This novel first published in 1909 by the Religious Tract Society with illustrations by Harold Copping is set on the French/Swiss border in the aftermath of the Franco-Prussian war and during the time of the Paris Commune, 1871.
Synopsis: The dregs of the French forces are being harried and rounded up by the Germans and there is a general lawlessness in the area thanks to marauding bands of renegades, smugglers, freebooters and partisans. The disciplined French troops/Gendarmes have all been pulled back by the Versailles government to crush the Paris insurrection.
A Protestant pastor is feeding and consoling the local populace thanks to the generosity of his mother, who is chatelaine of a large estate on the Swiss side of the border but who has French sympathies. The pastor is apprehended by German troops and condemned to be shot for being a spy. As he faces the firing squad he sings a psalm which is heard by the German force’s chaplain. The psalm is familiar and reminds the German of his time studying in Edinburgh. He rushes to the aid of the pastor and rescues him, realising that they have been classmates at college in Edinburgh.
The pastor takes the German to meet his mother in order to thank him for intervening but the German is shot by partisans as they enter the mother’s chateau. In the mob is the pastor’s step brother, whom he has never met, but who is consumed with the thought of having his due inheritance. His father had amassed a fortune, which his step mother (the pastor’s mother) is using to feed the neighbourhood and will leave to her daughter, i.e. the pastor’s half sister. The pastor’s father had been a meek man who himself had been a pastor and was well loved in the area.
The pastor’s half sister helps tend the German and falls in love with him. Meanwhile the pastor continues with his pastoral duties and we are introduced to a local schoolteacher, his erstwhile childhood companion, who lives on the French side of the border and is nurtured by an old couple who treat her almost as their own daughter, she having been orphaned as a child.
One of the partisans is a fanatical woman whose daughter commanded a fighting unit during the war. This daughter is the best friend of the pastor’s half sister and she shelters and nurses the step brother when he is seriously wounded, having been involved in the Paris Commune debacle.
The pastor’s mother is jealous and protective of her daughter and so locks her in her room when the budding romance between the daughter and the German chaplain is discovered. The daughter escapes and we next see her tending her step brother in the abode of the female commander. The pastor sets off to find his sister and eventually discovers her. They are reconciled with their half brother, who dies redeemed.
The mother, meantime, has confronted the schoolteacher, believing that she is behind her son’s disappearance, and has taken away various papers which she believes are love letters between the two. They turn out to be legal documents which show that she is the rightful heir to the chateau and its fortune and will attain this at the age of twenty-one years.
The pastor and his sister return to the chateau, are faced with a repentant mother and a happy chaplain, who proposes to the daughter and is accepted.
The pastor goes off to the schoolteacher to apologise for his mother’s poor behaviour and similarly proposes to his sweetheart and all live happily ever after.
Crockett wrote other novels set at this time in the Paris Commune, notably Anne of the Barricades (1912) and A Tatter of Scarlet (1913) and of course Crockett first mentions this period in A Galloway Herd (1895). You may find it hard to track down any of these novels as they are out of print at present.