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He was of middle stature, rather thick-set, with
over-developed arms and a labourer's hands, already hardened by toil;
his feet, shod with heavy laced boots, looked large and square-toed.
His general appearance, more particularly the heaviness of his limbs,
bespoke lowly origin. There was, however, something in him, in the
upright bearing of his neck and the thoughtful gleams of his eyes, which
seemed to indicate an inner revolt against the brutifying manual labour
which was beginning to bend him to the ground. He was, no doubt, an
intelligent nature buried beneath the oppressive burden of race and
class; one of those delicate refined minds embedded in a rough envelope,
from which they in vain struggle to free themselves. Thus, in spite of
his vigour, he seemed timid and restless, feeling a kind of unconscious
shame at his imperfection. An honest lad he doubtless was, whose very
ignorance had generated enthusiasm, whose manly heart was impelled by
childish intellect, and who could show alike the submissiveness of
a woman and the courage of a hero. On the evening in question he was
dressed in a coat and trousers of greenish corduroy. A soft felt hat,
placed lightly on the back of his head, cast a streak of shadow over his
brow.

As the neighbouring clock struck the half hour, he suddenly started from
his reverie. Perceiving that the white moonlight was shining full upon
him, he gazed anxiously ahead. Then he abruptly dived back into the
shade, but was unable to recover the thread of his thoughts. He now
realised that his hands and feet were becoming very cold, and impatience
seized hold of him. So he jumped upon the stone again, and once more
glanced over the Jas-Meiffren, which was still empty and silent.
Finally, at a loss how to employ his time, he jumped down, fetched
his gun from the pile of planks where he had concealed it, and amused
himself by working the trigger. The weapon was a long, heavy carbine,
which had doubtless belonged to some smuggler. The thickness of the butt
and the breech of the barrel showed it to be an old flintlock which had
been altered into a percussion gun by some local gunsmith. Such firearms
are to be found in farmhouses, hanging against the wall over the
chimney-piece. The young man caressed his weapon with affection; twenty
times or more he pulled the trigger, thrust his little finger into the
barrel, and examined the butt attentively. By degrees he grew full of
youth enthusiasm, combined with childish frolicsomeness, and ended by
levelling his weapon and aiming at space, like a recruit going through
his drill.

It was now very nearly eight o'clock, and he had been holding his gun
levelled for over a minute, when all at once a low, panting call, light
as a breath, came from the direction of the Jas-Meiffren.

"Are you there, Silvere?" the voice asked.

Silvere dropped his gun and bounded on to the tombstone.

"Yes, yes," he replied, also in a hushed voice. "Wait, I'll help you."

Before he could stretch out his arms, however, a girl's head appeared
above the wall. With singular agility the damsel had availed herself of
the trunk of a mulberry-tree, and climbed aloft like a kitten. The ease
and certainty with which she moved showed that she was familiar with
this strange spot. In another moment she was seated on the coping of
the wall. Then Silvere, taking her in his arms, carried her, though not
without a struggle, to the seat.

"Let go," she laughingly cried; "let go, I can get down alone very
well." And when she was seated on the stone slab she added:

"Have you been waiting for me long? I've been running, and am quite out
of breath."

Silvere made no reply. He seemed in no laughing humour, but gazed
sorrowfully into the girl's face. "I wanted to see you, Miette," he
said, as he seated himself beside her. "I should have waited all night
for you. I am going away at daybreak to-morrow morning."

Miette had just caught sight of the gun lying on the grass, and with a
thoughtful air, she murmured: "Ah! so it's decided then? There's your
gun!"

"Yes," replied Silvere, after a brief pause, his voice still faltering,
"it's my gun. I thought it best to remove it from the house to-night;
to-morrow morning aunt Dide might have seen me take it, and have felt
uneasy about it. I am going to hide it, and shall fetch it just before
starting."

Then, as Miette could not remove her eyes from the weapon which he had
so foolishly left on the grass, he jumped up and again hid it among the
woodstacks.

"We learnt this morning," he said, as he resumed his seat, "that the
insurgents of La Palud and Saint Martin-de-Vaulx were on the march, and
spent last night at Alboise. We have decided to join them. Some of the
workmen of Plassans have already left the town this afternoon; those who
still remain will join their brothers to-morrow."

He spoke the word brothers with youthful emphasis.

"A contest is becoming inevitable," he added; "but, at any rate, we have
right on our side, and we shall triumph."

