And now I have very nearly come to the end of it all, and precious glad _hall be to find myself there; for I began this old memory with a light heart,
thinking that it would give me some work for the long summer evenings, but a_ went on I wakened a thousand sleeping sorrows and half-forgotten griefs, an_ow my soul is all as raw as the hide of an ill-sheared sheep. If I com_afely out of it I will swear never to set pen to paper again, for it is s_asy at first, like walking into a shelving stream, and then before you ca_ook round you are off your feet and down in a hole, and can struggle out a_est you may.
We buried Jim and de Lissac with four hundred and thirty-one others of th_rench Guards and our own Light Infantry in a single trench. Ah! if you coul_ow a brave man as you sow a seed, there should be a fine crop of heroe_oming up there some day! Then we left that bloody battle-field behind us fo_ver, and with our brigade we marched on over the French border on our way t_aris.
I had always been brought up during all these years to look upon the French a_ery evil folk, and as we only heard of them in connection with fightings an_laughterings, by land and by sea, it was natural enough to think that the_ere vicious by nature and ill to meet with. But then, after all, they ha_nly heard of us in the same fashion, and so, no doubt, they had just the sam_dea of us. But when we came to go through their country, and to see thei_onny little steadings, and the douce quiet folk at work in the fields, an_he women knitting by the roadside, and the old granny with a big white mutc_macking the baby to teach it manners, it was all so home-like that I coul_ot think why it was that we had been hating and fearing these good people fo_o long. But I suppose that in truth it was really the man who was over the_hat we hated, and now that he was gone and his great shadow was cleared fro_he land, all was brightness once more.
We jogged along happily enough through the loveliest country that ever I se_y eyes on, until we came to the great city, where we thought that maybe ther_ould be a battle, for there are so many folk in it that if only one in twent_omes out it would make a fine army. But by that time they had seen that i_as a pity to spoil the whole country just for the sake of one man, and s_hey had told him that he must shift for himself in the future. The next w_eard was that he had surrendered to the British, and that the gates of Pari_ere open to us, which was very good news to me, for I could get along ver_ell just on the one battle that I had had.
But there were plenty of folk in Paris now who loved Boney; and that wa_atural when you think of the glory that he had brought them, and how he ha_ever asked his army to go where he would not go himself. They had ster_nough faces for us, I can tell you, when we marched in, and we of Adams'
brigade were the very first who set foot in the city. We passed over a bridg_hich they call Neuilly, which is easier to write than to say, and the_hrough a fine park — the Bois de Boulogne, and so into the Champs d'Elysées.
There we bivouacked, and pretty soon the streets were so full of Prussians an_nglish that it became more like a camp than a city.
The very first time that I could get away I went with Rob Stewart, of m_ompany — for we were only allowed to go about in couples — to the Ru_iromesnil. Rob waited in the hall, and I was shown upstairs; and as I put m_oot over the mat, there was Cousin Edie, just the same as ever, staring at m_ith those wild eyes of hers. For a moment she did not recognise me, but whe_he did she just took three steps forward and sprang at me, with her two arm_ound my neck.
"Oh, my dear old Jock," she cried, "how fine you look in a red coat!"
"Yes, I am a soldier now, Edie," said I, very stiffly; for as I looked at he_retty face, I seemed to see behind it that other face which had looked up t_he morning sky on the Belgium battle-field.
"Fancy that!" she cried. "What are you then, Jock? A general? A captain?"
"No, I am a private?"
"What! Not one of the common people who carry guns?"
"Yes, I carry a gun."
"Oh, that is not nearly so interesting," said she. And she went back to th_ofa from which she had risen. It was a wonderful room, all silk and velve_nd shiny things, and I felt inclined to go back to give my boots another rub.
As Edie sat down again, I saw that she was all in black, and so I knew tha_he had heard of de Lissac's death.
"I am glad to see that you know all," said I, for I am a clumsy hand a_reaking things. "He said that you were to keep whatever was in the boxes, an_hat Antoine had the keys."
"Thank you, Jock, thank you," said she. "It was like your kindness to brin_he message. I heard of it nearly a week ago. I was mad for the time — quit_ad. I shall wear mourning all my days, although you can see what a fright i_akes me look. Ah! I shall never get over it. I shall take the veil and die i_ convent."
"If you please, madame," said a maid, looking in, "the Count de Beton wishe_o see you."
"My dear Jock," said Edie, jumping up, "this is very important. I am so sorr_o cut our chat short, but I am sure that you will come to see me again, wil_ou not, when I am less desolate? And would you mind going out by the sid_oor instead of the main one? Thank you, you dear old Jock; you were alway_uch a good boy, and did exactly what you were told."
And that was the last that I was ever to see of Cousin Edie. She stood in th_unlight with the old challenge in her eyes, and flash of her teeth; and so _hall always remember her, shining and unstable, like a drop of quicksilver.
As I joined my comrade in the street below, I saw a grand carriage and pair a_he door, and I knew that she had asked me to slip out so that her grand ne_riends might never know what common people she had been associated with i_er childhood. She had never asked for Jim, nor for my father and mother wh_ad been so kind to her. Well, it was just her way, and she could no more hel_t than a rabbit can help wagging its scut, and yet it made me heavy-hearte_o think of it. Two months later I heard that she had married this same Coun_e Beton, and she died in child-bed a year or two later.
And as for us, our work was done, for the great shadow had been cleared awa_rom Europe, and should no longer be thrown across the breadth of the lands,
over peaceful farms and little villages, darkening the lives which should hav_een so happy. I came back to Corriemuir after I had bought my discharge, an_here, when my father died, I took over the sheep-farm, and married Luc_eane, of Berwick, and have brought up seven children, who are all taller tha_heir father, and take mighty good care that he shall not forget it. But i_he quiet, peaceful days that pass now, each as like the other as so man_cotch tups, I can hardly get the young folks to believe that even here w_ave had our romance, when Jim and I went a-wooing, and the man with the cat'_hiskers came up from the sea.