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Chapter 10 The Return of the Shadow

  • I woke with a heavy heart the next morning, for I knew that Jim would be hom_efore long, and that it would be a day of trouble. But how much trouble tha_ay was to bring, or how far it would alter the lives of all of us, was mor_han I had ever thought in my darkest moments. But let me tell you it all, just in the order that it happened.
  • I had to get up early that morning; for it was just the first flush of th_ambing, and my father and I were out on the moors as soon as it was fairl_ight. As I came out into the passage a wind struck upon my face, and ther_as the house door wide open, and the grey light drawing another door upon th_nner wall. And when I looked again there was Edie's room open also, and d_app's too; and I saw in a flash what that giving of presents meant upon th_vening before. It was a leave-taking, and they were gone.
  • My heart was bitter against Cousin Edie as I stood looking into her room. T_hink that for the sake of a new-comer she could leave us all without on_indly word, or as much as a handshake. And he, too! I had been afraid of wha_ould happen when Jim met him; but now there seemed to be something cowardl_n this avoidance of him. I was angry and hurt and sore, and I went out int_he open without a word to my father, and climbed up on to the moors to coo_y flushed face.
  • When I got up to Corriemuir I caught my last glimpse of Cousin Edie. Th_ittle cutter still lay where she had anchored, but a rowboat was pulling ou_o her from the shore. In the stem I saw a flutter of red, and I knew that i_ame from her shawl. I watched the boat reach the yacht and the folk climb o_o her deck. Then the anchor came up, the white wings spread once more, an_way she dipped right out to sea. I still saw that little red spot on th_eck, and de Lapp standing beside her. They could see me also, for I wa_utlined against the sky, and they both waved their hands for a long time, bu_ave it up at last when they found that I would give them no answer.
  • I stood with my arms folded, feeling as glum as ever I did in my life, unti_heir cutter was only a square hickering patch of white among the mists of th_orning. It was breakfast time and the porridge upon the table before I go_ack, but I had no heart for the food. The old folk had taken the matte_oolly enough. Though my mother had no word too hard for Edie; for the two ha_ever had much love for each other, and less of late than ever.
  • "There's a letter here from him," said my father, pointing to a note folded u_n the table; "it was in his room. Maybe you would read it to us."
  • They had not even opened it; for, truth to tell, neither of the good folk wer_ery clever at reading ink, though they could do well with a fine large print.
  • It was addressed in big letters to "The good people of West Inch;" and thi_as the note, which lies before me all stained and faded as I write:
  • "My friends, — I didn't thought to have left you so suddenly, but the matte_as in other hands than mine. Duty and honour have called me back to my ol_omrades. This you will doubtless understand before many days are past. I tak_our Edie with me as my wife; and it may be that in some more peaceful tim_ou will see us again at West Inch. Meanwhile, accept the assurance of m_ffection, and believe me that I shall never forget the quiet months which _pent with you, at the time when my life would have been worth a week at th_tmost had I been taken by the Allies. But the reason of this you may als_earn some day.
  • "Yours,
  • "BONAVENTURE DE LISSAC "(Colonel des Voltigeurs de la Garde, et aide-de-cam_e S.M.I. L'Empereur Napoleon.)"
  • I whistled when I came to those words written under his name; for though I ha_ong made up my mind that our lodger could be none other than one of thos_onderful soldiers of whom we had heard so much, who had forced their way int_very capital of Europe, save only our own, still I had little thought tha_ur roof covered Napoleon's own aide-de-camp and a colonel of his Guard.
  • "So," said I, "de Lissac is his name, and not de Lapp. Well, colonel or no, i_s as well for him that he got away from here before Jim laid hands upon him.
  • And time enough, too," I added, peeping out at the kitchen window, "for her_s the man himself coming through the garden."
  • I ran to the door to meet him, feeling that I would have given a deal to hav_im back in Edinburgh again. He came running, waving a paper over his head; and I thought that maybe he had a note from Edie, and that it was all known t_im. But as he came up I saw that it was a big, stiff, yellow paper whic_rackled as he waved it, and that his eyes were dancing with happiness.
  • "Hurrah, Jock!" he shouted. "Where is Edie? Where is Edie?"
  • "What is it, man?" I asked.
  • "Where is Edie?"
  • "What have you there?"
  • "It is my diploma, Jock. I can practise when I like. It is all right. I wan_o show it to Edie."
  • "The best you can do is to forget all about Edie," said I.
  • Never have I seen a man s face change as his did when I said those words.
  • "What! What d'ye mean, Jock Calder?" he stammered.
  • He let go his hold of the precious diploma as he spoke, and away it went ove_he hedge and across the moor, where it stuck flapping on a whin-bush; but h_ever so much as glanced at it.
  • His eyes were bent upon me, and I saw the devil's spark glimmer up in th_epths of them.
  • "She is not worthy of you," said I.
  • He gripped me by the shoulder.
  • "What have you done?" he whispered. "This is some of your hanky-panky! Wher_s she?"
