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With my mother she was always gentle—who days and years are alike to them now. And it could be otherwise? With Victor and Arnaud may be the “ Happy New Year " we wished them everyone but my mother and Léon were out of then with smiling lips and light hearts, that patience sometimes. Alone with me, she was boded no coming shadows, has come to them generally her true self; though I had my full experience of all her varying moods. Natur- “ May be!” Oh, when shall I cast off the old ally impulsive, passionate, quick to think and chains, and soar into the full sunshine of faith ieel, with no counter influences against her and peace. Old associations are so strong-old father's unbounded petting and indulgence, she habits of thought and feeling so powerful. had sprung up with the weeds and flowers of her Sometimes my heart seems fettered still by the character alike flourishing in wild confusion. dogmas of the old gloomy creed, and it is only as She had been used to indulge every passing fancy I breathe the free, pure air of gospel light and -to give way to every sudden impulse—to bestow liberty while talking to those whose spirits are no heed or thought on the feelings or require- ever rejoicing in the liberty wherewith Christ has ments of others. And it needed the furnace of made us free, or while reading the simple yet deep trial, heated sevenfold, to purge away the dross pages of the Word of Life, or at times when alone from the wealth of pure ore in her rich nature. at the feet of Jesus, that it feels free even yet. She has passed through that furnace, and has I am afraid I do not understand much, or see come through it purified, refined, with the image anything clearly. But one thing I do -- not see of the Great Refiner stamped upon her character. or understand, but believe and rest on-the free
But I must not grow thus garrulous over my grace of God in Jesus Christ. The finished work dear ones; if I linger in this way over each one, my of that cross that was once so vague a symbol, so pages will be filled with pictures of them alone. shadowy a subject to me. And the cords of lov. Pictures fairer, indeed, to my eye and dearer to ing kindness which have gently, silently, irremy heart than any other, but not such certainly sistibly drawn my wandering heart towards the as will carry out my purpose. So I will not stay living, loving one whose sinless beatings were to speak of our precious, sainted mother : words stilled in the terrible death-agony of that very would indeed fail me were I to attempt to find cross, are such as no strain can break, no failure any deep and strong enough to express half of and falseness loosen ; for their golden strands are what she was-of our dear, kind Uncle Lucien, twined of that “ everlasting love" that knows no whose genial heart early disappointment and a change, no chill in time,--that will endure through long lonely life had neither chilled nor blighted the countless ages of eternity. -of Léon, our noble, tender, elder brother, who, Yes, “everlasting love." Those words must from the day the letter came that told my mother ever be my soul's sheet-anchor. God's own she was widowed, and us that we were orphaned, message to me through dying lips, borne by feet had been her stay and counsellor, our guardian already touching the eternal shore, beyond the and helper-of Augustine, the gentle, grave, deep, dark Jordan waters. thoughtful priest that was to be, the saint of the family-of Victor, gay, joyous Victor, with his brilliant talents and unlimited fund of mirth
CHAPTER II. and spirit--and of little Arnaud.
GATHERING We were all together, all at home, that last
“Coming events cast their shadows before." winter and spring, a happy, loving band. How well I remember the happy Christmas time! | LOOKING back now upon the past that was our How cherished, as treasures untold gold could present in the early months of 1870, it seems not purchase, are the trifling tokens of affection strange that deeper shadows from the mighty given with sweet words of love and hope from events whose mountain magnitude was to crush, beloved lips that last New Year's Day, by those not individual hearts only, but a nation's life, on whom another was never to dawn. Well, I should not have been cast on our quiet pathway.
It is true there was enough of discontent and come to us, the loving gifts of a Father's heart, agitation in Paris to rouse thoughtful minds to disguised as tempest and shadow, bringing their the startling fact that we were walking with care- own weight, their own message to each. And he less tread and unbent brows over the thin crust knows how to adjust the burden to the bearer, that covered a smouldering volcano, which might the bearer to the burden. at any moment break out into terrific action. Now I know this, then I did not. And I Dark looks and fiery glances under greasy ouvriers' know I seemed to have many cares, many anxiecaps, vague under-breathed attacks from a chained ties; not about the clouds that were lowering so and suspected press, ignorance and dissipation heavily on the political horizon--not about the under gay gold-bedizened uniforms, disorder and sullen calm and breathless hush that ever preconfusion in cabinet and council, venality and cu- cedes a storm-not about the low mutterings of pidity in the civil and military administration of the distant battle-thunders. No; they were a despised ministry and distrusted ruler; and, about simpler things, and things that were nearer some said, a cumbrous and costly army organiza- to my heart. tion, fair to the eye, telling well on paper, but in To begin with one of the least--the burden of reality a polished shell without a kernel.