Miette listened to Silvere, her eyes meantime gazing in front of her,
without observing anything.

"'Tis well," she said, when he had finished speaking. And after a fresh
pause she continued: "You warned me, yet I still hoped. . . . However,
it is decided."

Neither of them knew what else to say. The green path in the deserted
corner of the wood-yard relapsed into melancholy stillness; only the
moon chased the shadows of the piles of timber over the grass. The two
young people on the tombstone remained silent and motionless in the
pale light. Silvere had passed his arm round Miette's waist, and she was
leaning against his shoulder. They exchanged no kisses, naught but
an embrace in which love showed the innocent tenderness of fraternal
affection.

Miette was enveloped in a long brown hooded cloak reaching to her feet,
and leaving only her head and hands visible. The women of the lower
classes in Provence--the peasantry and workpeople--still wear these
ample cloaks, which are called pelisses; it is a fashion which must have
lasted for ages. Miette had thrown back her hood on arriving. Living in
the open air and born of a hotblooded race, she never wore a cap. Her
bare head showed in bold relief against the wall, which the moonlight
whitened. She was still a child, no doubt, but a child ripening into
womanhood. She had reached that adorable, uncertain hour when the
frolicsome girl changes to a young woman. At that stage of life a
bud-like delicacy, a hesitancy of contour that is exquisitely charming,
distinguishes young girls. The outlines of womanhood appear amidst
girlhood's innocent slimness, and woman shoots forth at first all
embarrassment, still retaining much of the child, and ever and
unconsciously betraying her sex. This period is very unpropitious for
some girls, who suddenly shoot up, become ugly, sallow and frail, like
plants before their due season. For those, however, who, like Miette,
are healthy and live in the open air, it is a time of delightful
gracefulness which once passed can never be recalled.

Miette was thirteen years of age, and although strong and sturdy did not
look any older, so bright and childish was the smile which lit up her
countenance. However, she was nearly as tall as Silvere, plump and full
of life. Like her lover, she had no common beauty. She would not have
been considered ugly, but she might have appeared peculiar to many young
exquisites. Her rich black hair rose roughly erect above her forehead,
streamed back like a rushing wave, and flowed over her head and neck
like an inky sea, tossing and bubbling capriciously. It was very thick
and inconvenient to arrange. However, she twisted it as tightly as
possible into coils as thick as a child's fist, which she wound together
at the back of her head. She had little time to devote to her toilette,
but this huge chignon, hastily contrived without the aid of any mirror,
was often instinct with vigorous grace. On seeing her thus naturally
helmeted with a mass of frizzy hair which hung about her neck and
temples like a mane, one could readily understand why she always went
bareheaded, heedless alike of rain and frost.

Under her dark locks appeared her low forehead, curved and golden like a
crescent moon. Her large prominent eyes, her short tip-tilted nose with
dilated nostrils, and her thick ruddy lips, when regarded apart from one
another, would have looked ugly; viewed, however, all together, amidst
the delightful roundness and vivacious mobility of her countenance, they
formed an ensemble of strange, surprising beauty. When Miette laughed,
throwing back her head and gently resting it on her right shoulder, she
resembled an old-time Bacchante, her throat distending with sonorous
gaiety, her cheeks round like those of a child, her teeth large and
white, her twists of woolly hair tossed by every outburst of merriment,
and waving like a crown of vine leaves. To realise that she was only a
child of thirteen, one had to notice the innocence underlying her full
womanly laughter, and especially the child-like delicacy of her chin and
soft transparency of her temples. In certain lights Miette's sun-tanned
face showed yellow like amber. A little soft black down already shaded
her upper lip. Toil too was beginning to disfigure her small hands,
which, if left idle, would have become charmingly plump and delicate.

Miette and Silvere long remained silent. They were reading their own
anxious thoughts, and, as they pondered upon the unknown terrors of the
morrow, they tightened their mutual embrace. Their hearts communed with
each other, they understood how useless and cruel would be any verbal
plaint. The girl, however, could at last no longer contain herself,
and, choking with emotion, she gave expression, in one phrase, to their
mutual misgivings.

"You will come back again, won't you?" she whispered, as she hung on
Silvere's neck.

Silvere made no reply, but, half-stifling, and fearing lest he should
give way to tears like herself, he kissed her in brotherly fashion
on the cheek, at a loss for any other consolation.



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Keywords: decided, jumped, childish, silent, to-morrow, morning, seated, seemed, without, already
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