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A TALE OF TUE INUNDATIONS IN FRANCE.
dreaded the post, lest, instead of the bold writing “ Well, you must reinember that Catherine of her son, it should bring her a cold official let- lost her mother when she was an infant, and has ter, to tell her that her only child had followed his been her father's spoiled child; besides, she has father to a soldier's grave.
many admirers, and it is but natural that a young But a happier fate was in store for her ; she girl's head should be somewhat turned by all the received a letter from Victor full of wondering | flattery she has received. Why I have even been thankfulness that be had been spared, when his told that her father's employer, the rich M. Lubin, companions on both sides were mowed down in would give his right hand, to say nothing of half their desperate rush upon the Malakoff, and the his fortune, to marry her.” mother read with pride that he had been one of “ And what does Catherine say to such a magthe first to enter the fort, which had procured for nificent proposal ?" asked Victor with a clouded him the special notice of his commanding officer. brow. Some months after, when the welcome peace was “It is said that she tells him she does not care proclaimed, Jeannie set herself to work, to prepare a pin for him ; but he will persist in being at the the house for his return; and, early in the after- house every day, and is her very shadow, and there noon on which our story commences, as she was is no knowing what perseverance might not have kneeling down on the floor, arranging some linen done if her favoured lover had not returned to which she had just ironed, in a basket, she felt claim her ; but with all her little follies, Catherine two hands laid upon her shoulders, and starting is true at heart; she is an excellent daughter and up found berself in the arms of her soldier son. will be a good wife.” Four years absence had altered him much ; the “ And how does Pierre get on-is he still a slight boy was become a firm and active man, and journeyman weaver ?” the Eastern climate had browned his fair skin; but "Oh, no; he is become a chef d'atelier, ' lives there was the same bright, honest expression, and au troisième in the same house where he formerly the same loving heart, and the mother rejoiced lived au neuvième, has the whole flat to himself indeed to find him unchanged in all but personal and his looms, employs several men under bim, and appearance.
is reputed to be the most skilful weaver in “ Home looks very comfortable after the Lyons.” trenches,” said Victor, as he glauced round the “ Mother, I see the rain has ceased; I think, if neat room, with its bright stone, white walls, and you will give me something to eat, I will just go well cared for pieces of furniture; "that old press, across to the Merciers' to-night.
I shall soon and the little table look to me like particular return, but I don't think I shall sleep till I have friends, and here is actually my own favourite seen Catherine. What weather it is," added he, chair ready for me. But what a superb new cushion going to the window, and looking upon the it has ! why, mother, I saw nothing prettier than drenched world without, “it looks as if it had this in the Turkish bazaar at Constantinople.” been raining for a month.”
" It was made by Catherine Mercier's nimble “We have had ten days' incessant rain, and the fingers," answered she, “in preparation for your lower parts of the city are flooded; it is to be return."
hoped that we shall have fine weather soon, or I This piece of information was evidently very am afraid the rivers will be rising much higher.” gratifying to the young man, for he regarded the Bustling about, she soon prepared a meal for cushion more carefully and tenderly, and as he her son, and when it was despatched, she sent bim bent over the embroidered flowers, said in a low forth with many injunctions to return in good voice, “How is Catherine, mother ?”
time. For," said she, “I shall be afraid it's a Blooming as a rose, and brisk as a marmotte. dream that you are at home again, until I see you Every Sunday she comes across in time to accom. back." pany me to mass, and then she spends the rest of Crossing the Saone, Victor passed through the the day here. In winter, Pierre comes to fetch crowded streets of Lyons, and leaving the Place his daughter home, but in summer we go to the des Terreaux, he reached the Pont Morand. When Promenade, and afterwards I sup with them." be arrived at the middle of the bridge, he bent
"And do you think she remembers me ?” asked over the parapet for a moment. “Strange," said Victor.
he to himself, “I well remember a curious stone “Pray do you think," said his mother, smiling, carved like a dog's head, which projected from " that the prettiest girl in Lyons, who might have that piet many feet above the water, and now I been married well twenty times, would come and cannot see it, the rise must be high indeed.” spend all her Sundays and fête days with a stupid Upon reaching the other side, he passed through old woman, if that old woman had not a certain the more stately streets, to the quarter of La absent soldier son ?"
