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Under the snow!Nevertheless, my anguish returned when I felt that sleep was stealing over me; at my age, it is impossible to resist it. Was I to go and lie down by the side of the body? My resolution did not carry me so far as that; and I sought, I must confess, a very wretched protection from the superstitious fears which were resuming their sway; I went and took refuge by the side of Blanchette. The warmth and the vital motion which I found in this poor animal, the slight noise she made while chewing the cud, reassured me in some slight degree. At last I fell into a sound sleep. The next day, as soon as I woke, I recollected the struggle of yesterday; I employed myself as much as possible about the goal and my other work, and, above all, I frequently went near to the body. I even held that dear and venerable head for a considerable time in my hands. The more my fear diminished, the more I felt my grief increase; and I was pleased with myself on observing so reasonable and so natural a change. My thoughts then became directed to the preparations for the burial, and I recalled to mind what my grandfather had said. I believe that it was with a secret intention that he had sometimes spoken of the dangers of precipitate interments; I resolved, therefore, to wait until nature should compel me to accomplish this last duty. The lively affection which I retained for my grandfather kept me from yielding to the cowardly wish to get rid of a painful spectacle at the very earliest moment possible. But I took my tools, and opened the dairy door. ‘"What a Jack-of-all-trades!"’ I said to myself. ‘"First, nurse and doctor, and now gravedigger! What other bereaved relatives are spared the sight of, I am obliged to execute with my own hands!"’ The first few strokes revolted me, and I was obliged to stop short. It was not that my arms refused to work, but my mind was troubled, and deprived me of the requisite energy. Every time I struck the ground, a loud echo resounded from the roof, which was vaulted with bricks, like that of a cellar. I was obliged to accustom myself to the sound, and it took me the whole day to do an amount of work which ought not to have occupied more than a couple of hours. In fact, the ground is sandy and light, and at last I was able to throw it out with the shovel without being obliged to break it up previously. I took advantage of the circumstance to dig a deep grave; for — I said to myself — If the chalet has to be felt empty for any length of time (whether I escape from it, or whether it is my turn to die next, I ought to use my utmost endeavors to preserve the body from ravenous beasts. I therefore went on with my melancholy task, until I was standing in a grave as deep as I was high. The clock struck ten. Night was come, and all its black thoughts with it. But the violent exercise which I had taken soon enabled me to fall asleep. It was only deferred a few minutes by Blanchette's caresses; she seems very glad to have me with her, and never refuses to serve as my pillow. On the 11th of January, my first thought on waking was to make an end of my painful task; when I had lighted the lamp I felt my courage oozing away. I was obliged to have recourse to a new remedy with which I ought to have been able to dispense. Instead of breakfasting as usual on boiled milk and potatoes. I took a little bread and wine. This regimen restored a certain degrees of firmness which I cannot ascribe to my own personal character, but of which I took advantage without delay. I had well considered the means of execution, and every thing had been prepared the day before. On, my dear grandfather, when you taught me, in front of your house, to transport a heavy body by the employment of rollers, we little thought that I should apply your lessons on so sad an occasion as this. The remembrance of what you then told me was completely refreshed in my memory. I could hear the sound of your voice, in imagination; and when the funeral burden nodded its head, as if in sign of approbation, I was so overcome that I turned my eyes away, like a person who dreads to look over the brink of a precipices. The way was smoothed: the body was soon beside the grave. The most easy way would have been to let it fall in; but I could not make up my mind to treat it with so little reverence. Every difficulty being vanquished at last, what then remained to be done gave me but little uneasiness. I could freely give way to my grief. Seated on the mound which I had raised with my own hands, I wept abundantly by the side of that open grave. I could not resolve to throw in the first shovelfuls of earth without performing some sort of funeral service. I knelt, and searched my memory for passages of Scripture suitable to the occasion. I took the Bible, being sufficiently acquainted with it to find fitting portions, and such as my grandfather would have pointed out. While reading aloud, it appeared to me as if I had quitted my solitude. The holy volume responded to my emotion. At last I stopped, through exhaustion; I collected my thoughts, and no longer deferred what remained to be done. In a short space of time, the grave was filled. I spent the rest of the day in carving with the point of my knife the following inscription on a small tablet of maple-wood: Here rests the body of Louis Lopez, who died in the night of the 7th 8th of January, in the arms of his grandson Louis Lopez, who buried him with his own hands. I nailed the tablet to a stake, which I planted on the mound over the grave; after which I closed the door and returned to the kitchen, where Blanchette is my only company. Nevertheless, although I feel more at ease now the body is no longer lying on the bed, I find that some remains of weakness still linger in my mind. I combat them by paying frequent visits to the grave, and always without a light. I have resolved to say my prayers there night and morning. January 15.--Yes; my position is greatly changed; I become more and more aware of it every day. I had a friend and a companion, and yet I dared to complain! God is punishing me for my former discontent. I am left alone — all alone ! This thought pursues me the whole day long. January 16.--I cannot shake off my weakness. I felt my bed in a state of languor and discouragement, which continues. I write merely for writing's sake. If I told the who truth, this journal would now be filled with a melancholy picture of despair. I have hardly the energy to guide my pen. My first distress when we were made prisoners here, my fright when the wolves threatened to devour us, and the sad scenes of my grandfather's death and burial, were as nothing compared with the prostration of strength into which I have fallen. I had no conception of this kind of suffering. Even prayer does not help me out of it. January 24.