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- The Golden Lion of Granpere - 30/36 -


'It is the request that I have to make to you,' said Marie.

'Then I had better go down to your uncle.' And he went down to Michel Voss, leaving Marie Bromar again alone.

CHAPTER XVIII.

The people of Colmar think Colmar to be a considerable place, and far be it from us to hint that it is not so. It is--or was in the days when Alsace was French--the chief town of the department of the Haut Rhine. It bristles with barracks, and is busy with cotton factories. It has been accustomed to the presence of a prefet, and is no doubt important. But it is not so large that people going in and out of it can pass without attention, and this we take to be the really true line of demarcation between a big town and a little one. Had Michel Voss and Adrian Urmand passed through Lyons or Strasbourg on their journey to Granpere, no one would have noticed them, and their acquaintances in either of those cities would not have been a bit the wiser. But it was not probable that they should leave the train at the Colmar station, and hire Daniel Bredin's caleche for the mountain journey thence to Granpere, without all the facts of the case coming to the ears of Madame Faragon. And when she had heard the news, of course she told it to George Voss. She had interested herself very keenly in the affair of George's love, partly because she had a soft heart of her own and loved a ray of romance to fall in upon her as she sat fat and helpless in her easy- chair, and partly because she thought that the future landlord of the Hotel de la Poste at Colmar ought to be regarded as a bigger man and a better match than any Swiss linen-merchant in the world. 'I can't think what it is that your father means,' she had said. 'When he and I were young, he used not to be so fond of the people of Basle, and he didn't think so much then of a peddling buyer of sheetings and shirtings.' Madame Faragon was rather fond of alluding to past times, and of hinting to George that in early days, had she been willing, she might have been mistress of the Lion d'Or at Granpere, instead of the Poste at Colmar. George never quite believed the boast, as he knew that Madame Faragon was at least ten years older than his father. 'He used to think,' continued Madame Faragon, 'that there was nothing better than a good house in the public line, with a well-spirited woman inside it to stand her ground and hold her own. But everything is changed now, since the railroads came up. The pedlars become merchants, and the respectable old shopkeepers must go to the wall.' George would hear all this in silence, though he knew that his old friend was endeavouring to comfort him by making little of the Basle linen- merchant. Now, when Madame Faragon learned that Michel Voss and Adrian Urmand had gone through Colmar back from Basle on their way to Granpere, she immediately foresaw what was to happen. Marie's marriage was to be hurried on, George was to be thrown overboard, and the pedlar's pack was to be triumphant over the sign of the innkeeper.

'If I were you, George, I would dash in among them at once,' said Madame Faragon.

George was silent for a minute or two, leaving the room and returning to it before he made any answer. Then he declared that he would dash in among them at Granpere.

'It will be better to go over and see it all settled,' he said.

'But, George, you won't quarrel?'

'What do you mean by quarrelling? I don't suppose that this man and I can be very dear friends when we meet each other.'

'You won't have any fighting? O, George, if I thought there was going to be fighting, I would go myself to prevent it.' Madame Faragon no doubt was sincere in her desire that there should be no fighting; but, nevertheless, there was a life and reality about this little affair which had a gratifying effect upon her. 'If I thought I could do any good, I really would go,' she said again afterwards. But George did not encourage her to make the attempt.

No more was said about it; but early on the following morning, or in truth long before the morning had dawned, George had started upon his journey, following his father and M. Urmand in their route over the mountain. This was the third time he had gone to Granpere in the course of the present autumn, and on each time he had gone without invitation and without warning. And yet, previous to this, he had remained above a year at Colmar without taking any notice of his family. He knew that his father would not make him welcome, and he almost doubted whether it would be proper for him to drive himself direct to the door of the hotel. His father had told him, when they were last parting from each other, that he was nothing but a trouble. 'You are all trouble,' his father had said to him. And then his father had threatened to have him turned from the door by the servants, if he should come to the house again before Marie and Adrian were married. He was not afraid of his father; but he felt that he had no right to treat the Lion d'Or as his own home unless he was prepared to obey his father. And he knew nothing as to Marie and her purpose. He had learned from her that, were she left to herself, she would give herself with all her heart to him. But she would not be left to herself, and he only knew now that Adrian Urmand was being taken back to Granpere,--of course with the intention that the marriage should be at once perfected. Madame Faragon had, no doubt, been right in her advice as to dashing in among them at once. Whatever was to be done must be done now. But it was by no means clear to him how he was to carry on the war when he found himself among them all at Granpere.