Petite Californie, which is situated to the East of Vietor laughed as he seized his bright little Les Brotteaux, and turning into a narrow street, mother in his arms, and kissed her again and he stopped at the general entrance of the third again. "Ah, but you know," said he, “that she house on the left hand side. Like most of the was a sad flirt four years ago, and I have always houses in Lyons, it was constructed of wooden heard that such a disease increases with age.” frarning filled in with bricks, and consisted of nine
flats, which roso in dizzy height, though some of we have not been a little anxious about you, I can the neighbouring tenements were even higher. So tell you,” said he, advaucing and embracing the densely populated was the street that, though young soldier heartily. “lle is the son of an erected within the last forty years, the houses had old friend of ours, M. Lubin," added he, turniag a stained look, as if they had borne the wear and to that gentleman, “and we have known him ever tear of many generations. Ascending the general since he was a boy." staircase, the young soldier stopped at a door an M. Lubin bowed very coldly, a young soldier in troisième, and tapping lightly, he lifted the latch faded regimentals was not interesting to him; and entered a spacious room.
besides, he saw, with true instinct, that Victor Large logs of wood were blazing merrily upon was a rival, and therefore he felt hostile to him the hearth stone, for the continued wet weather at once. rendered a fire an indispensable comfort, notwith: “Come, we will all sit down to supper now," standing the late season. The apartment was
said Pierre. “M. Lubin, allow me to have the likewise lighted by lamps, and at a table in one honour of assisting you—an excellent omelette I corner sat two men, with papers and patterns can assure you ; Catherine's fingers are as success. spread out before them, the one writing from the ful in the production of made dishes, as in other's dictation. The elder of the two was embroidery." dressed in the ordinary garb of a superior Lyonese "Anything made by Mademoiselle Catherine weaver, but his companion evidently belonged to must be, like herself, charming,” said he, with a a very different class. His coat was made of the complimentary bow. finest material, cut in the extremity of the fashion, Catherine replied with some lively badinage, he wore a richly embroidered waistcoat, and his and she and M. Lubin kept up an animated convaluable rings, numerous gold chains, and diamond versation during supper, to which, it must be conbreast pin testified to the wealth of the wearer, if fessed, the other two did not contribute. Victor not to his taste ; and Victor at once decided that was seated near Pierre, and numberless were the he was in the presence of his rival, M. Lubin. questions which the kind-hearted old man asked But the glance was momentary, for in the centre bim respecting all that he had seen in the East, of the room, arranging a table for supper, was to which he replied rather absently, for bis eyes Catherine Mercier.
