Eternal Life;Cursed Gift
Eternal Life;Cursed Gift
Author: meg

The vicar went to the window. The sun was setting behind the edge of the forest, swifts were flying in the air, a beautiful summer evening was coming. Little Alice was sitting on the front lawn, intently twisting the doll's head. But the vicar did not notice this, he stared unseeingly out the window, and before his mind's eye stood a narrow medieval Parisian street and a little boy looking around in confusion. Thoughts rushed through my head: “Is it possible? Could Gold's story be true? What is it - fiction, inflamed imagination of a dying person or ... "

The bed creaked behind him, and Dr. Gold's faint voice rang out:

- John?

The vicar turned slowly.

- Yes, Michael?

- You must despise me? I took so many lives to save my...

The priest looked with pain at the lying man. Even now, power and strength emanated from his heavy body. They had been friends for almost half a century... "No, only twenty years... Who would have thought!" And now Michael Gold is dying, and the vicar does not have a single word of comfort for his friend. "What's the matter with me, really? I'm a priest, I should calm the dying, take him by the hand, forgive his sins. By the hand?! No, not that! It turns out that I still believe him?"

“I swear to you, John, I swear, this time I really decided to die. The burden of guilt and vices does not allow me to live on. I won't kill anyone else!

Some kind of madness! But just a few days ago everything was so ordinary, so everyday ...


A few days earlier, a messenger brought a note to the vicar - his long-ill friend, Dr. Michael Gold, became worse, and he asks dear John to come immediately for a conversation of extreme importance.

The priest immediately went to the doctor. A quarter of an hour later he was already approaching the huge gloomy house built by his friend's grandfather. In the garden in front of the house he met Gold's young niece, Mrs. Rose Delmore, with the charming blond baby Alice in her arms.

- Dear vicar, please come in. Uncle is waiting for you!

- How is he, Miss Rose? Is he worse?

- I'm afraid so. Oh, it looks like we came to visit at the wrong time.

- What are you, my dear, Michael loves you and your daughter so much. How are you, Alice, dear?

The baby shyly hid her face in her mother's lace collar. The vicar stroked her curly head affectionately, bowed to Rose, and hurried home.

Butler Watkins escorted the guest to Gold's bedroom. He really waited for a friend with great impatience.

John, finally! he exclaimed, rising up on the bed. Take that chair over there and sit closer. I have a lot to tell you. This is a long conversation, and I would like to end it while I still have the strength.

Sitting comfortably in the chair offered, the vicar carefully took his friend's hand.

- Michael, are you sure you don't want to rest?

- John, understand, for me now the most important thing is to tell you everything. I know I don't have much time left... I've never dedicated anyone to the history of my life, I just can't die with this secret. Let this be my confession. I must take advantage of the fact that my best friend is the shepherd of God.

He smiled mirthlessly, but then his face became serious and solemn again. He took a deep breath and, as if making a difficult decision, began:

John, I'm very old...

“Yes, my friend, we are both no longer boys,” the vicar nodded and stroked Gold's hand. "You'll be seventy-two in September, won't you?" And I'm not much younger either.

But he shook his head emphatically.

- No, I'm no longer seventy-two. Much of what you know about me is wrong. I am French, not English. My name is René Legrand, I was born in Paris in 1495.

Ignoring the vicar's puzzled look, Gold began his unhurried narration. He spoke for a long time, stopping occasionally to wipe the sweat from his forehead or drink a sip of water. After a few hours, his strength ended, and he sank exhausted onto the pillow.

"Let me rest a little, John, and then I'll continue," he muttered, and fell asleep instantly.

France, XV century

Since childhood, Claude Legrand dreamed of becoming a military man. With bated breath, he listened to the legends that his mother told - about knights and their squires, about crusades to distant lands, about high-profile victories, about the fabulous wealth of the conquered countries. But fate decreed otherwise: his father, Big Jean, was a village blacksmith, a man of the lower class, but only a nobleman could become a knight.

Big Jean did not approve of his son's dreams of a military career. He said more than once:

- If the Lord gave you a blacksmith's hammer in your hands, kid, then work with it to the grave.

But Claude did not want to think about working in the forge. Having matured and married Madeleine, the youngest daughter of a wealthy miller, he began to persuade her to leave her home and move with him to Paris.

- Think, dear, you will be a real city lady.

- Oh, Claude, I'm afraid. I'm a country girl, and everyone will laugh at me there.

- No! I will become a soldier, we will buy a good house, we will have many children. And you will quickly get used to the city, dear, believe me.

In the end, Madeleine agreed, and in the spring of 1494, having loaded the wagon with simple belongings, the couple went to the capital. And now they rode through Paris, and the clatter of the hooves of the exhausted horse echoed over the pavement.

They managed to settle in pretty quickly. A small capital, received as a dowry for Madeleine, made it possible to buy a room on the second floor of a house at the very end of the Rue Saint-Denis, right next to the ramparts that encircle the city.

At first, Claude grumbled:

I don't understand how people live here. Look, the roofs and balconies protrude so far that even the sun doesn't reach the pavement.

However, over time, he got used to life in the city and even began to find an inexplicable charm in these eternally shaded streets.

Sociable and open, Claude quickly acquired many friends in Paris. Both they and the city itself constantly presented surprises to the poor provincial. So, Claude was surprised to find that all new acquaintances have not only names, but also surnames. This was rare in his area, and the whole village knew him as Claude, son of Grand Jean. However, this was clearly not enough in the city.

Since Claude was going to spend the rest of his life in Paris, he immediately went to the city provost and, passing off his father's nickname as a surname, registered himself as Claude Legrand [i] from the Rue Saint-Denis, son of Jean Legrand.

