Obrázky na stránke
PDF
ePub

be able to hold it under the guns of Valérien. , aches for him, and turns yearningly to him in I do not know; and I am weary-oh, so weary! the great void caused by Léon's loss, for which, --of all this talk of war. Oh, for the dear old I know, he grieves bitterly. But that grief is times when France was at peace, and her homes not all. Perhaps he is going to be a monk. But unshaded by battle banners! They say the feel if so, why should any of Victor's raillery, or such ing is very strong against peace in the city ; but words as Paul de Méricourt's; irritate him? It it is felt the siege cannot possibly last long. is a great puzzle.

Victor is very indignant at the cowardly con- September 22.-The forests of Meudon, Claduct of some of the troops of the line at Châtillon. mart, and St. Germains have been burned. When They are thoroughly demoralized, the scum of will Paris recover from this miserable year? Not the old line soldiers; and, Léon used to say, one even in a lifetime will the traces of it be gone. great error in our military administration was Those fair woods, and lovely villas, and beautiful the neglect of those troops for the picked regi- gardens, a desolate waste. And the waste places ments. The latter are gone now almost to a will be more and get more, alas! for the mirage man; and if the line soldiers fail us, what can we of coming peace has disappeared. The interview expect from the Mobiles and National Guard- of Jules Favre with Count Bismarck has produced --peasants and citizens ? Victor says, much no results; only added bitterness and fresh refrom the former, nothing from the latter ; Uncle solution to the strife. Lucien says, everything from both. Mamma

They met at Ferrières, the beautiful chateau has looked better to-day ; Nina, very pale and of Baron Rothschild, but the German chancellor sad.

refused to grant other terms than such as France. September 21.- I cannot understand Augus. humbled and stricken as she has been, could but tinc. He appears to shun us all—even mamma scorn to accept--the cessation of Alsace and --and sits cold and abstracted during any con. Lorraine, of the fortresses of Metz, Strasburg, versation when even strangers are present. What and St. Valérien! And Jules Favre leit hiin he thinks about our situation I cannot tell. To- with the noble words, to which every true French day, Paul de Méricourt said to him jestingly, heart must thrill: “Not one inch of our territory, " It is never too late to mend, Augustine; give up not one stone of our fortresses.” Yes, even the prospective crosier for the bâton de maré-women's hearts, sorely as we long for peace, we chal' that. every French soldier carries in his would not purchase it with the dishonour and knapsack. Now is the time to win it, if ever. dismemberment of our country. Not yet, at France wants soldiers, not priests !"

least. Why do I write those words ? I cannot The words were lightly, carelessly spoken; and tell, except that I can never quite silence the though, knowing Paul's infidel tendencies as we undertone of despondency that is ever whispering do, we all felt meaning lurked in them, Augus- that the cup of misfortune has not yet been tine's violent emotion startled us—that is, Nina, drained. mamma, and me. Uncle Lucien is not a keen There has been great excitement in the city observer, and Victor was absent. The blood to-day-manifestations against peace.

Uncle rushed crimson to his brow, his eyes shot fire, Lucien walked with Nina and me to the Trothen the burning glow faded, leaving his face set cadéro. It was crowded with people gazing and rigid ; he made no answer, and in a few through glasses at the distant heights, on which moments left the room.

it was said Prussian guns were visible, but we I have never been used to give or receive con- could not distinguish them. Uncle Lucien was fidence from Augustine. In spite of his unfail- in great spirits. He thinks it is impossible that ing gentleness and kindness, his thoughtfulness the siege should last more than a fortnight at and gravity have always held me comparatively most. A large and well-appointed army is ready, aloot, and since his manner has become so or nearly so, to march from the banks of the strangely reserved and depressed, I have never Loire to our relief. Our besiegers, caught bedared to break the ice. But now my heart | tween two fires, will experience a Sedan reversed

and aggravated. But it is a terrible prospect,- She was in great distress ; her husband, a kind, more blood-more graves—more anguish. Even easy, worthy man, a good and honest citizen, has peace may be too dearly bought for some, per proved a bad soldier—been arrested for neglect haps for us.

of duty. Marie was fearing he would be shot, as September 23.-We have not seen Victor to- it is said some soldiers who ran away at Châday. I fear there will be many days on which tillon will be. I met some of them being we may not do so. It is anxious work, though paraded through the streets with their coats reUncle Lucien says, except in case of a general versed and a placard on their breast inviting all attack, his Mobiles will not as yet be brought good citizens to spit upon the cowards. They under fire. But then, Uncle Lucien despises the were soldiers of the line; poor wretches. But Moblots, and trusts most in the troops of the there is no danger of their fate for Jules, who, line; a French soldier, in spite of all that has of course, belongs to the National Guard; and happened, is yet his beau ideal of valour.

