Everything has its reverse!
Certainly, I lived in the midst of the most beautiful nature that can be seen; but already two months had passed and not without disenchantment. I will never be able to give an exact account of the population that swarmed under the plants and grasses that covered the ground. I could not count the number of times I played my life in a hasty flight, embellished with all the tricks my brain gave me.
Under the stones it was even worse! I met only snakes, scorpions, centipedes, and gigantic tarantulas. Never have the imagination of men invented monsters more horrible than all those!
It should not be concealed, either, that I was getting older: my old wounds made me suffer and sometimes reopened; the rheumatism had come, and I felt that my lightness was lacking in my many skirmishes. I understood it … it was time to return to the native country.
How to do?
I got closer to the house: now I knew all about it.
The opportunity was soon to appear, more beautiful than I would have dared to hope. My former host, the horseman, was returning to France, and was to bring back his wife and children, and settle in a neighboring dwelling which he had bought. I resolved to follow him.
Back in my leather pocket, being carried away by him on horseback was the business of a minute.
I could not leave without throwing to this beautiful nature a last glance which was mixed, despite all my troubles, a feeling of regret. A faint mist of autumn was sliding, slowly driven out by the morning breeze, and after the farewells, the silence of the plain was only interrupted by the cries of the laughing birds and Kacatoes, who answered from tree to tree; by those wild ducks who frolicked on the banks of the Yarra in the rushes and lagoons. How great in this silence! He made me think of Pora’s heath: she was also beautiful in the morning, garlanded by the threads of gossamer, beaded with dew!
At noon, we were on a boat: the trunks had been sent the day before. I settle in the cabin he had arranged to his fancy, because the administration provides them naked.
Soon Australia disappeared on the horizon. I was going back home! The boat, the Marlborough, touched Rochefort! This Marlborough was a magnificent frigate ship of 1200 tons; I had never seen such luxury; I lived unknown at my protector’s, as in an enchanted palace; even more so when we had our cabin, it had adopted a special closing that prevented the entry of any kind of insects.
On the seventy-ninth day of our voyage, we were at Rochefort: we went down together, my companion and myself, and jumped precipitately on the quay. To say what feelings agitated my heart is impossible: I was so happy to recognize each of the houses of this quay that I had inhabited in time, that I seemed to recognize at the same time the baskets against which I had picked up sugar … and all that was mingled with the feeling of having escaped a great danger … that of not seeing my country again!
The Marlborough only made a stop at Rochefort for a few hours to deposit at the French consulate some interesting papers which were brought back to France, and soon I saw the steam burst whistling and take away my protector, whom I sent from the bottom of the heart, with my gratitude for the unconscious services he had rendered me, all the wishes of happiness possible.
My first care was to go to the countryside, with as much eagerness today as I had, in my youth, to leave it by letting me take in the tablecloth of Tabis and fleeing from the prefecture to come to the port.
It is true that my travels and adventures had given me valuable experience. I knew how to orient myself and walk along paths and trails, keeping myself safe from the enemies of our race. And then, I confess, I felt fully reassured in my country: it seemed to me so poor in common insects, teeming on all sides, compared to the tropical solitudes, that I would have gladly declared an uninhabited desert, if the the cry of the woodpecker in the distance, and the sight of certain funnels from which I kept myself cautiously distant, would not have reminded me that wisdom teaches one to stand everywhere and always on one’s guard. This is what I did during the long journey I had to undertake, for this distance, formerly traveled in a few hours by the car which carried me away, required five fatal days of march.
I arrived, in the autumn, near the native woods. I saw, near me, the troglodyte with the raised tail that followed the hedges in the bottom of the ditch. The robin, above my head, sang his winter song on the highest branches of a thin apple tree already stripped of its leaves. This tree is the first nude, the last dressed!
Ah! I recognize friendly voices! Over there, towards the moor, talk magpies who chattered their screaming song before spreading in the fields to hunt worms. At the top of some pines that mark the edge of the wood, I hear two blackbirds whispering happily while continuing from branch to branch: then, cackling like little hens, here I hear a company of partridges! Let’s hide! I see them tingling in the dusty path, looking for the likes of me! They make the dust fly from their eager beaks, that they strike relentlessly against the earth, more out of habit than to pick up any food. The hen does so.
In the tree under a bark of which I had been hiding, I heard a company of little black-headed tits climb up, down and piper at the best. Alerts, turbulent, they go strumming, cleaning … We hurry up soon! The danger is there!
I had to flee a second time hastily in front of these dangerous little beaks in their careful search of the barks.
What did I say, then, that my country was uninhabited, deserted? that danger did not present itself in any form? Alas! the danger exists there as everywhere. Life, in our sublunary world, is only a fight; vœ victis is the general law!
And yet I arrived little by little at the Pora heath … oh my beautiful country!
This is the crossroads of the roads with the obligatory cross: built of wood, it carries on its main stem a small niche, burned with iron, in which the piety of the peasant has placed a good Virgin of plaster. To the right and to the left of the cross, an enormous lime-tree, but soon without leaves, extends its beneficent branches and offers a thick shade, in summer, to the weary traveler.
The barrier of the neighboring field is reversed; the door is open, and I see the plowman passing by singing his song and guiding his plow, whose axle cries miserably. He follows the broad path of the moor; this path of poor countries with its peculiar physiognomy. What happiness for me to see the red earth appearing along the large ruts that intersect in this place where the path seems to spread over the countryside, while further, in a better place, we will see it narrow and cashed !! ..
An hour later, I had passed on the white stones and I arrived in the middle of mine. The anthill had been repaired, rebuilt after the disaster of the treasure discovery.
I found there many children who did not know me; but some old ants of my age still existed and haunted the infirmary, which, while staring at me for a moment, recognized me … Soon we crossed the antennas and talked about the memories of the past!
It was a real ovation when it was known that Hercules was back! I am the legendary hero of all the anthills of the country. Many times I had to tell the children my odyssey, and certainly I have not finished!
May I inculcate in them prudence and virtue!