Romanticizing Peasants
From Sand, George. The Bagpipers. (Boston: Little, Brown, and Company, 1890), 383-384, 389-394.

When I came to my senses I found myself in the same bed with Joseph, and it took me some time to recover full consciousness. When I did, I saw I was in Benoit's own room, that the bed was good, the sheets very white, and my arm bound up after a bleeding. The sun was shining through the yellow bed-curtains, and, except for a sense of weakness, I felt no ill. I turned to Joseph, who was a good deal cut about the head, but in no way to disfigure him, and who said, as he kissed me, "Well, my Tiennet, here we are, as in the old days, when we fought the boys of Verneuill on our way back from catechism, and were left lying together at the bottom of a ditch. You have protected me to your hurt, just as you did then, and I can never thank you as I ought; but you know, and I think you always knew, that my heart is not as churlish as my tongue."

"I have always known it," I replied, returning his kiss, "and if I have again protected you I am very glad of it. But you mustn't take too much for yourself. I had no other motive--"

Here I stopped, fearing I might give way and let out Therence's name; but just then a white hand drew back the curtain, and there I saw a vision of Therence herself, leaning towards me, while Mariton [Joseph's mother] went round between the bed and the wall to kiss and question her son.

Therence bent over me, as I said; and I, quite overcome and thinking I was dreaming, tried to rise and thank her for her visit and assure her I was out of danger, when there! Like a sick fool and blushing like a girl, I received from her lips the finest kiss that ever recalled the dead.

"What are you doing, Therence?" I cried, grasping her hands, which I could almost have eaten up. "Do you want to make me crazy?"

"I want to thank you and love you all my life," she answered, "for you have kept your word to me; you have brought my father and brother back to me safe and sound, and I know that all that you have done, all that has happened to you, is because you loved them and me. Therefore I am here to nurse you and not to leave you as long as you are ill."

"Ah, that's good, Therence!" I said, sighing, "it is more than I deserve. Please God not to let me get well, for I don't know what would become of me afterwards."

"Afterwards?" said Pere Bastien, coming into the room with Huriel and Brulette. "Come, daughter, what shall we do with him afterwards?"

"Afterwards?" said Therence, blushing scarlet for the first time.

"Yes, Therence the Sincere," returned her father, "speak as becomes a girl who never lies."

"Well, father, then afterwards, I will never leave him, either," she said.

"Go away, all of you!" I cried, "close the curtains; I want to get up and dress and dance and sing. I'm not ill; I have paradise inside of me--" and so saying I fell back in a faint, and saw and knew nothing more, except that I felt, in a kind of dream, that Therence was holding me in her arms and giving me remedies.

. . .

[Pere Bastein said,] "My children, you are now happy, and rich for country folks; I leave you the business of this forest, which is a good one, and all I possess elsewhere is yours. You can spend the rest of the season here, and during that time you can decide on your plans for the future. You belong to different parts of the country; your tastes and habits are not alike. Try, my sons [Huriel and Tiennet, his son-in-law], both of you, to find what kind of life will make your wives happy and keep them from regretting their marriages now so well begun. I shall return to you in a year. Let me have two fine grandchildren to welcome me. You can then tell me what you have decided to do. Take your time; a thing that seems good today may seem worse, or better, tomorrow."

"Where are you going, father?" said Therence, clasping him in her arms in fear.

"I am going to travel about with Joseph, and play our music as we go," answered Pere Bastien. "He needs it; and as for me, I have hungered for it these thirty years."

Neither tears nor entreaties could keep him, and that evening we escorted them half way to Saint Severe. There, as we embraced Pere Bastien with many tears, Joseph said to us: "Don't be unhappy. I know very well he is sacrificing the sight of your happiness to my good, for he has a father's heart for me and knows I am the most to be pitied of his children; but perhaps I shall not need him long; and I have an idea that you will see him sooner than he thinks for." ...

Our tears were dried, little by little, in the sunshine of happiness and hope. My beautiful dear wife made a greater effort than the rest of us, for never before being parted from her father, she seemed to have lost a portion of her soul in losing him; and I saw that in spite of her courage, her love for me, and the happiness she felt in the prospect of becoming a mother, there was always something lacking for which she sighed in secret. So my mind was constantly turning on how to arrange our lives to live in future with Pere Bastien, were it even necessary to sell my property, give up my family, and follow my wife wherever she wished to live.

It was just the same with Brulette, who was determined to consult only her husband's tastes, especially when her old grandfather, after a brief illness, died quietly, as he had lived, protected by the care and love of his dear daughter.

"Tiennet," she said to me, "I see plainly that Berry must give way to the Bourbonnais in you and me. Huriel is too fond of this free, strong life and change of air to endure our sleepy plains. He makes me so happy I will never let him feel a secret pain. I have no family now in our parts; all my friends there, except you, have hurt me; I live only for Huriel. Where he is happy there I am happiest."