ways and means. We were certainly not poor, for But there were few who took note of these Uncle Lucien made a common purse with us. things—still fewer who gave them, even in mea- Léon had for some time held a commission in a sure, the earnest heed they called for. The strife regiment of cuirassiers stationed in Paris, and of political parties, the secret meetings and open always made his pay more than suffice for his demonstrations of the Reds, made but a passing wants; and Augustine had a scholarship in the ripple in the smooth surface of Parisian life. university, and was no drain upon our resources; Balls and fêtes, operas and theatres, soirées and but Victor's extravagance and thoughtlessness concert-rooms, were thronged as usual.
seemed to counterbalance this. And it was more of these that last winter than ever. Nina's not always easy to meet Nina's requirements. bright beauty and winning manners made her Brought up as an heiress, accustomed to the presence constantly sought, and our circle of most lavish expenditure, she had really no idea acquaintance widened constantly—too much in- of the value of money; and without in the least deed.
intending it, she made her bills for dress, and the Looking down the long pages of clear even various trifles she considered indispensable, a very writing in my diary, I almost wonder now to find serious item in our expenditure. And it was as how anxious a spirit and careful a heart I bore impossible to wound her sensitive feelings by at that time. It reminds me how true it is that pointing this out to her, as it was to draw her the due proportion of things can only be esti- attention to it otherwise. At least so it was to mated by comparison. It is not by the actual me. And she was so lovely, so full of enjoyform and size of a burden we can judge of its ment, which I could not bear to damp. weight. A tiny casket of lead will strain muscles It was very weak of
suppose; for I felt that would not feel the pressure of a huge packet the butterfly tendencies of her nature were being of down. We smile at a child's grief over a fostered and developed rapidly in the unwholebroken toy; but as year after year rolls by, and some atmosphere of excitement in which she we gather more and more of the bitter fruitage lived, and that the good and the true were being of life's experience, and look back upon the land- proportionably blighted and repressed. She was marks, great and small, of our pilgrimage, we more volatile and wayward than ever, and her grow wiser. The blast that bends the frail sap- times of seriousness and reality were fewer. But ling to the earth, passes unheeded over the stal. she was so bright and sweet, I loved her so dearly; wart tree; the thunder rain which dashes down and I was so much older than she-less certainly the fragile lily, only brings added freshness and in years than in heart. My mother's health had sweetness to the hardy briar at its side.
always been delicate; it had never recovered the So with the trials and discipline of life; they shock of my father's death ; and I, as only
daughter and sister, had early entered on life's resume them with desperate ardour-shutting cares and responsibilities.
himself up in his room, and working almost day Then I was troubled too about Augustine. and night--and in the end triumph over the less Grave and thoughtful he had always been, even gifted scholars who had been steadily pursuing in boyhood, yet most affectionate and kind. But the monotonous beaten track. This, to him, of late his thoughtfulness had deepened into was answer enough in justification of his trifling gloom; a shadow rested ever on his pale worn face; habits; but not so to us. the forced smiles that came rarely to the set lips, It was not that, as people say, there was any never passed into the dark melancholy eyes. He harm in him; as yet, it was fun and frolic, not took little part in our domestic and social plea- vice, that attracted him; but affection jealously sures; an under-tone of bitterness seemed in some watches the opening of the sluices to the first indescribable manner to run through all his words. trickling drops that herald the torrent rush of He shunned Léon, his own especial brother and the turbid stream. It was more the impossifriend; Victor’s raillery and Nina's playfulness bility of making him give things one serious provoked him unaccountably. With my mother thought—the uncontrollable spirit of levity, that only he was like his old kind self. His temper, spared nothing, however solemn, that seemed to once so sweet and even, had grown irritable and see nothing in its true proportions-that troubled
Little Arnaud's seemed the only home- And his mirth was so infectious—there was presence he courted.