Filled with a sense of his own importance (it's no joke, now he has a surname!), He began to make inquiries about the possibility of entering the army of knights. And then a surprise awaited him again: it turned out that for several years there had been a compagnie d'ordonnance in Paris - a regular ordinance [ii] company created by order of King Charles. This company consisted of foot soldiers, who for some reason were called free riflemen, and was recruited almost entirely from people of the humble, simple.

Inspired by this news, Claude rushed to his friends with a request to arrange a meeting with the commander of the compagnie d'ordonnance, and was so insistent that one of them soon secured an audience for him with the captain of the company Pellan.

Excited, Claude arrived at the rue Saint-Paul, where the captain was quartered, long before the agreed time. After hesitating at the gate, he crossed to the other side of the street and froze, admiring the Notre Dame Cathedral, built several decades ago, towering across the river. How big and beautiful it is! Is there anything more beautiful in the world than this majestic cathedral? Claude's heart contracted painfully from a strange tenderness for this beauty, for this city.

A bell rang in the St. John's bell tower. It's time.


- Hmm... You want to join my company...

Captain Pelyan, a tall, long-haired man in his forties, was looking critically at a broad-shouldered youth with an open, intelligent face.

“In our village, horses were treated like that,” Claude thought cheerfully. “I hope he doesn’t demand to show his teeth.”

- Yes, sir.

Captain Pelyan was sick and tired of constant petitioners. Either take it into the company, then clap before the constable, then give out a monetary allowance. And that fool, Marie, the maid, poured mint sauce on his white shirt. What do you order to go to the review of the company? Still, he tried to be objective. "The king needs experienced fighters," he thought, "and if this guy knows how to hold a halberd in his hands, then he can come out of it."

“Well, your data is correct,” the captain nodded with satisfaction. - I hope you have experience?

Claude involuntarily shy.

What experience, sir?

- Did you participate in battles? Studied military sciences?

The young man was completely at a loss.

“You see, sir… Mr. Captain… I have recently been in Paris… I lived in the country…

“Oh, it’s a pity, with such growth, with such muscles…”

- I'm sorry, but without experience, I do not accept in the company.

Claude's eyes became so unhappy that the captain could not help feeling sorry for him. He walked over to the boy and patted him on the shoulder.

- Sir, my company has a children's military school. It's too late for you yourself , but when your son turns twelve, bring the boy, and I'll take him.


- It was my dream, you know? - muttered Claude in a slurred tongue, sitting in a tavern with his neighbor Jacques Boucher. “And I, you see, am too old to learn. Without it, they won't take it. And what should I do now?

"Don't worry, buddy," Jacques consoled him. - The city is full of guilds and shops, choose any. You can become a gunsmith, a cooper, a tailor, or, like me, for example, a butcher. And by the way, my father was a butcher, and my grandfather too! If you want, spit on crafts, become a merchant - you will succeed, that's for sure.

- I'm too old for them, you know? But my son is not old, and they will take him, just bring him. How can I bring my son if I don't have one?

Jacques Boucher laughed.

- Well, work on it, buddy!


When Claude finally returned home, Madeleine was still awake. Of course, she really wanted her husband's cherished desire to come true. On the other hand, if he becomes a military man, how will she be alone, without him? Especially now when...

The door swung open and Claude burst into the room. Hands clasped, she watched as he swayed toward the bed. With a sensitive feminine heart, Madeleine realized that her husband had lost his last hope. She was terribly sorry for him and for herself. “I was so looking forward to it, because today is perhaps one of the most important days in my life. Okay, I won’t talk yet, I’ll wait until tomorrow.” But she couldn't bear it.

- Claude?

Madeleine's voice snapped him out of his drowsiness.

- Mmm?

- Claude, dear... I'm pregnant.

He opened his eyes, focused with difficulty on her face, and ordered in a firm voice:

- Give birth to a boy!


Saying goodbye to the dream of military service, Claude, on the advice of friends, acquired the necessary tools, joined the craft shop and started making gloves for noble people. The business turned out to be very profitable, and six months later he was able to buy two rooms on the ground floor, becoming the sovereign owner of a small house. This purchase ate up all their savings, but Claude went for it without hesitation - because soon there will be three of them, and they will need more space. However, fate decreed otherwise.

In the summer of 1495, Claude simultaneously became a happy father and an inconsolable widower. For the rest of his life he remembered that despair, that pain that he experienced at the sight of the midwife leaving the bedroom. Hiding her confusion, she frowned and said worriedly:

- Your wife, sir, died ... profuse bleeding ... And the child - here it is.

And she hurriedly thrust into his hands a bag wrapped in a linen rag. But Claude did not notice him, he looked with horror at the closed door, behind which Madeleine remained, and his soul was filled with a aching feeling of loneliness.


After burying his wife and recovering a little from the shock, Claude thought: what to do with the baby? Of course, the easiest way is to give him to a church orphanage, but he really wanted a son. And Madeleine gave her life for the birth of this tiny creature ...

Help came unexpectedly.

- Buddy, put this thought out of your head, - Jacques Boucher told him, who had already become a friend. - My Catherine is about to give birth, for a couple of sous she can feed your baby and look after him while you work.

That's what they decided on.


A month later, Catherine Boucher gave birth to a girl, who was named Genevieve. At first, Claude brought his son to a neighbor for feeding several times a day, but over time he began to leave Rene for the whole day and even for the night. Katherine took care of him like her own. A couple of years later, baby Rene was already running across the street, from his father's house to the house of the Boucher spouses and back. He was almost always followed by tiny Genevieve.

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