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deep window-seat, or read some wild legend, some My father was a Deist. How I discovered old story of romace, of knight or paladin, or this I do not know. He never spoke to me of pored over some ancient chronicle, or revelled his religious views, never suffered me to read or in the sweet thoughts and bright fancies of my write anything for him which interfered with favourite poets, sitting in my low chair beside those in which I had been brought up. Yet the him, or on the little stool at his feet. Sometimes knowledge came to me. I did not fully realize I could beguile him into laying aside his books it, but I saw that while he recognised God in for a time, and coming into the garden with me creation he did not acknowledge him otherwise. to admire the herbs and flowers, in which I took I had no thought of God myself ; my ideas of an especial pride, and cultivated entirely myself, religion went no further than the fêtes and cerewith a little aid from Blaise or Pierre in the more monials of the Church in which I had been trained. laborious work. Sometimes I could persuade I had no thought beyond this present life,-—-no him to climb the hills with me, once or twice even sense of need or sin. But, as a child, my father's as far as the old red castle on the Colline Rouge ; absence from mass and confessional had perplexed and, as I grew in his confidence, he would tell of me, and I had often asked Barbe why it was. To his deep thoughts; of the visions he cherished of this, and all other questions relating to my father's benefiting, not his country only, but his age-not habits, or my dead mother's thoughts upon them, France only, but mankind; means by which the she only replied by a shake of the head and a burdens of life were to be equalized, abuşes cor- heavy sigh ;-and when Barbe chose to speak, no rected, and Earth made a Paradise. He would one could make her silent; when she chose to be tell me, too, of his disappointments : how from silent, no one could make her speak. time to time he had, as he thought, launched a great But I am dwelling too long on this part of my work into the world, and waited with triumphant story. Happy in my father's love, and in the simple hope for the stirring of the dry bones; and then pleasures of my home, these things did not trouble met sneers, and ridicule, and anger, and found it me. Barbe would never allow me to take any part in by-and-by lying unsold on the shelves of the book- honse-keeping cares.
house-keeping cares. She ruled supreme; and, sellers. And then he would tell me of the great indeed, her strict economy and excellent managework of his life, upon which he had been engaged ment were only too necessary to eke out our narfor years, which he feared would be yet uncom- row means. I had no companions; there were pleted at his death. He would even read to me no girls in the village above the peasant rank, portions he had written; and at last, when his eye- and poor as we were my father never forgot his sight began to fail, employ my willing fingers to family was one of the oldest in France, and would add page after page to the great piles of manuscript not have suffered me to associate with those whom heaped up at one side of his table, or to search he considered beneath me in birth and station. out and read to him passages from the various I did not feel the want. I had books in plenty ; authors whose works he consulted. I did not I had my garden and my needle, both occupations know then, I do not know now, how it was that in which I delighted. Sometimes, indeed, I he, who seemed to me so wise, whose mind was visited the cottages of the peasants and played certainly a storehouse of knowledge, whose with their children; often I took long rambles thoughts flowed in a strong current of eloquence in the woods and up the steep mountain-paths, and power, and appeared to me, at least, great and weaving at once bright garlands of earth’s flowers grand, should remain as he had done, unnoticed and earth's hopes—dreaming brilliant dreams of and unknown.
a future in which my father should at length But one thing I do know, though I do not stand on the height towards which he had long think it was that which made his writings un- toiled; while I-. But who cannot tell what acceptable to men,-all his ideas, and dreams, and a young girl's dreams would be, breathing as hopes were based on sand, because they rested on I did the atmosphere of chivalry and romance the foundation of man's wisdom, not of God's in my favourite books! Dreams indeed !-airy truth.
nothings ! — bright and beautiful as a sunset cloud, radiant with the rosy hues of hope, and majestic presence of her holy Son? But all was fading as soon! A day came when I was to so misty, so vague to me. Then I remembered wake suddenly.
