six, they prowl here and there, prey to an idleness which they never occupy except in one way, that is to say by leading a few flocks of sheep along on the back of the ditches, or the oxen of some pasture from one fair to another. If by chance a farmer expels them harshly from his service, or no longer wants to employ them, they say nothing, bow their heads and walk away; but a raised finger, as it turns, is their only dark threat; and almost always a misfortune,

“So you think,” I said to my Cotentinais, “that we could well have cast a spell on your mare, Master Louis Tainnebouy?”

“I have the idea,” he said, reflecting and waving his hand over his hat, which he pushed over his ear that way, “I have the idea, sir. It’s the truth, and here’s why. He[Pg 47] Yesterday at the Crance market, in the cabaret where I was, there was one of those miserable shepherds, the moth of the country, who go away renting themselves to all the masters. He was crouching in the ashes of the hearth and heating a bucket of sweet cider while I finished a market with a herbage from Carente (Carentan). I had just slapped each other in the hand, when my buyer told me that he needed someone to drive his oxen to Coutances (he was going to see one of his sick uncles in Muneville-le-Bengar), and it was then that the shepherd, who was lounging and drinking on the edge of the hearth, proposed. “Who are you, you, so that I entrust my animals to you? said the herbage. If Master Tainnebouy knows you and answers for you, I ask nothing better than to take you. You answer the guy, Master Louis? ”“ My fairy, ”I said to the herbarium,“ take it if you want to, but I’ll wash my hands like Pontius-Pilate; I do not care to incur reproaches if some misfortune happens to your cattle. Whoever guarantees pays, says the proverb, and I do not guarantee who I do not know. “Then go find another master!” said the Carentinais, and that was it. Well! now I remember that the shepherd threw at me, from under the mantle of the fireplace, a devil of gaze, black as sin, and that I found him prowling by the side of the stable and I do not endorse anyone I do not know. “Then go find another master!” said the Carentinais, and that was it. Well! now I remember that the shepherd threw at me, from under the mantle of the fireplace, a devil of gaze, black as sin, and that I found him prowling by the side of the stable and I do not endorse anyone I do not know. “Then go find another master!” said the Carentinais, and that was it. Well! now I remember that the shepherd threw at me, from under the mantle of the fireplace, a devil of gaze, black as sin, and that I found him prowling by the side of the stable[Pg 48] when I was to take the White and go.

Basically, nothing was more admissible than this account by Master Tainnebouy. To explain the accident to his horse, there was no need to dig into the idea of ​​a spell. The shepherd, driven by resentment, had been able to introduce some wounding body into the horse’s hoof to avenge himself on his master, like that cruel Corsican child (we say Napoleon), who stuck a rifle bullet in his ear with his finger. of his father’s favorite horse, because his father had inflicted a beating on him. Only, what for my Cotentinais revealed the influence of the demon in this whole affair, is that the Whitewas limping with no injury or apparent reason for limping. He had placed his lantern on the ground, on a small mound there, and he was loading his pipe, looking at his mare who, like all suffering animals, instinctively lowered her intelligent head towards the part of her body that made it. suffer. I had got off my horse in my turn, and I was rolling the leaves of the maryland between my fingers that I was going to convert into cigarettes. The cold stung, more and more sharply.

-It’s a shame, I said, casting my eyes on the bare ground where the west wind had not only rolled a tree branch,[Pg 49] that we do not have a branch of dead wood as we sometimes find scattered on the earth. We could light a blaze while your mare is resting and warming our fingertips.

“Ah! Yes! dead wood, in this moor, he said, it’s like green wood! We do not find more one than the other; and we only have to blow our fingers to warm them. When the Chouans held their war councils where we are on clear nights, they were obliged to bring on their backs the wood they had cut, to make fire, in the Patriotes thicket.

This word from Chouans, thrown there in passing like a memory of chance, by that energetic red-haired jacket which had perhaps, in his youth, fired over the hedge with them, evoked at that moment, in the eyes of the in my mind, those ghosts of the past before which all present reality turns pale and disappears. I came precisely from a town where the Chouans war left a deep mark. No one, when I went there, had yet forgotten the sublime episode of which it had been the scene in 1799, this daring kidnapping by twelve gentlemen, in a city full of enemy troops, of the famous Des Touches, the intrepid agent of the Princes, intended to be shot[Pg 50] the next day. As one picks up a few pinches of heroic ash, I had gathered all the details of this enterprise, unmatched among the most wonderful human skulls. I had collected them where, for me, lies the true history, not that of the boxes and chanceries, but the oral history, the speech, the living tradition which entered through the eyes and the ears of a generation and which ‘she left, warm from the breast that carried her and from the lips that told her story, in the heart and memory of the generation that followed her. Still under the influence of the impressions I had experienced, it was not surprising that the name of Chouans, pronounced in the external circumstances in which I was placed, awoke in me powerful dormant curiosities.