Uncle Lucien thinks the capital sentence will Mamma is certainly better-this clear, bright not be carried out on them even. weather is refreshing after the heavy heat of last September 25.-Victor came home last night. month—and as yet she can take her usual walks It seems the importance of yesterday's fight was in the Luxembourg Gardens, which are not closed greatly exaggerated; still it was a success. He to the public, though large herds of oxen and has heard that the Prussian king has taken up sheep are penned in parts of them. She is really his quarters at Versailles, in the glorious palace stronger, and bears up wonderfully against her dedicated "A toutes les gloires de la France;" sorrow for Léon and anxiety for Victor. One that he occupies the gorgeous apartments of La inconvenience of the siege already troubles me on Grande Monarque, and that the stately saloons her account-milk is becoming very scarce, and and galleries echo to the tread of German soldiers. consequently very bad, and it is such a staple of Well, it will not be for long. Unele Lucien says diet to her. There has already been fixed a there is no doubt that there is great disaffection maximum price for meat. It is dreadful to think and discontent among the Prussians, and that what it would be if the siege should be pro- they are nearly starving. It will be impossible, longed for weeks; but it is one comfort that no he says, to find supplies for them so far from one thinks that possible.

home, with hostile armies hanging round their Nina was very anxious to join one of the am- rear. To-day the city looked bright and gay as bulances, but submitted at once to our remonstrances with that dull, apathetic acquiescence she now yields to all our wishes. That passive submission is so very strange in her, so foreign

CHAPTER XII. to her nature and her old ways. I am troubled

A MYSTERY SOLVED. sorely about her. She is so utterly crushed and

"But how can finite measure infinite? broken, does not murmur or complain, or even Reason ! alas, it does not know itself!

Yet man, vain man, would with this short-lived plummet speak of her sorrow; but I think her fair face

Fathom the vast abyss of heavenly justice." grows paler and more rigid each day. God and the holy saints comfort her. I cannot.

September 26.-I have had a word with September 24-There bas been a great victory Augustine. Victor was urging him yesterday to to-day. Uncle Lucien brought us the tidings. join the "Frères Chrétiens" under Monseigneur The Prussians have been driven out of Ville Bauer, late confessor to the Empress, now chapJuif with great loss; it is said many thousands lain to the Ambulance de la Presse. Augustine of prisoners are taken, and a great number of replied that there were already too many attached cannon. The streets leading to the ramparts are to each ambulance; that many had been refused crowded with eager citizens waiting to see them daily, and that he would rather give what assistance pass. Victor is away, perhaps in action. he could independently-his half clerical dress

I this morning to see Marie Fournier. I would be a passport. The subject dropped then,

of yore.

DRYDEX.

on it

but I said afterwards, when he and I were alone, | feels that Léon's fate, whatever it may be, and "I think I would rather choose your part, our painful ignorance concerning it, are alike the Augustine; it is a nobler mission than to defend bitter fruit of her waywardness and sin. God is your country even—to save the souls of your angry with her, and the bolt that he has hurled countrymen. It is a pity you were not a priest at her has smitten us too. But it is all her fault, now; it must be so blessed to go as such among she thinks, and she has made a solemn vow never the wounded and dying with all the blessings of to oppose her will to another's again, lest it should the Church. There niust be so much pain that draw down further chastisement, not upon herseli cannot be eased-of spirit and of body—except only, but upon those bound to her by the electric by her consolation."

chain of affection, vibrating to all that concerns He turned round, and, to my horror and amaze- her. She says, daily, hourly, she fails in keeping ment, answered in a deep low voice, “I shall this vow; that though to us she appears 50 never be a priest, Renée !"

broken, so spiritless, her will surges up still in Strong surprise deprived me of the power of wild impulses of rebellion not only against the speech, and just then some one entered the room. little contradictions and oppositions of daily life, Augustine whispered to me when we parted for but against God even, against his dealing with the night, “Do not repeat what I said to any her, which yet she owns to be so just, and with us. one, Renée; above all to my mother. One day "I would not willingly crush a worm," she said; I will explain.”

