Pagina-afbeeldingen
PDF
ePub

THE

GOOD OLD TIMES.

-808

A

CHAPTER I.

Where's Christophe ?

T the door of a cottage, in one of those wide

valleys girdled by craggy mountains which one sees in Auvergne, stood a healthy, black-eyed girl in a snow-white cap, blue petticoat, and geranium-coloured apron, looking eagerly forth, and shading her eyes with her hand from the mid-day sun. It was the latter end of autumn; the harvest and vintage were over, and the birches, larches, and aspens which sprang up in the fissures of the distant mountains, were clad in every variety of colour, while the rocks themselves emulated their dyes in never-ending gradations of purple, lilac,

B

dark green, umber, tawny, grey, and pale brown, till they joined the well-watered meadows at their feet. In the midst of the valley, at the distance of several miles from the cottage, suddenly rose a gigantic, precipitous mount, crowned with a feudal castle, and supporting on its sides an irregular, closely-built town, including sundry churches and a cathedral. A little apart from this huge pile, but closely adjoining it, shot up a sugar-loaf rock, shivered into peaks sharp as needles, and apparently too perpendicular and precipitous to be accessible to the foot of man, yet crested at its summit by a church-spire.

These rocks now lay bathed in a golden haze; but though they would have riveted the regards of a stranger, the girl was too familiar with them to bestow on them any attention, and was absorbed in looking down a rough track, hardly deserving the name of a road, which traversed the valley and passed the cottage-door.

Some one was slowly advancing along it, who, as he drew nearer, caused her to mutter rather impatiently," "Tis not he."

When the pedestrian approached, he proved to be a middle-aged man of pleasant, acute, and

thoughtful aspect, clad in a homespun suit, with a leathern girdle, and bearing a small wallet.

I wish you a good day," said he cheerfully, speaking the patois of the district with a somewhat foreign accent; "I wonder if you can give me a draught of milk."

"I both can and will," said the girl," though it is our last; our cow went to market this morning."

"That sounds bad," said the wayfarer.

'It is not bad, however," said the girl, "for we are going away ourselves. Everything is packed up and ready for starting; had you come an hour later, you would have found the house empty and the door locked."

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

Why so?"

Why so? why, because winter is coming on, and the valley will be buried in snow, and we shall have no means of subsistence, nor be able to defend ourselves against the wolves."

"Whither are you flitting?"

"Where but to Le Puy? There's plenty of work there, both for my brother and me. He will engage himself to some currier, canvasmaker, or armourer, in order to be near me; and

I shall sleep at my grandmother's, and join myself to a company of the women of the plain in the like case with myself. We shall hire a lodging, adopt a rule, choose a head, place ourselves under the protection of some saint, and employ ourselves in lace-making. We shall talk, say our prayers, sing hymns and ballads, tell tales, and work all the more merrily for working in concert, I assure you. But come in, come in! My brother drove the live stock off before day-dawn, and I am now awaiting his return."

Saying this, she turned in-doors, and welcomed the stranger into the principal room of the cottage, which, indeed, with the exception of one or two lean-tos, occupied the whole ground-floor. It was roomy enough, but dark, having little light but what entered through the door, and down the huge, funnel-shaped chimney. The walls, of dark, rough wood, were black with smoke, the roof raftered and supported by a clumsy wooden pillar in the midst of the kitchen; the floor was roughly paved; and a heavy, open staircase of some ten or twelve steps led to a loft above, which supplied all the sleeping accommodation of the cottage. It was bare and disfurnished;

« VorigeDoorgaan »