“Would you have fought in the Chouans’ war?” I asked my companion, hoping that I was going to have one more page to add to the Chronicles of this nocturnal war of Lower Norman Catérans, who gathered to the cries of the owls and made a war whistle from the palms of their two. hands.

“No problem, sir,” he replied, after lighting his pipe and putting a sort of copper cap on it, attached to a chain of the same metal which was attached to the pipe. Nay-dà! I was too young then; I was not[Pg 51] than a kid good to whip. But my father and my grandfather, who have always been a bit of the cow at Colas , have gone through time like their masters. I even have one of my uncles who was wounded with two buckshot in the crease of his arm, in the fight at La Fosse, near Saint-Lô, under M. de Frotté. My uncle was a happy man, who played the violin like a miller and liked to make girls spin around. I heard my uncle say that his injury, the very evening of the fight, did not prevent him from playing his violin to his comrades, in a barn, not far from where we had been in the morning. so hard hooded. We expected to see the Blues in the night, but we jumped all the same, as if there had only been short party favors and beautiful calves in the world! The loaded rifles slept with only one eye in a corner of the barn. My enraged and merry uncle’s friend held his violin in his wounded and bleeding arm, and he played merrily, like the old minstrel Pinabel, on one of his best evenings, in spite of the devil of the air that his, injury. Do you know what happened, sir? His arm remained all his life in the position he had assumed to play that night; he could never lengthen it. He was nailed by the buckshot of the Blues in this playful attitude that he[Pg 52] had loved so much during his youth, and until his death, a long time after, he was only known around by the nickname Violin-arm .

Delighted with such an honorable relationship and who seemed to promise me the stories I wanted, I urged my Cotentinais to tell me what he knew of the war in which his fathers had taken such an active part. I questioned him, I urged him, I tried to make a good contribution on the memories of his childhood, on all the stories he must have heard told, by the fireside, during the winter vigil, when he warmed himself on his stepladder, between his father’s legs. But, oh cruel disappointment, and sad proof of man’s inability to resist the work of time in our hearts! master Louis Tainnebouy, son of Chouan, nephew of this heroic Bras-de-violin, the wounded man from La Fosse, who would have deserved to open the trench in Lérida, had almost forgotten, if he had ever known, everything which, in my eyes, sacred his fathers. Apart from these general and notorious facts, which were as familiar to me as they were to him, he did not add the smallest piece of information to my knowledge of an epoch as interesting in his own way as the time of 1745 in Scotland. , after Culloden’s great misfortune. We know that everything[Pg 53] was not said after Culloden, and that there were still in the Highlands several partisans in kilt and tartan, who continued, without success, the shot, like the Chouans in the gray jacket and the handkerchief tied under the hat on the continued in Maine and Normandy, after the Vendée was lost. What I would have liked is that at least the memory of this war would have left a spark of the passions of his fathers in the soul of Bras-de-violon’s nephew. . However, I must say it, in vain I breathed in this soul the spark which I sought; I couldn’t find her. Time, which little by little wears us out of its velvet hand, has a worse daughter than it: it is the forgetful Lightness. Other interests, of a less elevated but more certain order, had early seized the activity of Maitre Tainnebouy. Politics, for this cultivator occupied with his fields and his cattle, was too out of his reach not to be a very secondary object in his life. In his peasant eyes, the Chouans were only alarm clocks a little too abrupt, and he was more struck by a few acts of raiding, a few hams that they had depended on an old woman’s fireplace, or of a barrel thatin a cellar, that of the cause for which they knew to die. In[Pg 54] the good sense of Master Louis, the Chouannerie which had not succeeded, was perhaps a folly of the youth of his fathers. Conscript of the Empire, to whom it had taken ten thousand francs to redeem himself from the regulated cut of the battlefields, such a memory animated him more against Bonot , – as the peasants used to say, who so well deprived you of the name which has resounded most on the bugles of glory — than the death of his uncle’s general, that Frotté, in the white scarf, killed by the gendarmes’ rifle, with a safe-conduct on his heart!