were following Catherine's every morement, and, If Victor bad carried away with him a pleasant marking with jealous ire the officious attentions impression of her-if, during the last few months, of the rich merchant, which seemed to him fahe had been picturing to himself what he should vourably received. “Ah," thought he, “M. Lufind her after four years' absence, and had painted bin may be as stout and as selfish as needs be, but his imaginary portrait in lover's colours, he was women are so bewitched by riches, fine clothes, pot destined to be disappointed in her appearance. and flattery, that a poor soldier like me, has no Rather under the middle height, her figure, though chance." At last M. Lubin, excited by affability slight, was beautifully rounded, and shown off to to which he was not accustomed, gave vent to the best advantage by her perfectly fitting dress. his dislike to Victor in sarcastic speeches directed Her features were regular and good, ber dark at him, and which were the harder to bear as they brown eyes were shaded by lashes of a darker often called forth Catherine's merry laugh. Victor hue, but it was in the expression of her counten- was fagged and depressed, and rose to go. ance that Catherine Mercier's chief attraction lay. “Do not go yet, my good sellow," said Pierre ; There was not one emotion, from the deep tender. “ I have not heard about the Malakoff.” ness of a true woman to the veriest mischief of "I promised my mother that I would be at an arch coquette, that did not occasionally assert home in good time. I only arrived in Lyons this its right to play over her features, changing them afternoon, and she begged that I would not stay as the shadows of the ever varying clouds alter a long." sunny landscape. When Victor entered, she turned “But it is so early," said Catherine, whose her bead towards him, and her first recognition conscience was stinging her, as she looked at his was all that he could desire ; her face lighted up, sad face, “ do stay." and she sprang forward to meet him with a de- “I am very sorry, but I cannot; I promised to lighted exclamation ; but suddenly, partly from leave at nine, and I must keep my word.” shyness, partly because she felt that M. Lubin's “Oh, certainly,” said Catherine, hastily, attention had been attracted, and that great man “pray do not put yourself out of the way to do was watching her with his fishy eyes, and partly, me a little favour," and with an offended air she perhaps, from a feminine, but not very amiable turned away, and began taking the things from desire, to tease her lover, she drew back, and the table. giving him her hand, said coldly
Victor bit his lip. M. Lubiu smiled spitefalls, “So, Maitre Victor, you are come home at last.' | and Pierre, who was blind to all that was going
“Victor!" exclaimed her father, who had been on, bade him good night, after affectionately entoo much engrossed with his writing to hear the treating bim to come again soon. The young man door open, "Victor Chapereau, welcome, my brave bowed haughtily to M. Lubin, then went close to fellow, I am very glad to see you safe back again ; Catherine and held out his hand, looking grarely
A TALE OF TIE INUNDATIONS IN FRANCE.
and sadly in her face. Now, if Catherine had | hausted. Even his restless miscry could not keep given way to the impulse of the moment, she him awake ; for, after tossing about for a short would have thrown her arms round his neck, con time, tired nature asserted her claiin, and scaled fessed herself a little goose, said that she admired his senses in a blessed forgetfulness. and loved him, and that never had M. Lubin been He was awakened ere it was light the next so bateful to her as this evening, and thus sent morning by his mother, who was obliged to shake bim away happy; but strong as the inclination bim by the shoulder to rouse him from his heavy was, it was combatted by a spice of coquettish sleep. pride ; so she merely shook hands coldly, and said, “Why, mother," said he, rubbing his cyes, "I soppose you will honour us with your com- " what on earth do you want me to get up sor ? pany again, soon ?”
it is not light yet. I thought I was to sleep till "Not unless our meeting is likely to be a bap- noon. pier one than this has been,” said he hastily, and .“My son, the floods are out, the Rhonc has at once left the room.
