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THE MILLIONS OF MONSIEUR LE COLONEL.
BY A. C. COMPTON.
I saw him first in Paris the didn't. Always the same exyear after the war. He was planation. It was to look for moving out of a smart café Monsieur le Colonel.'” a short broad man with small “Queer regiment and queer feet and a very big nose. His discipline," said I. clothes and manner were all Yes,” said he ; "but queer right, but somehow he did things happened in those days. not look quite like the rest They were Catalans from Rousof us.
sillon, and it seems a Catalan's “There goes the millionaire,” will is his way. The Colonel's said someone at the next one of them, and they adored table.
him. Well, they found him Shortly afterwards I met him at last, at the farthest point at a distinguished gathering, they had got to on the day he where he seemed to have many disappeared. Somebody said friends. I was duly presented, his batman recognised one of and he looked me straight in his boots sticking up. They the eyes with a very sweet uncovered him, and he wasn't friendly smile. When, later in dead, by way of a double the evening, I fell in with a miracle. The story got about, friend in the diplomatic service and the name has stuck.” who prided himself on knowing “ And his millions ? asked all about everybody, I asked I. “I didn't know they were him about my new acquaint- so rich down there." ance.
“Oh, have you heard about “That!” said he ; that's that?" he said. “They're Monsieur le Colonel."
the millions of a Catalan "I know that much," said I. profiteer who died and left
" But he's the Monsieur le all he had to the Colonel as a Colonel,” broke in my friend. token of sincere homage and "Don't you know the story for the glorification of la petite He was reported missing in patrie, as he said in his will. one of the big fights, and the I hear the Oolonel's awfully men of his regiment simply sick about it." would keep on going out to “Dirty money?" said I. look for him. They were fight “Exactly." ing over about the same ground, I was interested. I had and they kept it up for days. been trying to get back to my Slipped off by twos and threes work as an artist, but the war whenever they saw a chance. seemed to have left a nasty Some came back and some taint at the back of my mind.
I could not shake it off. I you mind if we go round with was dissatisfied in consequence her ? ” with myself and with every The birds were tame and thing I did, and life had been greedy, and she fed them carelooking very flat. But I liked fully. There was due mournthe idea of the Colonel whose ing over a dead duckling of men adored him, and who was some rare species, and careful disgusted at becoming a million- choosing of a young bird for aire, and I understood the allu- the Colonel's dinner from a sion to la petite patrie, the brood reared for the table. Frenchman's “home," his own “Yes, he's very handsome,” special little corner of France. said the old woman wistfully, I found myself wondering rather as the condemned one swam often what Monsieur le Colonel jauntily away. “And he has would do with his dirty millions such nice ways! It's a pity for the glorification of beautiful to have to kill him! But the Roussillon.
world's made like that." A few weeks afterwards I So she dismissed the subject, found myself at Perpignan, and and presently locked up her there, sauntering in the great kiosk with her pails and pans shady avenue, I met my friend. and the store of food, and He seemed rather pleased to went away. The Colonel had see me, said he had an hour been talking to her for a while to waste, and would I come in Catalan, which I did not with him to the Public Garden, understand, and as she left I where there would be at this saw him give her money. hour a nice breeze from the “Such a nice woman," he sea. I went willingly enough, said to me. "Two of her boys for the Public Garden at Per- were in my regiment. One pignan is a nice place, well died in hospital. I was able watered, and very pleasantly to see him, and took her his laid out under its fine old plane- messages. We've been friends trees. We visited the African ever since. She tells me all gazelles, and the various water. the illnesses and troubles of birds, and the pea-hen with her district. Now she's going her brood in the cage; and to sit up all night with a lot then we sat down to watch the of babies who've got whoopingpeacocks.
cough. The mother works so "I do love them," said the hard all day that she sleeps Colonel. "Look at the colour through everything, and Mother of that neck! It makes me Duck on the floor above hears think of heaven."
the poor little things choking, Presently we saw an old and she says she can't stand it woman unlocking the door of any longer, so she's taking the the central kiosk.
lot into her bed to-night. I “Oh, there's my friend the told her what to give them. duck-woman,” he said. “Do Excellent cough-mixture. Equal
parts rum and lemon juice and should rival the Côte d'Azur if honey, with a pinch of red we brought water and drains. pepper. Ever hear of it! They'd have a casino in every She'll get the stuff on her way village and build great hotels ! home," he went on, without I know them! They'd bring waiting for my answer, “but down crowds of strangersI wish I'd told her to get some gamblers and cocottes, and all chocolate as well."
the scum of Europe. Places “I think you Catalans are a where, if I had my will, no kind-hearted race," I said. decent lad or girl of our people
“We understand each other," should ever take service ! And was his answer, and he fell into that all along our beautiful a moody silence. I got up coast ! And the roads not to go.
passable for their villainous Then suddenly he burst out, motors! Killing chickens and as if he could contain himself old women as if they were no longer. He spoke, of course, flies !
flies! Damnation ! I'll have in French, but I give as nearly nothing to do with it! Curious as I can the English equivalent. thing," he went on after a "Sapristi ! ”
he began; pause, “I think sanitation is "what fools men are ! ” a tool of the devil. I never
“We are," said I, feeling knew a bad hat yet, of our rather bewildered.
class, who was not afraid of a "Not you," he said, with nasty smell.” careful civility; "the others." “ You don't mind that sort “What have they done 1 of thing?” I hazarded.