such a charm in his bright, joyous presence-such All this puzzled and distressed me sorely. He glad sunshine flashed from his young fair facehad finished his course of study, preparatory to such a mingled light of love and fun and hope entering the Church, and was now waiting for beamed from his clear dark eyes—that it was the time to come for him to take orders. Many impossible to lecture or argue with him, even were the fancies that flitted through my brain. while our spirits were chafed by his reckless Averse to entering holy orders I could not sup- ways. Ah, dear Victor, I fear I was often hard pose him to be; it had been the one aim and on you in those days! But it is difficult to see purpose to which his whole life had tended; things clearly through the blinding mist of tears. unless, indeed, some unfortunate earthly attach- And last to be recorded, because the greatest, ment had intervened between him and his sacred were my fears and forebodings as to my mother's calling. I could not think that; his life had health. For years she had been fragile and delibeen lived with us, and I had no reason to sup- cate, needing and receiving the utmost care and pose it. Did he mean to become a monk? Had tenderness from all her children. But that win he received a vocation,” and was his heart re- ter she had been unusually ailing, and I watched sisting it? Many other solutions of the problem with aching heart the gradual but sure decay of of his changed manner occurred to me, all equally the feeble strength, the slow but too palpable wide of the mark, all equally distressful to my wasting of the slender frame. And not I only, heart.
but all. We said at first it was the inclement And then Victor was so thoughtless, so wild. winter, then the trying spring weather. The He was studying for the bar, and his brilliant doctor recommended change of air and scene, and talents warranted the highest hopes of his future we were preparing, in the end of April, to leave career. Already, though only eighteen, he had our city-home for the pure fresh air of the country, distanced most of his fellow-students, and gained for the sunny summer months. many honours most unusual to his age. But “Man proposes, but God disposes.” The last there was so great a want of stability of purpose week of April found our precious mother stretched and steadiness of application in him. For days, on a bed round which we watched as over that of even for weeks, at times, he would entirely neglect death. But after long weeks of
suspense, his studies, pass his time in idleness and folly in came slowly back to us out of the mists of that the company of others young and thoughtless as terrible valley. Other shades were gathering himself; then, as an examination approached, I round us ere then--dim forecastings of coming
separation and strife; but we suffered them not of his to this effect inevitably drew upon him a to fall round her feeble footsteps. Her strength chorus of indignation, ridicule, and contempt, and returned, and the doctor told us, with care and he would relapse into silence. abundance of suitable nourishment she might be My mother then knew of the impending still the centre link of our home-band for many struggle; she was better, had resumed almost years to come. How little then could we read a her old habits, and it was no longer possible or sentence of death in those hopeful and cheering desirable to conceal it from her. We all knew, words—how little realize with what sickness of though we did not speak of it, that Léon's regiheart we should one day recall them!
ment could scarcely fail to be one of the first Before she could in any measure resume her | ordered to the front. That was the chief meanordinary invalid habits, the question of candidate ing of the war to us— separation from Léon. ship for the throne of Spain had arisen, and in How much that meant to me, to us all, it would the conflicting wills of the rulers of Prussia and be impossible to say; and to my mother! My France men detected the key-note of the coming heart ached as I marked the wistful eyes with strife. My Uncle Lucien returned from stormy which she followed his every movement in the debates with troubled brow and excited gestures, hours he spent at home. and vented his indignation and opinions against Augustine had roused a little out of the apaLéon's calm, rock-like convictions, which, after thetic gloom that enveloped him. Victor was all, influenced Uncle Lucien, as they did every wild with excitement, intensely provoked by one else, more or less, by their very quiet force. Léon's quietness, almost ready to throw up his
Our uncle was decidedly in favour of war. studies and volunteer for the ranks. Even little France must rise and shake herself, and go forth Arnaud caught the war-infection, and paraded as of old, to avenge her insulted dignity upon the house armed to the teeth with the miniature those insolent boors of Germans; and conquer of weapons that are the delight of every French course. The very supposition to the contrary child, attacking imaginary Prussians in every incensed him beyond all endurance. I believe part of the house, being more than once detected France and victory were to him synonymous terms. in attempting to purloin real powder wherewith Léon was graver and quieter than of old; he to charge his artillery. spoke little, but the lines of thought deepened on I wonder how much the prevalence of military his brow and gathered round his silent lips when toys in our nurseries has to do with the intense Uncle Lucien and Victor, and the many young love of fighting which is so strong and acknowand fiery spirits that met in our house, spoke ledged a characteristic of our nation. It is diffilightly of the coming strife, vaunting of the chas- cult to separate cause from effect, and effect from tisement in store for the despised Prussians, the cause; but it seems to me as if I could never fresh laurels for the haughty brow of France, to bear to see a child " playing soldiers" again. be gathered on fields that were to be all Jenas, to Time, they say, deadens all things; but I cannot be borne in triumph through the opened gates of now look on martial weapons without a convulthe far-off northern capital, and back again over sive spasm of shuddering horror at my heart. the blue waters of the rushing Rhine, the German Nina had returned to her old ways. During Rhine no longer.