risen fearfully, and is still rising; they say La We all know how bitter it is when we return Petite Californie is under water to the second after a long absence, full of anticipation of our story. Pierre Mercier, who came
across last first meeting with those we love, to find ourselves night with M. Lubin, to be ready for some orders awakened from our pleasant dreams by some cold in the morning, was attempting to return home, and disappointing reality. Often our hearts are when a piece of timber fell upon liim and broke too full to utter the many tender speeches we his leg. They carried him to his sister's house have, as it were, been conning over, and often near here, and he has sent this note to you." those we meet, perhaps from the same cause, do Victor had jumped up, and was putting on his not at first welcome us so warmly as our yearning clothes ; he took the crumpled piece of paper, and love has expected, and thus these meetings are read the following note :generally sad ones. So poor Victor felt, as he "My brave friend, --La Petite Californie is left La Petite Californie, and struck towards home. flooded ; I am disabled. Save my daughter if it If he had not heard the reports about M. Lubin, is not even now too late.--Pierre MERCIER.” it is probable he would not have heeded Catherine's It took but a few minutes to equip the ready coldness ; but the slight suspicion which his conver- soldier; his mother made him take some food to sation with his mother aroused had rankled in his eat as he went along. mind, and thus he had been too watchful, too ripe “You will need all your strength,” said she, to take offence, which had rendered his manner " and must eat it for my sake.” cold and constrained. But he was too much hurt He knelt down for an instant as he used to do to examine how far he was himself to blame ; for, when a little boyas Coleridge says :
“Bless me, my mother, ere I go forth." To be wroth with one we love,
She laid her hand upon his head, and with a
choked voice said, Doth work like madness in the brain;
"God preserve you, my own beloved son.” so he dashed on, regardless of everything but bis He rose, took her in his arms, gave her one own bitter thoughts. Had he been less engrossed, long, long loving embrace--feeling it might be the he would have observed much around him to last--and then he sped away upon his perilous raise alarm. Already had the Rhone risen several enterprise. feet since he had crossed it earlier in the evening, Descending the hill of Fourvieres, Victor saw and, when he re-entered Lyons the streets were in the faint morning light a terrible panorama of unusually thronged with people, some transporting destruction before him. Both rivers were rushing furniture and goods from the lower parts of the madly along, studded with the spoils of their extown which were flooded, others collecting in panded and resistless waters. The Rhone, espeshivering groups under arches or any projecting cially, he observed, was dotted over with the eaves which afforded some shelter against the objects which were being carried away ; and fear. pitiless rain, which was again pouring down. In ing lest indeed he was too late, be dashed reck. some streets near the Saone, Victor splashed in lessly on. In his passage through the city, he had water up to his knees, but even this failed to nearer and stronger evidence of the extent of the arouse his attention. Asceuding the steep hill, inundations. Though he chose the higher parts, he reached home drenched to the skin, and his as less likely to impede his headlong career, he had mother at once perceived that he had been ever and anon glimpses of streets in which the wounded instead of pleased by his visit. But water was rushing like a river, where whole houses avoiding any painful questions, she only tried by were crumbling down; where the roofs were every loving attention to soothe and comfort him. crowded with refugees from the rising floods ; She persuaded him to go to bed, and made him where boats were passing to and fro, and bastily some hot coffee, and when he had drank it, she constructed rafts, ladened with women and childreu left him to the sleep he so greatly required. He just rescued, some even in their night clothes, were had been so anxious to reach home that he had slowly moving to some place of shelter. In his not slept for three nights, and was completely ex. path were groups who had been landed-children
wailing and calling in heartrending accents for Victor's boat shot past; "half of my fortune their parents ; mothers rushing wildly about seekshall you have if you will save that girl.” ing for their lost children, and refusing to be com- “Beware,' cried an old sailor," it will be cerforted. Others were sitting down in hopeless detain death." spair, having seen those they loved best crushed in Victor turned his pale face for one instant, and some quick ruin, or carried away by the raging shouted proudly, waters.
“Money cannot save her, M. Lubin ; perhaps Victor sickened at the sight of so much misery, true love may." and dashed across the nearest bridge. On the A murmur of applause burst from the crowd. other side he seized a small boat, and getting a
“Here my brave fellow,” cried the old sailor, soldier to help him, they transported it through throwing a rope into the boat, " tie that fast; we some streets which were protected by an embank- shall pull you back more quickly than you can ment, and then launched it on the flood. Victor row, and there is no time to be lost; may God found that the rapid current was in his favour; he speed you." stood in the prow, guiding the boat with a pole,
Victor seized the rope, and knotted it to a seat; and guarding it from the various obstacles which gave one desperate stroke, and his boat, released were floating about. A turn or two more would from some stones which had stopped it, shot bring him within sight of Catherine's dwelling, but under the yawning shadow of the trembling a cross current met him, and he had a serious house. struggle to prevent its carrying him away ; but, by
Catherine had given up all hope— life is very a strong effort he turned the boat round the right sweet to the young ; and it was with an agonised corner, and then-ol!-heavens how fearful was heart that she had watched the boatmen—had the scene that burst upon his sight!