"yet God stoops to punish one like me. I have What can be the reason? The holy office was deserved it all, I know; but you have not, ani so completely his own choice, the dream of his mamma." boyhood, and the cherished vision of his youth. I tried to reason with her, and show her that And it will be such a terrible sin to turn his back we were only fellow-victims with thousands of

now, his vocation always seemed so strong others of the terrible scourge of war, whose indisAnd mamma, how she looks forward to seeing criminate lash falls on all alike-on the tenderest him ministering in his priestly robes at the altar. and noblest the heaviest; that we all need chas“ If I could see him thus once before I die, Renée, tisement for our sins and shortcomings, and that perhaps even receive the body of the Lord from it is better to suffer it here than beyond the his hands, the strongest wish left me on earth grave. would be fulfilled,” she said only yesterday. She only shook her head and said, "It is of Words that struck my heart with a shiver of pain, no use, Renée; when Uncle Lucien speaks of for I felt they rung the death-knell of her own France being now suffering the righteous judg. and Léon's life. I hear Nina's step, and must ment of God for the open infidelity and irreligion close.

she has hoisted as a banner since the dreadful September 27.—Nina came to me last night as days of ’92, it all comes home to me. God is I was writing. Something in her agitated look holy, and God is righteous; and though we are told me of new-born hope, and as she took her such puny things, he notices all our ways. I place at my knee and looked up into my face, know he is angry with me. I feel it." her eyes kindled and her face flushed. “Renée," I could not comfort her. How can I? I know she said, "I have thought of a plan by which we she already spends too much of her feeble strength may get news of Léon.".

in fasting and prayer.

Times without number I Then she told me how much she had wished have found her prostrate before the crucifix in to engage

in ambulance work, chiefly for the her room. Oh! will this sorrow be a life-long sake of the chance it gave of meeting with one? Will Léon ever come back to us? wounded Germans, from whom it might be pos- Nina's hope of tidings was based on the possible to learn something of Léon's fate. But we sibility of Augustine's meeting with German opposed it, and she gave it up. And to-night I prisoners and wounded in the various ambulances. have found the clue to the passive submission It is a very slight one. I must speak to him that so characterizes her conduct of late. She about it.

Mamma is not so well. Prices of things are September 29.-Victor came home this mornalready very high; great part of our income is ing full of hope and spirit. He was in the dependent upon the interest of railway stock, in engagement of Ville Juif, but was not hurt. He which most of our own and Uncle Lucien's could not remain long with us, his regiment being property is invested. I fear, if the siege lasts stationed outside. He thinks the silence and much longer, we shall be actually short of money. inactivity of the Prussians a ruse, and says the True, there are Uncle Lucien's rents; but we have Government is wrong in not attacking them at to pay so exorbitantly for common necessaries, once, as they are strengthening their positions still more for the delicacies that are requisite for daily. He told us that spies are taken almost mamma. Justine is almost frantic each time she hourly, and was full of anecdotes of ridiculous goes to market. To-day the stall-keeper told blunders that have been made. We have seen her she must blame Bismarck, not her.

several people arrested in the streets ourselves. But every one seems to think the Army of the No one is now to be allowed to pass the gates, Loire cannot fail to be here in a few days. A under penalty of being shot. We must not be carrier-pigeon has brought encouraging news fearful if he does not appear for a day or two, as from Tours, to which city the civil government it will not often be possible for him to leave his was removed before the commencement of the post. He has seen and questioned several Gersiege. Uncle Lucien is on duty to-night on the man prisoners, but fears there is little hope of ramparts. He says the National Guards are news of Léon reaching us. His visit was like a improving in drill and discipline, the Mobiles breath of fresh air and hope, as it always is; but becoming good soldiers, and the sailors who man our hearts are heavy for him, with the dull boomthe forts splendid fellows ; so there really seems ing of the fort-guns ever reminding us that no reason for despondency.

death is riding in the air. Dearest mamma's September 28.—Uncle Lucien came home to health and spirits are failing; she was very weaday in great spirits. He says 10,000 Prussians ried to-day with just crossing the street into the are hemmed in in the wood of Ville Juif; that it is Gardens, and she felt the air sharp and cold. evident the German force is weak, and that they September 30.-There has been fighting going dare not attack, as they keep resolutely under on to-day, but as yet we do not know the result. cover, and do not reply to the fire of our forts. We are getting familiarized with the dull heavy It is said the Prussian soldiers are very unwilling boom of the guns, which at times seems to shake to carry on the war, and that sentences of friend- the very house, as though they were close at hand, ship and apology addressed to Frenchmen were at others is scarcely audible. But my mind has found on the walls of houses they had evacuated. been less occupied with the fighting and Victor The papers are full of confidence; they say the than with what Augustine told me this morning. people of London have risen en masse to compel He asked me to come with him into the Luxemthe Queen of England to come to our help, and bourg Gardens, as he wished to speak to me that the greatest admiration and sympathy is felt alone. For a time we paced up and down the for Paris by foreign nations.

