The Bellman Book of Fiction, 1906-1919
The Project Gutenberg eBook, The Bellman Book of Fiction, by Various,Edited by William C. EdgarThis eBook is for the use of anyone anywhere in the United States and mostother parts of the world at no cost and with almost no restrictions whatsoever. You may copy it, give it away or re-use it under the terms ofthe Project Gutenberg License included with this eBook or online at www.gutenberg.org. If you are not located in the United States, you'll haveto check the laws of the country where you are located before using this ebook.Title: The Bellman Book of Fiction 1906-1919Author: VariousEditor: William C. EdgarRelease Date: June 13, 2018 [eBook #57322]Language: EnglishCharacter set encoding: ISO-646-US (US-ASCII)***START OF THE PROJECT GUTENBERG EBOOK THE BELLMAN BOOK OF FICTION***
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Book of Fiction
Chosen and Edited by
WILLIAM C. EDGAR
late Editor of The Bellman
Minneapolis, Minn., U.S.A.
The Bellman Company
The kindly reception given to TheBellman Book of Verse is mainly responsible for the publicationof this collection of short stories, originally printed in TheBellman, and should it find favor equal to that of itspredecessor, it is probable that other volumes of like charactermay follow this.
Indeed, the former editor of The Bellman has in mind thepublication of a series of books, uniform in size and appearancewith this, including a second and perhaps a third volume offiction and, finally, The Bellman’s Book of Essays, tocontain some of the essays and editorials of that periodicalwhich are esteemed of more than transient value; in all, perhapshalf a dozen small volumes.
Whether this congenial undertaking shall be carried out orabandoned depends very largely upon the welcome given this, thesecond book of the contemplated series. There is no desireto exploit the files of The Bellman for commercial purposes, butshould it appear that there exists a sincere demand for suchliterature it will be the writer’s pleasure to supplyit.
More than two years have passed since The Bellman wasdiscontinued, and it is most gratifying to its founder, as wellas to all those who were concerned in its publication, to notemany continuing evidences of the regard and appreciation
The Bellman is no more, but his memory still endures, andevidently a large number of his loyal old friends continuefaithfully to cherish it.
For them, more especially, is this collection published. The selection has been made almost at random and does not pretendto be a choice of the best stories that were printed in TheBellman, but merely a few of those among the many which appearedunder the familiar heading, “The Bellman’sTale,” and which the editor considers meritorious andworthy of perpetuation in book form.
—W. C. E.
The Mute, Robert W.Sneddon
The Laughing Duchess,Virginia Woodward Cloud
Long, LongAgo, Frederick Orin Bartlett
The Right Whales Flukes, BenAmes Williams
When Breathitt Went to Battle,Lewis H. Kilpatrick
The Forgiver, Marjorie L. C.Pickthall
Told to Parson, EdenPhillpotts
Iron, Randolph Edgar
The Perfect Interval,Margaret Adelaide Wilson
The Archbishop Of Rheims,Emily W. Scott
The Trawnbeighs, CharlesMacomb Flandrau
The Life Belt, J. J.Bell
Amina, Edward LucasWhite
The Silver Ring, FrankSwinnerton
The Surgeon, B. W.Mitchell
The ’Dopters, AileenCleveland Higgins
Prem Singh, JohnAmid
Even So, Charles BoardmanHawes
The Cask Ashore, Sir ArthurQuiller-Couch
Le Muet started as the cold steel of a rifle barrel touchedhis neck, and turning his head stumbled to his feet. Behindhim stood four Bavarian soldiers grinning maliciously at hissurprise. They spoke to him, and he made no attempt toanswer.
“Have you seen the French?” they asked again.
He gaped at them with an empty expression. One of themseized him by the arm, and twisted it cruelly. A low,hoarse, guttural sound came from Le Muet’s lips, and hisface was convulsed with effort. Shaking himself loose, hepointed to his ears and mouth, then let his chin sink upon hisbreast. He spread his hands in a gesture of despondency,and shook his head from side to side.
The soldiers looked at him angrily, then their leader, givingthe peasant a push which sent him upon his knees among theturnips, issued an order in a low voice, and as silently as theyhad come the four men disappeared, with bodies bent low, amongthe trees of the plantation.
When Le Muet looked again they were out of sight. Hisheart was beating, he trembled, and it seemed as if there was nostrength in his limbs and that the struggle he had made to utterintelligible sounds had left him exhausted. For a long timehe knelt staring at the woods before he rose to his feet andshook his fist in the direction in which they had gone. Then he took to his heels, and ran as quickly as he could to thevillage.
p. 2When allthe able-bodied men in the village had gone, there remained onlytwo, Monsieur the curé and he whom they called Le Muet, astrapping big fellow with the strength of an ox, to whom, for nofault of his own, had been denied the gifts of speech andhearing.