seen M. Lubin's fruitless gesticulations, and felt The water, which was bearing him ou, was up
that po human aid was to be procured. All the to the third story, and was rapidly rising ; but events of her past life flashed across her mind, and there was a greater danger attending Catherine bitter was her penitence for every folly which had than the angry flood. The two first houses on the looked so little till seen unde the shadow of left hand side of the street, sapped from their death. She felt that she could meet her fate more foundations, had fallen in one great crash, whilst calmly if she could have said one word to Victor the next, being the one in which the Merciers
- but where was he? A sudden and more violent dwelt
, was swaying to and fro with every impulse movement of the house, convinced her that the of the fierce tide, and seemed as if, in one instant, time was short, and shutting her eyes, she knelt it would follow its companions. Victor saw all down and commended herself to God. this, though still at a considerable distance, and
A strong hand laid upon her shoulder called her also observed that Catherine was at the window back to life, and starting up, she saw her lover just above the water, alone, and clasping her hands standing in the boat, keeping it close to the winas if for aid.
dow by leaning his whole weight upon the sill. · With desperate strokes he sent his boat forward
“Quick, quick," cried he, "jump into the reckless of the broken boards, pieces of furniture, boat. God grant that it may not be too late." and animals which were thronging in his course.
She sprang lightly down; Victor pushed away As he neared the place of danger he came upon a the scene with breathless attention, tightened the
from the house; the boatmen, who were watching side street, which rose above the water, and on which were assembled a considerable number of rope, and drew them rapidly back. Scarcely were people watching the falling house. There were
they at a safe distance, when the whole building boats moored near, in which they had brought off fell with a terrible crash, and confused heaps of the rest of the inhabitants; but Catherine had timbers and bricks, round which the water hissed been aroused too late, and did not come to the and foamed, were all the remains of what had so window till they bad steered off. Just afterwards bid her face. Victor, who till this instant had
lately been her home. Catherine shuddered and the other houses fell, and now no one would go to been silent, his compressed lips and frowning brow rescue the helpless girl. Amidst the group was alone testifying his deep anxiety, exclaimed, M. Lubin on horseback, vainly urging the boatmen to make the attempt.
“ Thank God we are safe !" “ Ten thousand francs to any one who will save
They were drawn to the bank, and landed
amidst the cheers of the spectators. When M. Catherine Mercier," cried he.
Lubin saw that Catherine was out of danger, There was not a movement, and the sad looks saved by his hated rival, be pulled his bat over of the boatmen betokened how desperate the case his brows, and spurred his horse away from the was.
spot. Victor having thanked the boatmen warmly "Twenty thousand-forty thousand shall it be," for their sympathy and help, took the poor girl cried he.
upon bis arm, and winding his way by the more Still no one stirred—life was dearer to them protected streets of Les Brotteaux, got safe
across one of the bridges which yet remained un. “Young man,' roared the frantic merchant, as flooded.
A TALE OF TIIE INUNDATIONS IN FRANCE.
But danger still held her naked sword above | head, "I do not seem to care for anything. The their heads. Now they were obliged to fly from Emperor has been down to Lyons ; I had just been falling houses, as they passed in a boat through getting some poor woman out of a tottering house, some of the flooded streets. Then, as they pur- when I was called by a gentleman, and obeying sued their way on foot, they met a fierce current the summons, I found myself in the presence of forcing its way in a new channel. Now they had his Majesty, who was standing in the midst of the to thread a terror-stricken crowd, so dense and floods half-way up to his waist in water, and by reckless that it required all Victor's strength to his side was my commanding officer, and he spoke guard his companion from being crushed. Misery a few words to the Emperor ; and then bis Ma. aud confusion were on every side—mutilated sui- | jesty called me to him, and decorated me with the serers were being carried on stretchers to the hos- Cross of the Legion of Honour, for what he called pitals, and sounds of grief and wild despair rang my gallantry in saving the “inondis."'* And he in their ears. At last, weary, faint, and drenched, farther said, that hearing of my conduct at the Victor led the poor girl to her aunt's house, and Malakoff, he would give me a commission; and without waiting to allow her to speak one word of so your son, dearest mother, will be Lieutenant the love and gratitude which her full heart was Chapereau," said he, smiling; " but somehow I do struggling to express, he left her. And so the not seem to care for it as much as I ought to do. cloud still rested between them.