“ C'est naturel," said he. “Well,” said he, settling “It's part of our human nature. down with a sigh of relief to Besides," he went on,
we pour out his grievance," you've want our country for ourselves. heard about those abominable Our sands are quite clean, and millions, gained by I don't there's lots of room. Plenty know what iniquity; I am of little bungalows for people expected to spend them on to sleep in who can afford it, something that will be a credit and the others get out on to the country, and everybody bicycles, or on foot, or by the is at me about it. I have no tram or something. When the peace! I daren't go any more working hours and the heat to the café to get my little of the day are past, the people aperatif and curse the govern- are all over the place, whole ment! I dare hardly show my families together just enjoying face anywhere! They're plagu- themselves quietly. And it ing my life out! They want costs next to nothing. A bit to make me start a syndicate," of bread and chocolate that he went on, " to set up a water- they bring with them, and for supply and drainage-system all five sous a glass of good wholealong the coast. They say we some wine to wash it down
with, will last them for hours. red tiles and pale-green outAnd how long would that go side shutters, solid wood for on if we brought a lot of greater coolness. There were fashionable strangers down ? " glorious big oleander-bushes, he demanded, glaring at me, pink and white and crimson, “with painted, half - naked single and double, planted ladies peacocking about to round the enclosure. There make our silly girls envious, was a great fig-tree in one and smart men flinging their corner, spreading over an old money around and making eyes stone well, and on the north at the women.”
side of the house was a wide “They'd never come in sum- stone-flagged verandah, where mer,” I said.
the Colonel met me. He in“Wouldn't they ?” he grum- troduced me to his sister, a bled. “Not the same ones nice middle-aged lady, in a perhaps, but imitations of them flat white lace cap, shaped from the big towns. Just as something like a sailor's. She bad, if not worse. No, they've greeted me in pretty broken got the whole world to play English, and told me they had in, for better for worse, and English cousins, emigrants from if I have any voice in the the great revolution, and that matter, we'll keep our own she exchanged visits with them. little bit for ourselves. It's They invited me to share only a few money-grubbers their feast of fruit and fresh who really want the change." cold water from the well, and
I had played the part of a the Colonel produced a bottle good listener, and he seemed of fine old wine, made from satisfied with me. Before we their own grapes and matured separated, he invited me to in their own cellars. We talked go and see him. He told me of the Catalans, their manners of his town-house, a noble, old and customs, their music and building that I had noticed, dances and legends. When we where he and his sister occu- touched on matters of history, pied a flat, the rest being let. I was told of little personal But now, he said, they were touches that had been handed at their little country place down from one generation to outside the town, where their another in local families. I vines needed attending to, and began to realise the continuity if I could endure simplicity (it of their provincial life, and its was said with the utmost de- oneness with the general stream mureness) I should be wel- of history. Of course, they come.
knew all about Maréchal Joffre, A few days afterwards I who belongs to Riveshaltes, a went. It was a plain little little town close by. white house among the vine Then we talked of Régioyards, looking very joyous in nalisme, and the Colonel dethe sunshine, with its light- plored the modern tendency
to make it a political move- forgotten the man in the corner. ment towards decentralisation. I knew where all the others
“ We love our petite patrie," came from. But this one, he he said, “but that has nothing put down his newspaper. 'Narto do with politics. You Eng- bonne,' he said ; but that's my lish can't understand that feel- own town! Mine !'Of course, ing of ours. You move about I ought to have made some too much. You must go to sort of excuse, but I was in a London to amuse yourselves, teasing mood, and I saidor, if you are ambitious, to something. We had a grand make your mark; and then war of words, but he went too you must run off to one end far. He knew by my accent of your country to shoot one where I came from, and he sort of beast, and to another abused us Catalans. Certainly end of it for the hunting of there would have been a duel another sort of beast, and then if he had not reached his juncdown to your own part of the tion and had to bundle out in country for a week or two to a hurry. I remember he called see after your estates and to canaille !” after me when let your ancestral home, and our train was moving out, and then you must come over to he was just barging into a fat u8 for what you call your woman with a dog in her arms. holiday,” he concluded with Luckily I had not got his a grin.
address ! “But those are only the rich “We don't see things in the people,” I said.
same light as you do,” I said. “Well,” he said, “I've met “No," said he; “ but I different sorts of Englishmen, don't think you feel them but I don't ever remember either. Once an Englishman meeting one who loved his was talking to me about the own countryside in quite the old glass in our French cathesame personal jealous way that drals, so, naturally, I said what we love ours. Why, I remem- beautiful glass you have in ber once I nearly had to fight England-at York, for instance. a duel with a man from Nar- He didn't care a bit ; he simply bonne, because I said it was said he had never been to the most detestable town in York. I might have been France."
speaking of the glass in Spain “Good gracious !” said his or Flanders.” sister. “How rude of you !” “He might have acknow
“Yes. It's too true to be ledged the compliment,” I said, a proper thing to say," the answering his thought. Colonel admitted. (“It's so “He never even saw it," windy,” he explained to me; said the Colonel. “You don't “that awful mistral.”) “But mean it,” he went on, “but we were in the train coming you sometimes seem to think down from Paris, and I had that all our things are as much