Read CHAPTER VIII. of Rosin the Beau , free online book, by Laura Elizabeth Howe Richards, on

THE pictures come back fast and thick upon my mind. I suppose every life, even the quietest, has its picture-book, its record of some one time that seems filled with beauty or joy as a cup that brims over. Every one, perhaps, could write his own fairy story; this is mine.

The next day Yvon had a thousand things to show me. The ladies sat in their own room in the morning, and the rest of the castle was our own. It amazed me, being a great building, and the first of the kind I had seen. Terraces of stone ran about the house, except on the side of the courtyard, and these were set with flowering shrubs in great stone pots, that would take two men to lift. Beyond the terraces the ground fell away in soft banks and hollows to where I heard a brook running through a wood-piece. Inside, the rooms, very lofty and spacious, were dark to my eyes, partly from the smallness of the windows, partly from the dark carved wood that was everywhere, on floor and walls and ceilings. I could never be at home, I thought, in such a place; though I never found elsewhere such a fine quality of floor; smooth in the perfect degree, yet not too slippery for firm treading, and springing to the foot in a way that was next to dance music for suggestion. I said as much to Yvon, and he caught the idea flying, as was his way, and ran to bring his sister, bidding me get my fiddle on the instant. We were in a long hall, rather narrow, but with excellent space for a few couples, let alone one. Mlle. de Ste. Valerie came running, her hand in her brother’s, a little out of breath from his suddenness, and in the prettiest morning dress of blue muslin. I played my best waltz, and the two waltzed. This is one of the brightest pictures in my book, Melody. The young lady had perfect grace of motion, and had been well taught; I knew less about the matter than I do now, but still enough to recognise fine dancing when I saw it; her brother was a partner worthy of her. I have seldom had more pure pleasure in playing dance music, and I should have been willing it had lasted all day; but it was not long before a sour-faced maid came and said my Lady had sent her to say mademoiselle should be at her studies; and she ran away laughing, yet sorry to go, and dropped a little running curtsey at the door, very graceful, such as I have never seen another person make.

The room was darker when she was gone; but Yvon cried to me I must see the armory, and the chapel, and a hundred other sights. I followed him like a child, my eyes very round, I doubt not, and staring with all my might. The armory was another of the long halls or corridors that ran along the sides of the courtyard. Here were weapons of all kinds, but chiefly swords; swords of every possible make and size, some of great beauty, others clumsy enough, that looked as if bears should handle them. I had never held a sword in my hand, how should I? but Yvon vowed I must learn to fence, and told some story of an ancestor of mine who was the best swordsman in the country, and kept all comers at bay in some old fight long ago. I took the long bit of springy steel, and found it extraordinary comfortable to the hand. Practice with the fiddle-bow since early childhood gave, I may suppose, strength and quickness to the turn of my wrist; however it was, the marquis cried out that I was born for the sword; and in a few minutes again cried to know who had taught me tricks of fence. Honesty knows, I had had no teaching; only my eye caught his own motions, and my hand and wrist answered instantly, being trained to ready obedience. I felt a singular joy in this exercise, Melody. In grace and dexterity it equals the violin; with this difference, which keeps the two the width of the world apart, that the one breeds trouble and strife, while the other may, under Providence, soothe human ills more than any other one thing, save the kindly sound of the human voice.

Make the best defence I could, it was not long before Yvon sent my foil flying from my hand; but still he professed amazement at my ready mastering of the art, and I felt truly that it was natural to me, and that with a few trials I might do as well as he.

Next I must see the chapel, very ancient, but kept smart with candles and crimson velvet cushions. I could not warm to this, feeling the four plain walls of a meeting-house the only thing that could enclose my religious feelings with any comfort; and these not to compare with a free hillside, or the trees of a wood when the wind moves in them. And then we went to the stables, and the gardens, laid out very stately, and his sister’s own rose garden, the pleasantest place in the whole, or so I thought.

