An Interloper by Frances Peard Page 1 of 353

Chapter One.
Monsieur Raoul.

Monsieur Raoul, in his carriage, was making the round of the estates. To a certain extent, this was a frequent custom, but there were times when it was attended by a more deliberate ceremony and purpose, and such was the case this morning. The carriage went slowly, as if on a tour of inspection. When it passed men, they gave a ready "Good-day."

Where the white-capped women were not at work, they came smiling to their doorways on hearing the familiar noise of wheels, sometimes holding up their children that they, too, might look at M. Raoul. Evidently he was a great personage, although you might not have guessed it.

As for the estate, to the eye it was all that could be desired. The land, it was true, was flat, but so rich and so highly cultivated that, except the meadows, not a foot but appeared to grow crops. Vineyards caught the hot sun on ripening grapes; apple orchards surrounded cottages; the beauty was glowing, tranquil, a little substantial.

Through the heart of the country flowed a broad river, offering excellent fishing, and in places bordered with orderly poplars; on one side was a high bank; the only hill was insignificant, and rose behind the chateau.

It was possible to conceive an ugly air of desolation abroad in winter, but in autumn, and autumn as yet untouched by decay, there was a delightful fresh gaiety in the bounty of the land. At one spot where the carriage arrived in sight of the river, M. Raoul craned his neck forward, but made no remark.

The tour of the cottages accomplished, the carriage turned homeward. When it reached a point where a narrow path broke away, M. Raoul waved his hand in that direction.

"There!" he said, determinedly.

The carriage came to a stand-still. The driver turned doubtfully and scratched his head.

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