However, when he had smoked his pipe and had looked once more under his mare’s unshod foot, Master Tainnebouy spoke of setting off, as hard as he could, and of winning as much as we could at La Haie-du- Well. The hour, with its winged foot, still flew through our accidents and our words, and the night advanced silently. The moon, then in its first quarter, had set. As Haly would have said in The Painter’s Love , it was dark as dark as in an oven, and no star was showing the tip of its nose. We kept the lantern alight, the trembling rays of which produced the effect of a comet tail in the cracked vapor of the fog. Soon it even died out, and we were obliged to[Pg 55] walk on foot, chugging along, pulling our horses painfully by the bridle and not seeing a drop. The situation in this suspicious moor was perilous; but we had the calm of people who have the means of resistance at their fingertips and in their hearts the firm will, if the occasion demands it, to make use of them. We were going slowly, because of White’s sick foot, and also because of the big boots we were dragging. If we were silent for a moment, what struck me most in these waves of fog and darkness was the dreary silence of the charged air. The immensity of the spaces that we did not see was revealed by the depth of the silence. This silence, heavy on the heart and the mind, was not once disturbed during the course of this moor, which resembled, said Master Tainnebouy, at the end of the world , if not, from time to time, by the sound of the wings of some heron sleeping on its feet, which our approach made fly away.

We could hardly, in such complete darkness, appreciate the path we were taking. However, hours rang out from a steeple which, judging by the quality of the sound, seemed to us rather close. It was the first time we heard the time since[Pg 56] we were in the moor; we were therefore reaching its limit.

The clock that struck had a thin, clear stamp that marked midnight. We noticed it, because we had both counted and we didn’t think it was so late. But the last stroke of midnight had not yet finished oscillating in our ears, that at a point more distant and deeper in the horizon, we heard no longer ringing a steeple clock, but a big, dark bell. , slow and full, and the powerful vibrations of which stopped us both to listen to them.

“Do you hear, Master Tainnebouy? I said, a little moved, I admit, by that sinister brass clamor in the night; the bell rings at this hour: is it the fire?

“No,” he replied, “it’s not fire. The tocsin sounds faster, and this is slow like agony. Wait! here are five shots! here are six! here are seven! eight and nine! It’s over, we won’t ring any more.

-What is that? I said. The bell at this hour! It is very strange. Are our ears horny, by any chance? …

-Vere! strange indeed, but real! replied in a voice that I would not have recognized, if I had not been sure that it was he, Master Louis Tainnebouy, who was walking beside me in the[Pg 57] night and fog; this is the second time in my life that I have heard it, and the first has brought me enough bad luck so that I can no longer forget it. The night I heard it, sir, years ago, it was on the other side of Blanchelande, and minute by minute, by that hour, my dear child, four years old and seemed strong as father and mother, was dying of convulsions in his crib. What will happen to me this time?

“What is this bell of bad omen?” I said to my Cotentinais, whose impression won me over.

“Ah! he said, it is the bell of Blanchelande which rings the mass of the Abbé de la Croix-Jugan.

“Mass, Master Tainnebouy! I cried. Are you forgetting that we are in October, and not Christmas, in December, for midnight mass to be struck?

“I know it as well as you do, sir,” he said gravely; but the mass of the Abbé de la Croix-Jugan is not a Christmas mass, it is a mass for the Dead, without responses and without assistance, a terrible and horrible mass, if what is reported is true .

“And how can we know,” I went on; if no one attends, Master Louis?

“Ah! sir, said the farmer of Mont-de-Rauville,[Pg 58] this is how I heard it was known. The large portal of the current church of Blanchelande is the old portal of the abbey, which was devastated during the revolution, and we can still see in its oak panels the holes left by the bullets of the Blues. . However, I heard that several people who crossed the cemetery at night to go to a yew path which is nearby, astonished to see these holes let light pass, at such a time and when the church is locked, watched over there and saw this mass, that they never had the temptation to go and look a second time, I answer you for it! Besides, sir, neither you nor I are in the vineyards tonight, and we have just. All of Blanchelande have been hearing them for twenty years, like us, at different times; and in all the country there is no one who does not assure you that it is better to sleep and take a bad nap than to hear, from the bottom of his blankets, ringing the night mass of Father de la Croix-Jugan!