It was now October, and the morning on the mountain was very dark and cold. He had started from Colmar between three and four, so that he had passed through Munster, and was ascending the hill before six. He stopped, too, and fed his horse at the Emperor's house at the top, and fortified himself with a tumbler of wine and a hunch of bread. He meant to go into Granpere and claim Marie as his own. He would go to the priest, and to the pastor if necessary, and forbid all authorities to lend their countenance to the proposed marriage. He would speak his mind plainly, and would accuse his father of extreme cruelty. He would call upon Madame Voss to save her niece. He would be very savage with Marie, hoping that he might thereby save her from herself,--defying her to say either before man or God that she loved the man whom she was about to make her husband. And as to Adrian Urmand himself--; he still thought that, should the worst come to the worst, he would try some process of choking upon Adrian Urmand. Any use of personal violence would be distasteful to him and contrary to his nature. He was not a man who in the ordinary way of his life would probably lift his hand against another. Such liftings of hands on the part of other men he regarded as a falling back to the truculence of savage life. Men should manage and coerce each other either with the tongue, or with money, or with the law--according to his theory of life. But on such an occasion as this he found himself obliged to acknowledge that, if the worst should come to the worst, some attempt at choking his enemy must be made. It must be made for Marie's sake, if not for his own. In this mood of mind he drove down to Granpere, and, not knowing where else to stop, drew up his horse in the middle of the road before the hotel. The stable-servant, who was hanging about, immediately came to him;--and there was his father standing, all alone, at the door of the house. It was now ten o'clock, and he had expected that his father would have been away from home, as was his custom at that hour. But the innkeeper's mind was at present too full of trouble to allow of his going off either to the woodcutting or to the farm.

Adrian Urmand, after his failure with Marie on the preceding evening, had not again gone down-stairs. He had taken himself at once to his bedroom, and had remained there gloomy and unhappy, very angry with Marie Bromar; but, if possible, more angry with Michel Voss. Knowing, as he must have known, how the land lay, why had the innkeeper brought him from Basle to Granpere? He found himself to have been taken in, from first to last, by the whole household, and he would at this moment have been glad to obliterate Granpere altogether from among the valleys of the Vosges. And so he went to bed in his wrath. Michel and Madame Voss sat below waiting for him above an hour. Madame Voss more than once proposed that she should go up and see what was happening. It was impossible, she declared, that they should be talking together all that time. But her husband had stayed her. 'Whatever they have to say, let them say it out.' It seemed to him that Marie must be giving way, if she submitted herself to so long an interview. When at last Madame Voss did go up-stairs, she learned from the maid that M. Urmand had been in bed ever so long; and on going to Marie's chamber, she found her sitting where she had sat before. 'Yes, Aunt Josey, I will go to bed at once,' she said. 'Give uncle my love.' Then Aunt Josey had returned to her husband, and neither of them had been able to extract any comfort from the affairs of the evening.

Early on the following morning, M. le Cure was called to a consultation. This was very distasteful to Michel Voss, because he was himself a Protestant, and, having lived all his life with a Protestant son and two Roman Catholic women in the house, he had come to feel that Father Gondin's religion was a religion for the weaker sex. He troubled himself very little with the doctrinal differences, having no slightest touch of an idea that he was to be saved because he was a Protestant, and that they were in peril because they were Roman Catholics. Nor, indeed, was there any such idea on either side prevalent in the valley. What M. le Cure himself may have believed, who can say? But he never taught his parishioners that their Protestant uncles and wives and children were to be damned. Michel Voss was averse to priestly assistance; but now he submitted to it. He hardly knew himself how far that betrothal was a binding ceremony. But he felt strongly that he had committed himself to the marriage; that it did not become him to allow that his son had been right; and also that if Marie would only marry the man, she would find herself quite happy in her new home. So M. le Cure was called in, and there was a consultation. M. le Cure was quite as hot in favour of the marriage as were the other persons concerned. It was, in the first place, infinitely preferable in his eyes that his young parishioner should marry a Roman Catholic. But he was not able to undertake to use any special thunders of the Church. He could tell the young woman what was her duty, and he had done so. If her guardians wished it, he would do so again, very strongly. But he did not know how he was to do more. Then the priest told the story of Annette Lolme, pointing out how well Marie was acquainted with all the bearings of the case.

'But both consented to break it off in that case,' said Michel. It was singular to observe how cruel he had become against the girl whom he so dearly loved. The Cure explained to him again that neither the Church nor the law could interfere to make her marry M. Urmand. It might be explained to her that she would commit a sin requiring penitence and absolution if she did not marry him. The Church could go no farther than that. But--such was the Cure's opinion--there was no power at the command of Michel Voss by which he could force his niece to marry the man, unless his own internal


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