Naturally Le Muet was not called upon to do his years in thearmy. His dumb deafness would have broken the heart of anydrill sergeant as it did that of his schoolmaster who, havingheard of lip-reading, experimented with him for a month and thenbroke his best ruler over the lad’s stupid head.
Not that Le Muet was stupid except in book learning. When one is dumb, one talks to beasts and birds in sounds thatthey can understand, and as for hearing, there is no need of thatwith a dog who speaks with his eyes, his tail, his body. And Le Muet had a dog, a shaggy, unkempt animal with vagabondhabits, who disappeared for days at a time, and returned withoutexplanation from marauding expeditions in the woods. It wassaid that the gamekeeper had sworn to riddle him with shot thefirst time he caught him in the act, but, after all, thegamekeeper was a merciful man, and there is no doubt that hemissed many a good chance to rob Le Muet of his heelcompanion. The dog was harmless enough, although it maywell be understood that he would not have hesitated to try histeeth upon those Bavarian invaders, had he not gone the daybefore upon a poaching quest.
There was only one person to whom Le Muet could betake himselfin the hour of need: Monsieur the curé, who had remainedbehind to look after the women and children. Thecuré was a robust
Le Muet hesitated a little, standing with heaving breast, hiseyes bloodshot with his running, before he ventured to lay hishand upon the sleeve of the black soutane. The curé,as if roused from a dream, looked at him, then grew grave withapprehension. Hastily he looked in the direction from whichLe Muet had come, and pointed. Le Muet nodded his headeagerly, and in clumsy pantomime told his tale: four fingers forfour men, the helmets, the barrel upon his neck, the crouchingretreat.
The curé, laying his hand upon Le Muet’s arm,patted it gently, and led the way across the square and into thechurch. Near the door he knelt, and Le Muet followed hisexample. For a few seconds they remained thus, side byside, their faces turned to the altar, then the curé roseto his feet and let his eyes pass lovingly from window to window,from painted saint to sculptured and, guiding Le Muet to thedoor, came out, locked the carved double door, and descended thesteps.
For a moment he stood there with bent head, then set outbriskly, going from house to house, telling the women not to beafraid, but to collect
As the curé led the way, there was a moment of panic,and some hung back, but gradually the little band fell in behindhim, and at the end came Le Muet, stepping out with short stridesso as not to tread upon any one’s heels. They passedthrough the village street, their eyes straining in front of themthat they might not see the open windows and the doors, theflowers climbing and crowding about the green shutters, the smokestill rising from hearths on which the midday meal had beencooking. An old woman sank to the ground, and without aword two of the younger raised her and, supporting her, guidedher frail and stumbling feet.
At the crossroads, the curé halted and, standing on thesteps of the cross with its carven figure of the Redeemer, lookedover his little band, and raising his hand blessed them in atrembling voice, then in a command, ringing out strong and clearlike that of a soldier, set them in motion once more on the roadto safety.
All at once Le Muet halted. What was he doing? Hewho had no human kin had left behind him the one thing he loved:his dog. His brain was confused by the excitement of theday, otherwise he would not have forgotten how often he had beensought out and found by the faithful creature. He looked infront of him. The company of refugees was just turning thecorner. He must find his dog. Surely Monsieur thecuré would forgive him;
As he passed through the village square, from an open doorcame a tempting odor of cooking, and with a sly grunt he steppedinside, filled a bowl from the soup pot and sat down. Onemust eat, whatever comes to pass, and it is easier to die with afull stomach than an empty one.
He had just sopped up the last drop of cabbage soup with anend of loaf when, turning his eyes to the open door, he wasamazed to see a couple of horsemen dismounting in front ofit. As if they knew their way, they tethered their horsesto a post and strode into the cottage.
Le Muet rose to his feet, and the intruders covered him withtheir rifles. Suddenly one of them broke into a grin and,turning, spoke to his companion. They lowered their rifles,and the first comer nodded in a friendly fashion to Le Muet andoffered him his hand.
In a daze Le Muet accepted the courtesy. What asurprise! Here, in a Uhlan uniform, was the peddler,Woerth, who had travelled the countryside for many a year. He had not been seen for a long time, and now—Le Muetgrinned in response. The peddler had done him many akindness, and tramped the woods with him more times than once: asharp-faced, thin man, with white-lashed blue eyes.