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- The Reign Of Terror - 6/50 -
had heard M. du Tillet tell the marquis on the previous day that this dog, which was a great favourite, seemed strange and unquiet, and he had ordered it to be chained up. It had evidently broken its fastening, for it was dragging a piece of chain some six feet long behind It.
It flashed across him at once that the animal was mad, but without an instant's hesitation he dashed off at full speed and threw himself in front of the ladies before the dog reached them. Snatching off his coat, and then kneeling on one knee, he awaited the animal's attack. Without deviating from its course the hound sprang at him with a short snarling howl. Harry threw his coat over its head and then grasped it round the neck.
The impetus of the spring knocked him over, and they rolled together on the ground. The animal struggled furiously, but Harry retained his grasp round its neck. In vain the hound tried to free itself from its blinding encumbrance, or to bite his assailant through it, and struggled to shake off his hold with its legs and claws. Harry maintained his grasp tightly round its neck, with his head pressed closely against one of its ears. Several times they rolled over and over. At last Harry made a great effort when he was uppermost, and managed to get his knees upon the animal's belly, and then, digging his toes in the ground, pressed with all his weight upon it.
There was a sound as of cracking of bones, then the dog's struggles suddenly ceased, and his head fell over, and Harry rose to his feet by the side of the dead hound just as a number of men, with pitch-forks and other weapons, ran up to the spot from the stables, while the marquis, sword in hand, arrived from the house.
The gouvernante, too, paralysed by fear, had stood close by with her charges while the struggle was going on. Ernest had come up, and was standing in front of his sisters, ready to be the next victim if the dog had overpowered Harry. Less accustomed to running than the English boy, and for a moment rooted to the ground with horror at his sisters' danger, he had not arrived at the spot until the struggle between Harry and the dog was half over, and had then seen no way of rendering assistance; but believing that the dog was sure to be the conqueror, he had placed himself before his sisters to bear the brunt of the next assault.
Seeing at a glance that his daughters were untouched, the marquis ran on to Harry, who was standing panting and breathless, and threw his arms round him.
"My brave boy," he exclaimed, "you have saved my daughters from a dreadful death by your courage and devotion. How can I and their mother ever thank you? I saw it all from the terrace - the speed with which you sprang to their assistance - the quickness of thought with which you stripped off your coat and threw it over its head. After that I could see nothing except your rolling over and over in a confused mass. You are not hurt, I trust?"
"Not a bit, sir," Harry said.
"And you have killed it - wonderful!"
"There was nothing in that, sir. I have heard my father, who is a doctor, say that a man could kill the biggest dog if he could get it down on its back and kneel on it. So when I once managed to get my knees on it I felt it was all right."
"Ah, it is all very well for you to speak as if it were nothing!" the marquis said. "There are few men, indeed, who would throw themselves in the way of a mad dog, especially of such a formidable brute as that. You too have behaved with courage, my son, and I saw you were ready to give your life for your sisters; but you had not the quickness and readiness of your friend, and would have been too late."
"It is true, father," Ernest said in a tone of humility. "I should have been too late, and, moreover, I should have been useless, for he would have torn me down in a moment, and then fallen upon my sisters. "M. Sandwith," he said frankiy, "I own I have been wrong. I have thought the games of which you spoke, and your fighting, rough and barbarous; but I see their use now. You have put me to shame. When I saw that dog I felt powerless, for I had not my sword with me; but you - you rushed to the fight without a moment's hesitation, trusting in your strength and your head. Yes, your customs have made a man of you, while I am a boy still."
"You are very good to say so," Harry said; "but I am quite sure that you would be just as quick and ready as me in most circumstances, and if it had been a matter of swords, very much more useful; but I am glad you see there is some advantage in our rough English ways."
The marquis had put his hand approvingly upon Ernest's shoulder when he addressed Harry, and then turned to his daughters. The governess had sunk fainting to the ground when she saw that the danger was over. Virginie had thrown herself down and was crying loudly; while Jeanne stood pale, but quiet, beside them.
The marquis directed one of the men to run up to the chateau and bid a female servant bring down water and smelling-salts for the governess, and then lifted Virginie up and tried to soothe her, while he stretched out his other hand to Jeanne.