(somehow I had forgotten, or rather not thought It was my birthday, my last birthday-only twelve of it for long,) that for the last few months, or it months to-day-that the awakening came. How may have been years, of her life, she did not go as it all comes back to me, from my opening my before to mass or confessional so regularly as eyes to the consciousness of the flood of sunshine Father Lefèvre wished; and I know he was pouring into my room and lighting up the dark angry with her about it.
angry with her about it. But then she was very red roofs of the village on the hill-side, even as it weak and ill. And then flashed upon me the was illuminating the city spires this morning! words that had so roused my childish wonder,From my window I looked on the village, nestling “In heaven, whatever the priest might say!” close among the woods; the latter stretching far Yes; I was sure of it. But heaven seemed to right and left, with the gray towers of the very distant; a strange, far-off place, fenced off stately Château de Maurence rising above their from my sight by a dazzling barrier of awful vivid and varied tints of green, the mountain glory, and my heart yearned after the lost presence towering high above; and nearer, nearest of all, which had once been so precious to me. Should the little gray church, and the white marble cross I ever rejoice in it again ? How should I ever on my, mother's grave. The latter was always win those shining heights? God was so severe visible, but as I leaned through my window, and and terrible a judge—so very hard to please, and felt the soft breeze on my face, wafting up the I had never even tried to please him,-how should dewy fragrance of the flowers and opening buds, I begin ? bearing in the joyous carolling of birds, and the I strove to turn from these painful thoughts by busy humming of insects, my eyes were fixed recalling the days when my mother was on earth, upon it, and my thoughts turned with unwonted and of earth, when no impassable gulf divided us. intensity of remembrance to her who had so long Vividly rose before me the pale, sweet face, so been gone from our midst, so long lain unconscious lovely in its faded beauty; the large, dark, wistful of the beauty and gladness and life that had eyes, whose sad, far-away look, would change for awoke round her resting-place as spring after one of such deep tenderness when they met mine; spring came round.
and the low, soft voice, so seldom heard, yet And as my heart answered rapturously to all whose tones were to me the sweetest of earthly the sweet influences of life and loveliness around music. I could almost feel again the touch of the me, I felt a strange pity for her, gone from them thin fingers stroking my head; the light weight of all-shut out from them all. And then I thought, the wasted hand on my shoulder, as I guided her Where was she? Was heaven as fair as the feeble steps, proud to think I was of use. And smiling scene around ? Could it be fairer ? But then the strange change in her look before the was she in heaven? Was there not a terrible last parting. I recalled how I used to wonder ordeal to be passed through before that heaven what made mamma always so sad. I thought it could be reached,-- purgatory? Yes; but that was because she was ill, and going to leave papa terrible place was to cleanse from the taint of sin, and me, who loved her so dearly. “Very soon,” to burn away all the dross of impurity and de- as she often told me; but still she lingered so filement contracted here below. And my gentle long, that when the end at last came, it appeared mother,-oh! surely there was no stain on her to be a sudden shock. pure spirit; no fiery pangs were necessary to prepare her to join the other happy ones in the Blessed Virgin's presence. No; the blessed
CHAPTER III. Mother of God had, we were told, a mother's
MY MOTHER'S DEATH. tender heart, a woman's sympathy and love; and would not she welcome one so good and pure as OFTEN and often had I thought of all this bemy mother, and shield her in the awful and I fore ; but this morning all came before me with
startling clearness, and took a new meaning. I me by assuring me, as well as her trembling lips went over those last days again, from the would let her, that she was not dead ; that one, when coming in from the garden loaded Father Lefévre had gone for the doctor; that with mamma's favourite flowers to arrange in her he had not hurt her; it was her illness—she room,—she did not leave the house, the autumn would be better. Then the doctor came, heated winds were too cold, she said, -and I never and panting with the haste he had made. His dreamed of her being weaker or worse. Coming first care was to send me from the room with in, as I said, out of the sunny garden, I saw Susette, who was scarcely less terrified than myFather Lefévre on the threshold. He was a cold, self; but I resisted going further than the closed grave, austere man, with a worn, sallow face, door, where I sat among the bright blossoms I and dark, glittering eyes, deeply sunk in their had thrown down, in a stupor of grief. sockets, and I always shrank from him in dread. Presently Barbe came and told me my mother I knew my mother feared him too. I had seen
She had opened her eyes, but she her clasp her hands as in terror when she saw must not speak or be spoken to-must be kept him approaching, and her pale face was always very, very quiet. They had carried her to her paler, and a look of greater sadness, sometimes bed, and I must be very good and still ; and in almost of despair, rested upon her set features a few days she would be better and able to see and in the quiet agony of her dark eyes.