So with one thing and another, it was late afternoon before Yvon remembered that I must not sleep again without visiting my own tower, as he would call it; and for this, the young lady had leave to go with us. It was a short walk, not more than half a mile, and in a few minutes we were looking up at the tower, that seemed older and sadder by day than it had done in the evening dimness. It stood alone. The body of what had been behind and beside it was gone, but we could trace the lines of a large building, the foundations still remaining; and here and there were piles of cut stone, the same stone as that in the tower. Yvon told me that ever since the castle had begun to fall into decay (being long deserted), the country people around had been in the habit of mending their houses, and building them indeed, often, from the stone of the old chateau. He pointed to one cottage and another, standing around at little distance. “They are dogs,” he cried, “that have each a bit of the lion’s skin. Ah, Jacques! but for my father of blessed memory, thy tower would have gone in the same way. He vowed, when he came of age, that this desecration should go no further. He brought the priest, and together they laid a fine curse upon whoever should move another stone from the ruins, or lay hands on La Tour D’Arthenay. Since then, no man touches this stone. It remains, as you see. It has waited till this day, for thee, its propriety.”

He had not quite the right word, Melody, but I had not the heart to correct him, being more moved by the thing than I could show reason for. Inside the tower there was a stone staircase, that went steeply up one side, or rather the front it was, for from it we could step across to a wide stone shelf that stood out under the round window. It might have been part of a great chimney-piece, such as there still were in Chateau Claire. The ivy had reached in through the empty round, and covered this stone with a thick mat, more black than green. Though ready enough to step on this myself, I could not think it fit for Mlle. de Ste. Valerie, and took the liberty to say so; but she laughed, and told me she had climbed to this perch a hundred times. She was light as a leaf, and when I saw her set her foot in her brother’s hand and spring across the empty space from the stair to the shelf, it seemed no less than if a wind had blown her. Soon we were all three crouching or kneeling on the stone, with our elbows in the curve of the great window, looking out on the prospect. A fair one it was, of fields and vineyards, with streams winding about, but very small. They spoke of rivers, but I saw none. It was the same with the hills, which Yvon bade me see here and there; little risings, that would not check the breath in a running man. For all that, the country was a fine country, and I praised it honestly, though knowing in my heart that it was but a poor patch beside our own. I was thinking this, when the young lady turned to me, and asked, in her gracious way, would I be coming back, I and my people, to rebuild Chateau D’Arthenay?

“It was the finest in the county, so the old books say!” she told me. “There was a hall for dancing, a hundred feet long, and once the Sieur D’Arthenay gave a ball for the king, Henri Quatre it was, and the hall was lighted with a thousand tapers of rose-coloured wax, set in silver sconces. How that must have been pretty, M. D’Arthenay!”

I thought of our kitchen at home, and the glass lamps that Mere-Marie kept shining with such care; but before I could speak, Yvon broke in. “He shall come! I tell him he shall come, Valerie! All my life I perish, thou knowest it, for a companion of my sex, of my age. Thou art my angel, Valerie, but thou art a woman, and soon, too, thou wilt leave me. Alone, a hermit in my chateau, my heart desolate, how to support life? It is for this that I cry to the friend of my house to return to his country, the country of his race; to bring here his respected father, to plant a vineyard, a little corn, a little fruit, briefly, to live. Observe!” Instantly his hands fluttered out, pointing here and there.

“Jacques, observe, I implore you! This tower; it is now uninhabited, is it not? you can answer me that, though you have been here but a day.”

As he waited for an answer, I replied that it certainly was vacant, so far as I could see; except that there must be bats and owls, I thought, in the thickness of the ivy trees.

“Perfectly! Except for these animals, there is none to dispute your entrance. The tower is solid, of a solidity! Cannon must be brought, to batter down these walls. Instead of battering, we restore, we construct. With these brave walls to keep out the cold, you construct within a dwelling! vast, I do not say; palatial, I do not say; but ample for two persons, who who have lived together, a deux, not requiring separate suites of apartments.” He waved his hand in such a manner that I saw long sets of rooms opening one after another, till the eye was lost in them.