The winter found us still in the forest of Chassin. We had stripped that beautiful region of its beauty, for the old oak wood was its finest feature. The snow covered the prostrate bodies of the noble trees, flung head-foremost into the river, which held them, cold and dead, in its ice. One morning Huriel and I were lunching beside a fire of brushwood which our wives had lighted to warm our soup, and we were looking at them with delight, for both were in a fair way to keep the promise they had made to Pere Bastien to give him descendants, when suddenly they both cried out, and Therence, forgetting she was not so light as she once was, sprang almost across the fire to kiss a man whom the smoke of damp leaves had hidden from our sight. It was her good father, who soon had neither arms nor lips enough to reply to our welcome. After the first joy was over, we asked him about Joseph, and then his face darkened and his eyes filled with tears.

"He told you that you would see me sooner than I expected," said Pere Bastien, sadly; "he may have had a presentiment of his fate, and God, who softened the hard shell of his heart, at that moment, no doubt counseled him to reflect upon himself."

We dared not inquire further. Pere Bastien sat down, opened his sack and drew forth the pieces of a broken bagpipe.

"This is all that remains of that poor lad," he said. "He could not escape his star. I thought that I had softened his pride, but alas, in everything connected with music he grew daily more haughty and morose. Perhaps it was my fault. I tried to console him for his love troubles by proving to him the happiness of his art. From me, at least, he got the sweets of praise, but the more he sucked them the greater his thirst. We went far--as far even as the mountains of the Morvan, where there are many bagpipers as jealous as those in these parts, not so much for their selfish interests as for their conceit in their talents. Joseph was impudent; he used language that offended them at a supper to which they hospitably invited him with the kindest intentions. Unhappily, I was not there; not feeling well, and having no reason to fear a misunderstanding, I stayed away. He was absent all night, but that often happened, as I had noticed he was rather jealous of the applause people were pleased to give to my old ditties, I was apt not to go with him. In the morning I went out, still not feeling well, and I heard in the village that a broken bagpipe had been picked up at the edge of a pond. I ran to see it, and knew it at a glance. Then I went to the place where it was found, and breaking the ice of the pond, I found his poor body, quite frozen. There were no marks of violence on it, and the bagpipers swore that they had parted from him, soberly and without a quarrel, about a league from the spot. I searched in vain for the cause of his death. The place was in a very wild region, where the law fears the peasant and the peasant fears naught but the devil. I was forced to content myself with their foolish remarks and reasons. In those parts they firmly believe a great deal that we should laugh at here; for instance, they think you can't be a musician without selling your soul to hell; and that Satan tears the bagpipe from the player's hands and breaks it upon his back, which drives him wild and maddens him, and then he kills himself. That is how they explain the revenge which bagpipers take upon each other; and the latter never contradict, for it suits them to be feared and to escape all the consequences. Indeed, all musicians are held in such fear and disrepute that I could get no attention to my complaints, and if I had remained in the neighborhood I might even have been accused of summoning the devil to rid me of my companion."

"Alas!" said Brulette, weeping, "my poor Jose, my poor dear companion! Good God, what are we to say to his mother?"

"We must tell her," said Pere Bastien, sadly, "not to let Charlot take a fancy to music. It is too harsh a mistress for folks like us; we have not head enough to stand on the heights to which it leads without turning giddy."

"Oh, father!" cried Therence, "if you would only give it up! God knows what misfortunes it may yet bring upon you."

"Be comforted, my darling," said Pere Bastien, "I have given it up! I return to live with my family, to be happy with my grandchildren, whom I dream of already as they dance at my knee. Where shall we settle, my dear children?"

"Where you wish," said Therence.

"Where our husbands wish," said Brulette.

"Where my wife wishes," I cried.

"Where you all wish," said Huriel.

"Well," said Pere Bastien, "as I know your likings and your means, and as, moreover, I bring you back a bit of money, I've been thinking as I trudged along that we could all be satisfied. When you wish the peach to ripen you must n't pull out the stone. The peach-stone is the property which Tiennet owns at Nohant. We will buy other land that adjoins it, and build a good house for all of us. I shall be content to watch the wheat-fields--glad not to fell God's noble trees, but to make my little songs in the olden fashion, at evening, by my door, among mine own, instead of drinking the wine of others and making jealousies. Huriel likes to roam, and his wife, just now, is of the same turn of mind. They can undertake such enterprises as we have now finished in this forest (where I see you have worked well), and they can spend the fine season in the woods. If their young family is in the way, Therence has strength and heart enough to manage a double nest, and you will all meet together in the autumn with increased pleasure, until my son, long after he has closed my eyes, will feel the need of resting all the year round, as I feel it now."

All that my father-in-law said came to pass, just as he advised and prophesied. The good God blessed our obedience; and as my life is a pasty mixed of sadness and content, poor Mariton often came to us to weep, and the worthy monk, as often, came to laugh.