Soon the doctor too came and told me the I was never present at those interviews. I same; but his cheery tones were more reassuring would have stayed if permitted, for my thought than poor Barbe's anxious face and tremulous was that he came to scold mamma for not going voice, and I was something comforted. to mass. But he always dismissed me at once ; But night came, and the next day, and the and when I pleaded with her for permission to next, and brought no change. Dreary days, remain, she gently but decidedly refused. whose long hours dragged tediously through.
That day I had not known of his coning, and My father was away. He had been written to, mamma had sent me out into the fresh air while but could not arrive for some time ; communicashe rested. I remember how strangely pale and tions were somewhat uncertain, and travelling tired, even for her, she had looked ; and my first slow. Those weary days, when we crept about feeling at the sight of Father Lefèvre was one of with noiseless steps and hushed voices, seem anger and annoyance against him for disturbing more like a dream than a reality. My mother her. Not wishing to meet him, I loitered among had often been ill before, but I had always the shrubs. But when I looked again, I saw him had access to her room at times, and this comeagerly beckoning to me. Then I went quickly plete exclusion bewildered and distressed me. forward, and saw that his countenance was greatly How I longed for my father's return! I used agitated and paler even than its wont.
to sit in a window that commanded the poplar “ Your mamma is very ill, Léonie,” he said in a avenue, hour after hour, longing with that feverhurried and troubled tone; “you must not go ish intensity which makes the heart sick, for the into her room or disturb her. I am going for sight of the post-chaise that should bring him Dr. Duprât.” And then he passed on quickly, home. before I could recover from the shock. Disre- At last he came. It was the evening of the garding his injunction, I rushed into the boudoir, third day. The house was stiller than ever. Dr. where I had left my mother. Oh, how what I Duprât had been again and again, and even his saw then is photographed on my mind! Mamma round rosy face looked pale and anxious. Barbe lay back on a fauteuil, pale as death, and the
Susette was weepfront of her white dress was covered with a ing and telling her beads. Father Lefèvre too crimson stain. I rushed frantically up to her, was there ; not in my mother's room, but pacing sbrieking out that Father Lefèvre had killed her, the hall with gloomy brow and folded arms. and imploring her to speak to her little Léonie Many times he had come through those days; once more. It was with difficulty Barbe pacified l but the doctor and Barbe prevented his entering
But at my
the sick-room. For me, I could not dissociate ing in tangled confusion round it. his presence from my mother's illness, and I were closed, and she looked so still, so marbleshrank out of his way: needlessly, for he was like, I at first thought she was dead. Beside her, evidently too much engrossed with his own holding one wasted hand in his, and gazing upon thoughts to notice me. Vexed, angry thoughts her with the same look of concentrated anguish they were, I felt sure.
that had so awed me when I first saw him, stood When at last I caught sight of the post-chaise my father.
my father. At the foot of the bed, with hidden coming rapidly up—the driver urging his wearied face and frame convulsed with sobs, knelt poor horses to their utmost speed-my heart gave a Barbe. Opposite my father stood Father Lefèvre. great bound of delight, as if my father's presence No one noticed my entrance, till, with a cry must bring relief from the terrible dread of Iof irrepressible grief, I threw myself upon the scarce knew what, that so pressed upon it. I bed, crying, “Mamma, mamma, speak to me! it hastened to the court-yard and stood just within is your little Léonie! Oh, speak to me just one the gate, to be ready, the instant it opened, to word, mamma!” spring into his arms. For it was not till my Barbe told me afterwards they thought she dear mother's death had fallen like a blight upon would never have spoken more, and, with misthe house, that the strange coldness and estrange taken kindness, would have prevented me enterment had sprung up between my father's heart ing, had I not done so unawares. and mine.