  • "She 's off with that Frenchman who lodged here."
  • I had been casting about in my mind how I could break it gently to him; but _as always backward in speech, and I could think of nothing better than this.
  • "Oh!" said he, and stood nodding his head and looking at me, though I kne_ery well that he could neither see me, nor the steading, nor anything else.
  • So he stood for a minute or more, with his hands clenched and his head stil_odding. Then he gave a gulp in his throat, and spoke in a queer dry, raspin_oice.
  • "When was this?" said he.
  • "This morning."
  • "Were they married?
  • "Yes."
  • He put his hand against the doorpost to steady himself.
  • "Any message for me?"
  • "She said that you would forgive her."
  • "May God blast my soul on the day I do! Where have they gone to?"
  • "To France, I should judge?"
  • "His name was de Lapp, I think?"
  • "His real name is de Lissac; and he is no less than a colonel in Boney'_uards?"
  • "Ah! he would be in Paris, likely. That is well! That is well!"
  • "Hold up!" I shouted. "Father! Father! Bring the brandy!"
  • His knees had given way for an instant, but he was himself again before th_ld man came running with the bottle.
  • "Take it away!" said he.
  • "Have a soop, Mister Horscroft," cried my father, pressing it upon him. "I_ill give you fresh heart!"
  • He caught hold of the bottle and sent it flying over the garden hedge.
  • "It's very good for those who wish to forget," said he; "I am going t_emember!"
  • "May God forgive you for sinfu' waste!" cried my father aloud.
  • "And for well-nigh braining an officer of his Majesty's infantry!" said ol_ajor Elliott, putting his head over the hedge. "I could have done with a ni_fter a morning's walk, but it is something new to have a whole bottle whiz_ast my ear. But what is amiss, that you all stand round like mutes at _urying?"
  • In a few words I told him our trouble, while Jim, with a grey face and hi_rows drawn down, stood leaning against the doorpost. The major was as glum a_e by the time I had finished, for he was fond both of Jim and of Edie."
  • "Tut, tut!" said he. "I feared something of the kind ever since that busines_f the Peel Tower. It's the way with the French. They can't leave the wome_lone. But, at least, de Lissac has married her, and that 's a comfort. Bu_t's no time now to think of our own little troubles, with all Europe in _oar again, and another twenty years' war before us, as like as not."
  • "What dye mean?" I asked.
  • "Why, man, Napoleon's back from Elba, his troops have flocked to him, an_ouis has run for his life. The news was in Berwick this morning."
  • "Great Lord!" cried my father. "Then the weary business is all to do ove_gain!"
  • "Aye, we thought we were out from the shadow, but it's still there. Wellingto_s ordered from Vienna to the Low Countries, and it is thought that th_mperor will break out first on that side. Well, it's a bad wind that blow_obody any good. I've just had news that I am to join the 71st as senio_ajor."
  • I shook hands with our good neighbour on this, for I knew how it had lain upo_is mind that he should be a cripple, with no part to play in the world.
  • "I am to join my regiment as soon as I can; and we shall be over yonder in _onth, and in Paris, maybe, before another one is over."
  • "By the Lord, then, I'm with you, major!" cried Jim Horscroft. "I'm not to_roud to carry a musket, if you will put me in front of this Frenchman?"
  • "My lad, I 'd be proud to have you serve under me," said the major. "And as t_e Lissac, where the Emperor is he will be."
  • "You know the man," said I. "What can you tell us of him?"
  • "There is no better officer in the French army, and that is a big word to say.
  • They say that he would have been a marshal, but he preferred to stay at th_mperor's elbow. I met him two days before Corunna, when I was sent with _lag to speak about our wounded. He was with Soult then. I knew him again whe_ saw him."
  • "And I will know him again when I see him!" said Horscroft, with the old dou_ook on his face.
  • And then at that instant, as I stood there, it was suddenly driven home to m_ow poor and purposeless a life I should lead while this crippled friend o_urs and the companion of my boyhood were away in the forefront of the storm.
  • Quick as a flash my resolution was taken.
  • "I 'll come with you too, major," I cried.
  • "Jock! Jock!" said my father, wringing his hands.
  • Jim said nothing, but put his arm half round me and hugged me. The major'_yes shone and he flourished his cane in the air.
  • "My word, but I shall have two good recruits at my heels," said he. "Well, there's no time to be lost, so you must both be ready for the evening coach."
  • And this was what a single day brought about; and yet years pass away so ofte_ithout a change. Just think of the alteration in that four-and-twenty hours.
  • De Lissac was gone. Edie was gone. Napoleon had escaped. War had broken out.
  • Jim Horscroft had lost everything, and he and I were setting out to figh_gainst the French. It was all like a dream, until I tramped off to the coac_hat evening, and looked back at the grey farm steading and at the two littl_ark figures my mother with her face sunk in her Shetland shawl, and my fathe_aving his drover's stick to hearten me upon my way.