“And who is this Abbé de la Croix-Jugan, Master Tainnebouy,” I continued, “who allows himself to say mass at such an undue hour in all of Catholicism?”

[Pg 59]

-Do jostez not! sir, replied Master Louis. There is nothing to be laughed at about this. She was a creature that made others as miserable and criminal as she was. You were telling me about the Chouans only a minute ago, sir; well! it seems that he had chouané, priest though he was, because he was a monk at the abbey of Blanchelande when Bishop Talaru, an overwhelmed person who has since repented well, I have been told, and who died like a saint in emigration, came there to do the four blows with the lords of the surroundings! The Abbé de la Croix-Jugan had undoubtedly acquired, in the life we ​​led at the time in Blanchelande, those passions and vices which were to make him an object of horror for men and for himself, and curse for God, I saw it, me, in 18 ..,

It was then that I asked my traveling companion to tell me the story of the Abbé de la Croix-Jugan, and the good man did not need to be asked to tell me what he knew about it. I have always been a great lover and taster of legends and popular superstitions, which hide a deeper meaning than you might think, unnoticed by people’s minds.[Pg 60] superficial which scarcely seek in these kinds of stories than the interest of the imagination and a fleeting emotion. Only, if there was in the history of herbage what is commonly called the marvelous (as if the reverse side, the underside of all human things were not the marvelous just as inexplicable as what we deny, failing to explain it!), there were at the same time these events produced by the shock of passions or the inveteration of feelings, which give a story, whatever it is, the poignant interest and immortal of that phoenix of ramblers, whose repetitions are always new, and which is called the human heart. The shepherds of whom Master Tainnebouy had spoken to me, and to whom he attributed the accident to his horse, also played their part in its history. Although I do not share all his ideas with regard to them, however I was far from rejecting them, for I have always believed, instinctively as much as by reflection, in the two things on which magic ultimately rests. say: in the tradition of somesecrets , as Tainnebouy expressed himself, that initiated men mysteriously pass from hand to hand and from generation to generation, and to the intervention of occult and evil powers in the struggles of humanity. I have for myself in this opinion[Pg 61] the history of all times and places, at all levels of civilization among peoples, and what I esteem infinitely more than all stories, the irrefutable testimony of the Roman Church, which condemned in twenty places in the acts of his Councils, magic, witchcraft, charms, not as vain and perniciously false things, but as REAL things, and which his dogmas explained very well. As for the intervention of evil powers in the affairs of humanity, I still have on my side the testimony of the Church, and moreover I do not believe that what is happening in the world just now allow the most recalcitrant to doubt it … I ask that one pass me these serious words, attached a little too solemnly perhaps to the frontispiece of a story of grassland, told at night, in a Cotentin moor. This story, my traveling companion told me as he knew it, and he only knew the surfaces. It was enough to spur a mind like mine to penetrate its depths later. I naturally hate inventions. I could have, with my memory freshly imbued with the language of Master Tainnebouy, to write, when we had arrived at La Haie-du-Puits, all that he had told me, but I spent my time thinking about it, and that. the best I can say about it. Today was enough to spur a mind like mine to penetrate its depths later. I naturally hate inventions. I could have, with my memory freshly imbued with the language of Master Tainnebouy, to write, when we had arrived at La Haie-du-Puits, all that he had told me, but I spent my time thinking about it, and that. the best I can say about it. Today was enough to spur a mind like mine to penetrate its depths later. I naturally hate inventions. I could have, with my memory freshly imbued with the language of Master Tainnebouy, to write, when we had arrived at La Haie-du-Puits, all that he had told me, but I spent my time thinking about it, and that. the best I can say about it. Today[Pg 62] that a few years have passed, bringing me everything that completes my story, I will tell it in my own way, which, perhaps, will not be as good as that of my Cotentin herbager. Will it at least give those who read it the same pleasure of dreaming that I had to ruminate in my thoughts on the events and characters, the rest of that night, my elbow resting on a bad table? inn, between two flowing candles, in front of an embers of flaming fagot, at the bottom of a silent and black village, “in which I did not know a cat,” Master Louis Tainnebouy would have said – an expression which, by parenthesis, always seemed a little too cheerful to mean such a sad thing as isolation!