Слике страница
PDF

The latest type of French artillery-machine.

It is very fast ami the visibility (or the observer is practically unimpeded. lie is placed in the car. which project* in front, being scaled in a turret »itli & mat nine |fun. Machine guns are aNo mounted on trie winys, and a second p.isvii>,'er rides in the tail with another mUratiitust. 1 his machine is very tradable in the air and well able to defend luelf.

[graphic]
[graphic]
[graphic]

THE END OF THE ROAD

By Gordon Arthur Smith

Author of "The Pagan," "City of Lights," "Feet of Gold"

Illustrations By Alonzo Kimball

JN a June morning Monsieur Silvestre, the landlord of the Cafe de l'Univers, sat under the street awning drinking beer with the cure of the little church across the square. They had discussed religion and politics until those vital subjects and the tall foaming glasses were drained dry. Then the landlord ordered a second round and the topic of conversation shifted.

"One hears nothing more of that Ferdinand Taillandy," remarked Monsieur Silvestre. "There was a type for you! There was one, at least, who had no use for your religion. A pagan, he called himself. I suppose, now, you consign men like him to hell-fire."

"I consign no man to hell-fire," answered the cure calmly. "There are some, however, who consign themselves: they think it modern—fashionable."

"You refer to me, perhaps?" suggested the landlord quickly. The cure laughed, shaking his head. "You!" he echoed. "Why should I refer to you, my friend? Before this year is out you will be coming to me for confession and communing at the altar. I have no fears for you."

He paused to raise the glass to his lips. Then he added: "It is of Taillandy I am speaking. Monsieur Silvestre, the church wants that man—he is too good to lose. So admirable a pagan—think what a Christian one could make of him! I wish I had him here."

The landlord nodded his head sarcastically.

"Yes," said he, "it would be a pleasure to see you two together. Taillandy talks well. He could argue with you more effectively than I. Yes, it would be a pleasure—for me."

"My friend," said the cure sharply,
Vol. LXH.

"you and he have nothing in common. Taillandy believes—in something: you believe in nothing. He would scorn your agnosticism. In truth, his belief differs from mine very slightly; he is far nearer to me than to you. He sees gods in everything, whereas I see God in everything. The distinction, you observe, is slight."

Monsieur Silvestre puffed out his cheeks in a sigh.

"There," he exclaimed, "you out-talk me as usual! All the more I wish Ferdinand Taillandy were with us, he who can turn phrases as well as you. Have you read his 'Hymn to Diana Imprisoned'?"

"I have," said the cure. "It is admirable. Have you read the Song of Solomon?"

"No," admitted Monsieur Silvestre.

"It, too, is admirable."

"Where can I find it?" asked the landlord incautiously.

"In your Bible," said the cure, and drained his glass, well pleased.

"Touche!" grunted Monsieur Silvestre. "It is I who pay for the beers."

Presently, when the sun had swung up high above the square, the cure perceived Madame Nicolas coming from her shop beside the church. The landlord, too, marked her in the distance, for the streets of the village of Evremont were never so crowded but that one could distinguish Madame Nicolas. Nor was any one in Evremont ever too busy or too hurried to greet her.

She was a serene, motherly woman, now past middle age, who, with her daughters Diane and Veronique, kept the little shop where good Catholics purchased the consoling symbols of their faith. But always Madame Nicolas gave something more priceless than anything she sold. As the cure put it: "When you buy a rosary from Madame Nicolas you obtain a great deal more than a rosary—you obtain a

237

glimpse of peace on earth; and you depart convinced that God is good."

Even Monsieur Silvestre, professed agnostic, fairly worshipped Madame Nicolas.

"There," he said, "there is the morning sunlight."

She crossed the square, careful not to disturb the sparrows drinking and fidgeting at the watering-trough, and approached the Cafe de 1'Univers.

"Good morning," she greeted them. "I come to inform monsieur le cure that I have finished mending the altar-cloth. Diane and Veronique and I worked until late last night. Diane and Veronique have done beautifully—but I—my fingers are a little old and my eyes a little dim. My portion of it might be better."

The cure hastened to assure her that he had no anxiety as to the quality of her work. He knew it of old. Then said Monsieur Silvestre: "We were talking but now of Ferdinand Taillandy. Have you news of him, Madame Nicolas?"

She shook her head gravely.

"No," said she, "we have heard or seen nothing of him since—since he found my Diane and brought her back to me from the city. It is impossible now to thank him for what he did, but I pray for him. He is a good man."

"He is not of the church," Monsieur Silvestre could not forbear saying.

"No," she agreed quietly, "nor, for a long time, was Saint Paul."

"I perceive," responded Monsieur Silvestre with a shrug, "that you Christians claim us all. If you count Taillandy and me among you, it would appear that your religion is tolerant."

"Belief," said the cure, "is always tolerant. It is only unbelief that is bigoted. The dogma of the agnostic is very strict —perhaps because he fears that any day a little ray of faith will come to disturb him."

"You talk me to death," remarked the landlord, "and I have work to do. I will bid you good-by." And he retreated sulkily to the shelter of his desk within the walls.

They smiled at his discomfiture, for they knew his moods and loved him for them and in spite of them.

Then said Madame Nicolas: "Mon

sieur le cur6, may I talk to you for a while —about Diane?"

The cure silently drew a chair for her beside him.

"You may talk to me, Madame Nicolas, about anything."

For a space she remained silent, searching doubtless a method of beginning. Her hands were unquiet and there was a hint of trouble clouding her kind gray eyes.

"You know F61ix—Felix Romarin?" she asked at length.

"Yes," answered the cure, "I know him certainly—and then?"

"Do you think well of him?"

"Ah, now, Madame Nicolas, what shall I say? Yes, I think well of him. Also I am sorry for him. He has a devil within him that may some day send him headlong down a steep place into the sea. But we are trying to cast out that devil— Felix and I—and I have the hope that with God's help we shall succeed. Felix is of the south—his family come from Cagnes—and in the south men strike before they think or before they speak. They wound with their hands rather than with their tongues. I am not sure that on that account they are more blameworthy in the eyes of the Lord, but certainly they are more blameworthy in the eyes of the law. The magistrate has seen Felix on several occasions. Thus far he has been lenient; next time perhaps— but what has Felix done now?"

"He has fallen in love with Diane," answered Madame Nicolas simply.

The cure whistled softly and perplexedly.

"I understand," he said—"I understand. Or, rather, I do not understand."

"He desires to marry her at once," said Madame Nicolas.

"Yes, yes—and she?"

"What would you? She does not love him—she likes him well enough perhaps. She asks me. It is difficult."

"Indeed, yes, it is difficult," pondered the cure1. "It is an opportunity, of course, and not a bad one. Felix, as I said, is not bad at heart—impulsive only. And Diane—ah, Madame Nicolas, it is a sad truth that when a young girl has sinned there are few sinners who will forgive her."

« ПретходнаНастави »