my mother's illness she had been so subdued and Probably it was only the dominance of my gentle, so full of loving thoughtfulness and tenlife-long habit of trusting to the mind and judg- der anxiety, not only for the beloved invalid, but ment of Léon in everything, that caused my for all and each of us, we had almost learned to heart to sink with a dreary chill as I listened to forget that she could be wilful. In the bond of these conversations, in which he took so small a a common anxiety and sorrow, she and Léon were part, and that part generally in depreciation of drawn closely together, while I watched by my any under-rating of the strength and importance mother's bed; and all her little coquettish whims of the foe, or too flippant confidence in the in- and ways were laid aside, as she sought only to vincibility of the arms of France. Any remarks soothe and cheer him and Uncle Lucien, and
make the oppressive hush of the house, where durable, unapproachable glory; an awful throne sickness cast its gloomy shadow, less trying to of spotless light, high on its highest heights ; Victor and Arnaud.
upon it a Presence of terrible majesty, too pure, But it was only for a time. As the last days too dreadful in its severity of holiness for even in which there was the least reasonable ground angels to approach with unveiled faces; and befor anxiety in my mother's state passed by, a neath it long files of white-robed saints, with change came. First in her treatment of Léon. calm, still faces, with every trace of earthly feelShe would avoid him, carelessly throw aside the ing and passion purged away from their clear flowers and books he brought her, oppose his stern eyes by the searching purgatory fires. views, ridicule his sentiments, and rarely gratify
No wonder my
that him with the music of which he was so fond, or my beating heart grew chill. Well might I feel join in the songs, his favourites and hers, in that I, so wholly of the earth, earthy, in every which his deep tones and her clear, sweet,. bird thought, and affection, and feeling, had no part like voice blended so well.
there, no interest, no hope; for between me and All this was most trying-to me; still more those shining heights lay the grave and a gulf – to Léon. To me, because I had long known in to such as I it must be well-nigh an impassable what chamber in his heart Nina's image was engulf-of searching, devouring fire ! shrined—the inner sanctuary of its earthly affec- I had been thoughtful even from a child, and tion. How the knowledge came I do not know; these things had ever troubled me. At times not from his lips, for it was only tacitly under they were too distressing to dwell upon; and stood between us. It grew upon me by degrees; though I attended rigidly to all the forms atid at first-shall I confess it ?—with an under-cur- ceremonies of religion, and the priests said I was rent of jealous pain. She seemed to prize so a good and pious girl, the future lay before me little the devotion of the noble heart which was dark, dreary, dreadful, veiled in a gloom uncheered to me the most precious thing on earth, except by the torch of hope, unbroken by the faintest my mother's love.
star-gleams of faith. So my heart turned all its On earth, and I had nothing beyond earth in clinging tendrils downwards, and clung to the those days. I knew nothing of the living, lov- earth ; there was no stay to raise them uprards ing human heart beating beneath the golden towards their true resting-place. And, as I said girdle of the glorified Man above-of the mighty, before, it was round Léon they twined with the gentle hand that could lay down the seven stars, firmest, strongest hold. On him I had leaned to touch and raise his awed and glory-dazzled all my trust from my early girlhood, even as my servant from his feet—of the voice whose sound gentle, timid, delicate mother had done. She was as that of many waters, yet whispered low was formed only to love, and to cling, and to and sweet, as the countenance shining as the sun trust; and when my father's death left her alone, in his strength stooped-yes, stooped over that she turned to Léon and leant upon him; and at prostrate form : "Fear not; I am he that liveth, last upon me too. Not that she was wanting in and was dead; and, behold, I am alive for ever- character or judgment—when we were children more, and have the keys of hell and of death." she ruled us with a gentle firmness that never
Yes; He holdeth the keys-not Peter, not failed to make itself felt; but then she had my Rome; but he himself-Jesus. He has already father : and after he was taken, it was rather by unlocked the golden gates that lead into his eter- | the trustful love with which she looked to us nal presence to those loved faces whose vanished elder ones to take-not his place, that could light leaves our home so sadly darkened. Theirs never be—but his part of cheering and supportis with him now; and where he is and they are ing her gentle, timid spirit, that we were coumust be like home to us.
trolled and guided. How different the thought of the many mansions in the Father's house above, from the ideas of heaven I once had. A place of dazzling, unen