--Providence, to drag me out of the weariness of ennui, has sent a new source of disquietude. The goat yields a smaller quantity of milk. I thought I observed it several days ago; at present, I cannot doubt the fact. January 25.--My grandfather certainly foresaw the possibility of my being detained here all by myself, and give me several hints how I should act under such circumstances. One days, he said, ‘"What should we do if Blanchette were to go dry? It would be absolutely necessary to pluck up our resolution to kill her, and live on her flesh as long as we could."’--He followed this up with explanation how we should have to manage, to preserve her flesh. Am I to be reduced to this cruel extremity? January 26.--If matters do not grow worse, I may set my mind at ease. Blanchette still gives enough milk for my sustenance. I have several cheeses in store. I have examined the remainder of my stock, and have spent the day in calculating how long it would last, if I had nothing else. It would not carry me through a fortnight. January 27.--The yield of milk decreases, and the goat fattens in proportion. Consequently, in case of her milk falling, the poor creature is preparing to sustain my life with her own substance ! I am now haunted by one horrid idea: shall I be driven to the necessity of turning butcher? Shall I be obliged, in order to prolong my own existence, to cut the throat of the animal which has fed me up to the present? I have now only a half ration of milk. February 7.--I have tried every expedient.--Once I got a little more milk by giving her a triple allowance of salt, which made her drink more. But it was impossible to go on so; because I shall require all my salt, if — Poor Blanchette ! I have heard that hens too fat and well fed, do not lay so abundantly as lean ones; so I thought I would try the effect of giving my goat a smaller quantity of hay.--But it did not answer. She yielded still less milk, and I had the vexation of hearing her bleat half the day. It is now not worth while milking her twice a day; so I have waited till the evening, in order to get a little more. But she will hardly let me come near her. I have hurt her teat by pressing it too hard. February 8.--I will confess my weakness; I shed tears to-day when I tried in vain to milk Blanchette for the last time. When she saw that I gave up the task, she gazed at me distrustfully, as if putting herself on her guard against a fresh attempt. I pushed the basin on one side, and sat down by the poor creature. I threw my arms round her, and wept bitterly. She went on eating all the same, bleating occasionally, and looking at me affectionately.--They say that goats do not distinguish persons, and that they never manifest the jealous and devoted attachments of dogs; nevertheless Blanchette in front of her companions, and shows confidence in them. She looks to me for food and the necessary attentions to which I have accustomed her; and I must now put a into her throat! God has given the animals to man for food; I know it; but it is showing no ingratitude for his bounty if we become attached to those which have rendered us benefits, and which are of a gentle and affectionate disposition. I will, therefore, delay the cruel sacrifice up to the last possible moment. I have still a few victuals left, and I will economize them as closely as I can. February 12.--With so many sorrows pressing on me, it is impossible to keep my journal with strict regularity. My provisions are all but finished; Blanchette grows fatter than ever. It goes to my heart every time I caress her. I have made a fresh search all over the house; I have broken up the floor in several places, to try and discover, if possible, some hidden store of provision. All I have gained by this violent exercise, is to excite my appetite. The idea that I have scarcely a morsel left to eat, makes me, I believe, all the hungrier. February 17.--Since yesterday the frost has become so sharp at night, that I am obliged to keep up a constant fire. Certainly, if this weather lasted, I should have no hesitation in shutting up my poor victim's flesh in the stable, where it freezes hard, without any further preparation. But the weather may change. I must decide upon something without delay. I have only just enough salt left for my butchering purposes ! February 18.--The cold is intense; it recalls the visit of the wolves to mind. There is nothing now to hinder them from traversing the mountain in all directions. Under these desperate circumstances, it is the only end which makes me shudder. Were an avalanche permitted to crush me to-day, I should hall death as a deliverance. February 20.--I have come to a grand resolution ! I will leave the chalet tomorrow.--Before risking my life, I wish to record in my journal what made me come to this conclusion. Yesterday morning, Blanchette's bleating woke me out of a frightful dream. I thought I was standing, with bloody hands, cutting up the poor animal's quivering flesh; her head lay before me; I could nevertheless hear it utter cries of pain. These were what actually did strike my ear. I awoke with my cheeks streaming with tears. How delighted I was to behold Blanchette still living ! I ran up to her; she was more affectionate than ever. My joy was not of long duration. I remembered that destitution stared me in the face; indecision was impossible. I took a knife, and set to work to sharpen it on the hearthstone. I was at my wits' end; I felt as if I were going to commit a murder; and, after advancing unsteadily for the purpose of giving the fatal blow, I stopped short, overpowered by feelings of remorse. My hands were benumbed with cold, another reason for deferring the act which inspired me with such disgust and repugnance. I lighted a good fire, and pondered as I warmed myself. ‘"If the wolves can travel over the snow,"’ it suddenly struck me, ‘"why should not we travel over it as well !"’ This idea thrilled me with joy; then fear stole over my mind. I was about to surrender myself to those ravenous brutes. To avoid making Blanchette my prey, I was exposing myself to become the prey or wolves ! And, if I kill the goat — I afterwards considered — am I sure that her flesh will suffice for my support until the moment of deliverance? I have sometimes seen the Jura all covered with white quite into the summer. I must not lose the opportunity now offered while the snow is frozen. That the wolves will attack us during our course, is far from a certainty; for, if I start, our pace will be rapid, we will descend in a sledge ! [to be continued in our next.]
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