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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesLorraine: A Romance - Chapter 31. The Prophecy Of Lorraine
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Lorraine: A Romance - Chapter 31. The Prophecy Of Lorraine Post by :noidle Category :Long Stories Author :Robert W. Chambers Date :May 2012 Read :3638

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Lorraine: A Romance - Chapter 31. The Prophecy Of Lorraine


When the Vicomte and Madame de Morteyn arrived in Sedan from Brussels the last of the French prisoners had been gone a week; the foul city was swept clean; the corpse-choked river no longer flung its dead across the shallows of the island of Glaires; the canal was untroubled by the ghastly freight of death that had collected like logs on a boom below the village of Iges.

All day the tramp of Prussian patrols echoed along the stony streets; all day the sinister outburst of the hoarse Bavarian bugles woke the echoes behind the ramparts. Red Cross flags drooped in the sunshine from churches, from banks, from every barrack, every depot, every public building. The pest flags waved gaily over the Asylum and the little Museum. A few appeared along the Avenue Philippoteaux, others still fluttered on the Gothic church and the convent across the Viaduc de Torcy. Three miles away the ruins of the village of Bazeilles lay in the bright September sunshine. Bavarian soldiers in greasy corvee lumbered among the charred chaos searching for their dead.

The plain of Illy, the heights of La Moncelle, Daigny, Givonne, and Frenois were vast cemeteries. Dredging was going on along the river, whither the curious small boys of Sedan betook themselves and stayed from morning till night watching the recovering of rusty sabres, bayonets, rifles, cannon, and often more grewsome flotsam. It was probably the latter that drew the small boys like flies; neither the one nor the other are easily glutted with horrors.

The silver trumpets of the Saxon Riders were chorusing the noon call from the Porte de Paris when a long train crept into the Sedan station and pulled up in the sunshine, surrounded by a cordon of Hanover Riflemen. One by one the passengers passed into the station, where passports were shown and apathetic commissaires took charge of the baggage.

There were no hacks, no conveyances of any kind, so the tall, white-bearded gentleman in black, who stood waiting anxiously for his passport, gave his arm to an old lady, heavily veiled, and bowed down with the sudden age that great grief brings. Beside her walked a young girl, also in deep mourning.

A man on crutches directed them to the Place Turenne, hobbling after them to murmur his thanks for the piece of silver the girl slipped into his hands.

"The number on the house is 31," he repeated; "the pest flag is no longer outside."

"The pest?" murmured the old man under his breath.

At that moment a young girl came out of the crowded station, looking around her anxiously.

"Lorraine!" cried the white-haired man.

She was in his arms before he could move. Madame de Morteyn clung to her, too, sobbing convulsively; Dorothy hid her face in her black-edged handkerchief.

After a moment Lorraine stepped back, drying her sweet eyes. Dorothy kissed her again and again.

"I--I don't see why we should cry," said Lorraine, while the tears ran down her flushed cheeks. "If he had died it would have been different."

After a silence she said again:

"You will see. We are not unhappy--Jack and I. Monsieur Grahame came yesterday with Rickerl, who is doing very well."

"Rickerl here, too?" whispered Dorothy.

Lorraine slipped an arm through hers, looking back at the old people.

"Come," she said, serenely, "Jack is able to sit up." Then in Dorothy's ear she whispered, "I dare not tell them--you must."

"Dare not tell them--"

"That--that I married Jack--this morning."

The girls' arms pressed each other.

German officers passed and repassed, rigid, supercilious, staring at the young girls with that half-sneering, half-impudent, near-sighted gaze peculiar to the breed. Their insolent eyes, however, dropped before the clear, mild glance of the old vicomte.

His face was furrowed by care and grief, but he held his white head high and stepped with an elasticity that he had not known in years. Defeat, disaster, sorrow, could not weaken him; he was of the old stock, the real beau-sabreur, a relic of the old regime, that grew young in the face of defeat, that died of a broken heart at the breath of dishonour. There had been no dishonour, as he understood it--there had been defeat, bitter defeat. That was part of his trade, to face defeat nobly, courteously, chivalrously; to bow with a smile on his lips to the more skilful adversary who had disarmed him.

Bitterness he knew, when the stiff Prussian officers clanked past along the sidewalk of this French city; despair he never dreamed of. As for dishonour--that is the cry of the pack, the refuge of the snarling mob yelping at the bombastic vociferations of some mean-souled demagogue; and in Paris there were many, and the pack howled in the Republic at the crack of the lash.

"Lady Hesketh is here, too," said Lorraine. "She appears to be a little reconciled to her loss. Dorothy, it breaks my heart to see Rickerl. He lies in his room all day, silent, ghastly white. He does not believe that Alixe--did what she did--and died there at Morteyn. Oh, I am glad you are here. Jack says you must tell Rickerl nothing about Sir Thorald; nobody is to know that--now all is ended."

"Yes," said Dorothy.

When they came to the house, Archibald Grahame and Lady Hesketh met them at the door. Molly Hesketh had wept a great deal at first. She wept still, but more moderately.

"My angel child!" she said, taking Dorothy to her bosom. Grahame took off his hat.

The old people hurried to Jack's room above; Dorothy, guided by Lorraine, hastened to Rickerl; Archibald Grahame looked genially at Molly and said:

"Now don't, Lady Hesketh--I beg you won't. Try to be cheerful. We must find something to divert you."

"I don't wish to," said Molly.

"There is a band concert this afternoon in the Place Turenne," suggested Grahame.

"I'll never go," said Molly; "I haven't anything fit to wear."

In the room above, Madame de Morteyn sat with Jack's hand in hers, smiling through her tears. The old vicomte stood beside her, one arm clasping Lorraine's slender waist.

"Children! children! wicked ones!" he repeated, "how dare you marry each other like two little heathen?"

"It comes, my dear, from your having married an American wife," said Madame de Morteyn, brushing away the tears; "they do those things in America."

"America!" grumbled the vicomte, perfectly delighted--"a nice country for young savages. Lorraine, you at least should have known better."

"I did," said Lorraine; "I ought to have married Jack long ago."

The vicomte was speechless; Jack laughed and pressed his aunt's hands.

They spoke of Morteyn, of their hope that one day they might rebuild it. They spoke, too, of Paris, cuirassed with steel, flinging defiance to the German floods that rolled towards the walls from north, south, west, and east.

"There is no death," said Lorraine; "the years renew their life. We shall all live. France will be reborn."

"There is no death," repeated the old man, and kissed her on the brow.

So they stood there in the sunlight, tearless, serene, moved by the prophecy of their child Lorraine. And Lorraine sat beside her husband, her fathomless blue eyes dreaming in the sunlight--dreaming of her Province of Lorraine, of the Honour of France, of the Justice of God--dreaming of love and the sweetness of her youth, unfolding like a fresh rose at dawn, there on her husband's breast.

Robert W. Chambers's Novel: Lorraine: A romance Author

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