broad chestnut avenue in silence. Augustine's But I do not like the tone of the papers; even face was fixed and his eye averted, and I waited Uncle Lucien disapproved of some of the articles, for him to begin to speak. At last he turned to in which Paris was compared to the Christ on me and said in short sharp accents, · Renée, I the cross, and said to be, like God, immortal. need not ask if you remember what I said to you He says it is to such profanity France owes the the other night. Your eyes have never ceased chastisement under which she is smarting. Under to question and reprove me since. No; do not the Bourbon kings each regiment had its chap- begin to excuse yourself, -you have a right to lain, each soldier could be religious. But all know. I know my conduct has long been a that is changed now. However, they did not riddle to you. I have only allowed it to be so seem much better in those days, only everything to save you pain, and-and-my mother. Yet looks softened through the mists of time. now I do not see how I can do so longer. Renée,

ness.

more.

I shall never be a priest. How can I tell my of the fathers of the Church, and waded through mother that? And yet until I do so I am living volumes of theological discussion and inquiry. a lie! That at any rate I scorn.” He paused, as He found only "muddy waters, darkened lights, though expecting an answer.

broken harmonies.” These are his own words. I could only stammer out, “0 Augustine ! But now he says the mists of superstition, and why?—what is this?—what does it mean?” the trammels of tradition and habit, have “Why?” he answered slowly, with calm bitter- been swept from his heart and brain by the

“Because I cannot be the priest of a faith clear, steady light of reason, and he doubts no in which I do not believe. What is this ? No

He believes nothing-only in a Deity hasty whim, no light fleeting fancy; but the above, a Creator--not a ruler, not a judge. The mature result of long hours of wrestling and teachings of the Church—the immortality of the doubt, of agony and despair; and it means that soul, purgatory, heaven, hell—he speaks of as two things lie before me--a course of decep- myths invented by crafty, designing men for their tion and trickery, from which my whole soul own selfish end. Oh, it is too dreadful! I canrevolts, or the bringing down a crowning grief not write of it-Auguste, Auguste, my poor misupon my mother's loving devoted heart, beneath guided brother—this is worse even than Léon's which its few remaining beatings will be loss. For if those beautiful words in his letter stilled.”

were Protestant errors, he was no heretic, but a And then he told me the history of the past good and true Catholic. One thing is cleartwo years. Did time and space permit I would mamma must not know; it would kill her. not fully repeat it here, for the wedge whose point When Augustine had finished speaking, I sat first entered Augustine's soul was but a single stunned. The Gardens were almost empty, and expression, a chance word dropped from the we had seated ourselves under one of the great careless lips of an ecclesiastic upon whom he had chestnut-trees; the ground was strewn with the looked as among the sainted ones of the earth. ripe nuts gleaming ruddy brown through the And knowing thus how vast a matter so small a pearly white lining of their spiky husks, and the force will move, I will not risk its entrance into sun poured down with golden brilliance through other minds by giving it here.

Suffice it to say,

the amber-tinted leaves. I think I shall never doubt, fear, disbelief did enter. Not lightly had see unpicked chestnuts again without a thought his reluctant grasp let go the banner of the of that sorrowful hour. ancient faith of his fathers. But to a mind like After a time Augustine put his arm round me his-meditative, penetrating, reasoning—to ques- and drew me closely to him, murmuring tenderly, tion was to analyze, and to analyze was to dis- "My poor little sister ! you must not grieve for cover. He saw that the whole fabric

upon which this; I would not have distressed you now, but I the enthusiastic trust of his boyhood and youth could keep silence no longer." I burst into had been placed was composed of superstition, tears. and error, and priestcraft. Slowly, reluctantly For a time he let me weep; then he said, his hold relaxed, dropped, and the light of "You see my difficulty now, Renée. I am no human reason failed, as it always must fail, to longer the victim of doubts and fears. I am a show him the truth man learns through revela

free man. I do not wish to disturb your faith tion alone.

as long as its chains are of flowers, not of iron as Dark and bitter had been the conflict. At mine were. But I know it will be such a grief first he had regarded his doubts as a temptation, to poor mamma. She wrings my heart almost and had striven to avert them by fasting, and daily by speaking to me as to one whose rightful penance, and prayer; whole nights he had duty and office it is, before all others, to sympassed in repeating the prescribed forms of pathize with her about things which to her are prayer, in invoking the aid and intercession such holy, solemn, sacred realities; which to me of saints and the Virgin, but all in vain. The are shadows, vapours, dreams! Renée, how shall thiek darkness deepened; he studied the works I tell her ?

« PredošláPokračovať »