"You are shaken, my Jeanne," he said tenderly, "but you have borne the trial well. I did not hear you cry out, though madame, and the little one screamed loudly enough."
"I was frightened enough, father," she said simply, "but of course I wasn't going to cry out; but it was very terrible; and oh, how noble and brave he was! And you know, papa, I feel ashamed to think how often I have been nearly laughing because he was awkward in the minuet. I feel so little now beside him."
"You see, my dear, one must not judge too much by externals," her father said soothingly as she hid her face against his coat, and he could feel that she was trembling from head to foot. "Older people than you often do so, and are sorry for it afterwards; but as I am sure that you would never allow him to see that you were amused no harm has been done."
"Shall I thank him, papa?"
"Yes, presently, my dear; he has just gone off with Ernest to see them bury the dog."
This incident caused a considerable change in Harry's position in the family. Previously he had been accepted in consequence of the orders of the marquis. Although compelled to treat him as an equal the two boys had in their hearts looked upon him as an inferior, while the girls had regarded him as a sort of tutor of their brothers, and thus as a creature altogether indifferent to them. But henceforth he appeared in a different light. Ernest acted up to the spirit of the words he had spoken at the time, and henceforth treated him as a comrade to be respected as well as liked. He tried to learn some of the English games, but as most of these required more than two players he was forced to abandon them. He even asked him to teach him to box, but Harry had the good sense to make excuses for not doing so. He felt that Ernest was by no means his match in strength, and that, with all his good-will, he would find it difficult to put up good-naturedly with being knocked about. He therefore said that it could not be done without boxing-gloves, and these it would be impossible to obtain in France; and that in the next place he should hardly advise him to learn even if he procured the gloves, for that in such contests severe bruises often were given.
"We think nothing of a black eye," he said laughing, "but I am sure madame your mother would not be pleased to see you so marked; besides, your people would not understand your motive in undertaking so rough an exercise, and you might lose somewhat of their respect. Be content, Count Ernest; you are an excellent swordsman, and although I am improving under M. du Tillet's tuition I shall never be your match. If you like; sometime when we are out and away from observation we can take off our coats, and I can give you a lesson in wrestling; it is a splendid exercise, and it has not the disadvantages of boxing."
Little Jules looked up to Harry as a hero, and henceforth, when they were together, gave him the same sort of implicit obedience he paid to his elder brother. The ceremonious habits of the age prevented anything like familiarity on the part of the younger girls; but Jeanne and Virginie now always greeted him with a smile when they met, and joined in conversation with him as with their brothers in the evening.
The marquise, who had formerly protested, if playfully, against her husband's whim in introducing an English boy into their family circle, now regarded him with real affection, only refraining from constant allusions to the debt she considered she owed him because she saw that he really shrank from the subject.
The marquis shortly after this incident went to Paris for a fortnight to ascertain from his friends there the exact position of things. He returned depressed and angry.
The violence of the Assembly had increased from day to day. The property of all the convents had been confiscated, and this measure had been followed by the seizure of the vast estates of the church. All the privileges of the nobility had been declared at an end, and in August a decree had been passed abolishing all titles of nobility. This decree had taken effect in Paris and in the great towns, and also in some parts of the country where the passions of the people were most aroused against the nobility; but in Burgundy it had remained a dead letter. The Marquis de St. Caux was popular upon his estates, and no one had ever neglected to concede to him and to the marquise their titles. He himself had regarded the decree with disdain. "They may take away my estates by force," he said, "but no law can deprive me of my title, any more than of the name which I inherited from my fathers. Such laws as these are mere outbursts of folly."
But the Assembly continued to pass laws of the most sweeping description, assuming the sovereign power, and using it as no monarch of France had ever ventured to do. Moderate men were shocked at the headlong course of events, and numbers of those who at the commencement of the movement had thrown themselves heart and soul into it now shrank back in dismay at the strange tyranny which was called liberty.
"It seems to me that a general madness has seized all Paris," the marquis said to his wife on his return, "but at present nothing can be done to arrest it. I have seen the king and queen. His majesty is resolved to do nothing; that is, to let events take their course,
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