“Here, where we now are posed, is your own room, Jacques. For you this view of Paradise. Monsieur your father will not so readily mount the stairs, becoming in future years infirm, though now a tree, an oak, massive and erect. We build for the future, D’Arthenay! Below, then, the paternal apartments, the salon, perhaps a small room for guns and dogs and appliances.” Another wave set off a square space, where we could almost see the dogs leaping and crouching.

“Behind again, the kitchens, offices, what you will. A few of these stones transported, erected; glass, carpets, a fireplace, the place lives in my eyes, Jacques! Let us return to the chateau, that I set all on paper. You forget that I study architecture, that I am a drawsman, hein? Ten minutes, a sheet of drawing-paper, pff! Chateau D’Arthenay lives before you, ready for habitation on the instant.”

I saw it all, Melody; I saw it all! Sometimes I see it now, in an old man’s dream. Now, of course, it is wild and misty as a morning fog curling off the hills; but then, it seemed hardly out of reach for the moment. Listening to my friend’s eager voice, and watching his glowing face, there came to life in me more and more strongly the part that answered to him. I also was young; I also had the warm French blood burning in me. In height, in strength, perhaps even in looks, I was not his inferior; he was noble, and my fathers had stood beside his in battle, hundreds of times.

I felt in a kind of fire, and courted the heat even while it burned me. I answered Yvon, laughing, and said surely I would have no other architect for my castle. Mlle. de Ste. Valerie joined in, and told me where I should buy carpets, and what flowers I should plant in my garden.

“Roses, M. D’Arthenay!” she cried. “Roses are the best, for the masses. A few gillyflowers I advise, they are so sweet; and plenty of lilies, the white and yellow. Oh! I have a lily with brown stripes, the most beautiful! you shall have a bulb of it; I will start it for you myself, in a stone pot. You must have a little conservatory, too, for winter plants; one cannot live without flowers, even in winter. All winter, when no longer many flowers bloom out-of-doors, though always some, always my hardy roses, then I live half my day in the conservatory. You shall have some of my flowers; oh, yes, I can spare you plenty.”

She was so like her brother! There was the same pretty eagerness, the same fire of kindliness and good will, hurrying both along to say they knew not what. I could only thank her; and the very beauty and sweetness of her struck all at once a sadness on my merriment; and I saw for a moment that this was all a fleeting wreath of fog, as I said; yet all the more for that strove to grasp it and hold it fast.

The sun went down behind the low hills, and the young lady cried that she must hasten home; her aunt would be vexed at her for staying so long. Yvon said, his faith, she might be vexed. If Mlle. de Ste. Valerie might not go out with her brother, the head of her house and her natural guardian, he knew not with whom she might go; and muttered under his breath something I did not hear. So we went back to the chateau, and still I was in the bright dream, shutting my eyes when it seemed like to break away from me. The evening was bright and joyous, like the one before. Again we three supped alone, and it seemed this was the custom, the Countess Lalange (it was the name of the aunt) seldom leaving her own salon, save to pass to her private apartments beyond it. We spent an hour there, in her salon, that is, after supper, and I must bring my violin, but not for dance music this time. I played all the sweetest and softest things I knew; and now and then the young lady would clap her hands, when I played one of my mother’s songs, and say that her nurse had sung it to her, and how did I learn it, in America? They were the peasant songs, she said, the sweetest in the world. The lady aunt listened patiently, but I think she had no music in her; only once she asked if I had no sacred music; and when I played our psalm-tunes, she thought them not the thing at all. But last of all, when it was time for us to go away, I played lightly, and as well as I knew how to play, my mother’s favourite song, that was my own also; and at this, the young girl’s head drooped, and her eyes filled with tears. Her mother, too, had sung it! How many other mothers, I ask myself sometimes, how many hearts, sad and joyful, have answered to those notes, the sweetest, the tenderest in the world?

“Il y a longtemps que je t’aime;
Jamais je ne t’oublierai!”