My head is so bad,” added he, throwing himself Pierre welcomed his daughter with deep emo- on the ground, and laying his head in his mother's tion; he had scarcely boped to see her again, and lap, “I feel as if I had no strength left.” received her almost as one given him back from She put her hand upon his head, it was burning the dead. His leg had been set, and Catherine hot; she felt his pulse, it was beating wildly. She found him as comfortable as under the circum- saw at once what was the matter-over fatigue, stances could be expected. Again and again he sorrow of mind, the dreadful scenes he had passed made her relate the tale of her danger and her through, and the constant exposure to wet and rescue, and the warm praises be uttered of Victor's cold, had been too much for him to bear; and her bravery were as music to her ears.
gallant son—her only child — was stricken with The young soldier had gone at once to his a deadly fever. mother's home, to relieve her fears, and get some When Catherine called an hour afterwards, she necessary food, but he would not stay to rest. found the anxious mother listening to the minute
“No, mother,” said he, “ I have saved Cathe- directions of a physician, who said that it was a rine, and her life has been granted to our prayers; very serious case. Though Jeannie was rather there are thousands of helpless women and children disposed to be angry with her, the sight of Cathein danger and distress, and in very gratitude Irine's misery, when she heard of Victor's illness, must go and do my best to succour them." and found that he was already unconscious, touched
Three days and nights did he labour amongst her heart ; and of her own accord she asked the the suffering population of his native city. Where poor girl to come and help her to nurse him, knowdanger was the greatest, and misery the deepest, ing that it was what she was longing to do. Cathere was Victor, battling with the floods, helping therine thankfully agreed to do so, and went home those who seemed to have none to help them; to tell her father of this new call upon her time. cheering the fearful, repressing the selfish. And He was progressing favourably, was in no danger, awful were the scenes through which he passed ; and having his sister to wait upon him, he warmly streets in the most densely populated parts of approved of his daughter's going to nurse her brave Lyons were flooded, and in many instances the preserver. houses washed down, oftentimes carrying in their It is very sad to watch by the sick bed of a man ruins their wretched inhabitants. Boats contain in the prime of youth and strength; to see the ing the rescued were dashed to pieces by the body helpless as a little child ; the hands vainly debris which were being carried about by the endeavouring to grasp anything—the restless head raging waters; and those who had just begun to that tosses from side to side; the parched lips. taste the sweetness of hope, were, with heart- But it is sadder far when the patient is one rending shrieks, hurled to their death. Cemeteries whom we love best upon earth-when on the were flooded, and the graves torn up gave forth issue depends our happiness or our bitterest sortheir dead, whose bodies, in every stage of decay, row. Very silent was that sick room-few were floated in ghastly guise upon the face of the their words, but constant were their prayers. By waters. Even with the blessed consciousness of turns Jeannie and Catherine sat up at night ; and doing his best to lesson the suffering, Victor’s heart it was a slight consolation to the latter to try by sickened within him.
every loving care to deaden the bitter thoughts He had not slept the whole time; he only occa- which were thronging in her mind, and which, sionally ran home to assure his anxious mother of when she feared he might die without hearing ber bis safety, and take some necessary food. But confession of folly, and speaking one word of forthe fourth evening he walked wearily in.
giveness, were well-nigh insupportable. Day suc“Mother, dear, I ought to be proud and happy, but somehow," said he, putting his hand to his * Inondis-sufferers from an inundation.