passionate cry, the white blue-veined lids quivBut at the first glimpse of his face I shrank ered; a look of pain marred the strange beautiback. Never shall I forget the ashy hue of his ful calm of the gentle face, and slowly the dark countenance—the look of agony imprinted on his soft eyes opened once more. set features and rigid lips! I suppose he knew “My darling,” she whispered, “my little white he was in time. He did not seem to see me or dove,”—her pet name for me, because I was so Father Lefèvre, but passed straight to the room pale and small in those days : then her eyes I was forbidden to enter. A great tearless sob
A great tearless sob closed wearily again. of anguish shook my childish frame, as I felt the She lay still, and we watched her in solemn chance I had looked for so long, of entering that silence. Child as I was, the strange calm of her chamber with him, was past. But I would not face awed me, and I dared not speak again. It let another slip. I seated myself on the floor seemed to me as if a light rested upon it; as if by the door-listening-listening. But there my mother were changed, and yet the same. Beseemed a stillness as of the grave.
fore, even when she smiled upon me, there were Presently there were faint, confused sounds sadness and unrest in her countenance. Now within ; and raising my head from my hands, I there was stamped upon it, not joy, not repose saw Father Lefèvre standing there too, with a merely, but peace-peace unspeakable. look of stern determination upon his dark, worn Then, in the stillness, there was a movement. face. Suddenly-so suddenly and silently, I Father Lefèvre again tried to speak, but was at scarce saw the movement till it was completed, once silenced by an imperious gesture from my he opened the door and closed it upon himself. father. Once more those dear eyes opened. They Then I heard low, hoarse whispers ; Barbe's turned from one to the other with an appealing voice broken with sobs; Father Lefèvre's deep, glance; and then-I cannot describe how it was, hollow tones; and my father's, in short, sharp but a flash of life seemed to come back to the accents. Then, again, silence. I could bear it exhausted frame-only for a brief moment. She no longer. Noiselessly I opened the door and half raised herself on her pillows, and, turning slipped in.
upon all of us a bright, clear look of gladness Then I saw-I see now—I shall see to the and peace, she said, in a low but distinct voice, end—my sweet mother lying propped high with addressing my father,pillows,-her face white as the linen on which it “Gustave, it is all over,—the darkness, the rested,—the rich masses of dark glossy hair fall- sorrow, the fear! I have sinned, but I am for
given. And, Gustave, it is true. All is peace thought my mother's broken words had pointed peace—peace. Light has come out of darkness; to that book as specially for my father and me. and I found it here, in this.” She drew a small But he had left immediately after, and I had book from under her pillow, tried to raise it, but never seen him since. By degrees I grew to failed, and sank back exhausted. “Gustave — think less and less about it, and at length forLéonie, my Léonie,” she whispered, -"for you-got, or at least ceased to recall it
But that bright May morning, as I stood and She lay still a few moments; and then, open- looked at the joyous sunlight flooding the spot ing her eyes with a look of wonderful gladness where she had lain in darkness more than nine and brightness, she repeated slowly, gaspingly, years, all came back, as I said before, with an “ Yes, light-light-out-of-darkness !” Her intensity of remembrance, and startling clearness last words.
of realization, unlike anything I had previously Barbe rose and led me unresisting from the experienced. I had not meant to dwell so long room. No one told me; but I knew she was upon these scenes, but the vivid recalling of them dead. I saw her once more, and laid her favour- that morning is so linked with the revolution in ite flowers over her. The reflection of that heart and life which was to begin that day, and strange brightness and peace seemed to rest still the reminiscences themselves are so infinitely upon the slumbering face. The next day they sweet and soothing, now I have a key that exlaid her to rest under the great chestnut tree by plains all that was so puzzling to me then, that the church-yard wall. My father shut himself up I have been drawn on into writing all this. I in his study, and I was left with my grief, alone know now that a power, stronger than that of -oh, how alone!
memory-an influence weightier than that of But childhood's grief, though sharper and mere natural emotion and affection, was upon me deeper than most suppose, does not last long. that morning. Depths were stirred in my being Ere many weeks had passed, I had grown accus- that were never reached before. I believe that tomed to my loss, and played and ran about as Spirit whose workings are like the viewless wind, gaily as before. Still, I did not forget; and one coming whence we know not, going whither we of my best loved tasks was to deck her grave know not, bringing we know not what on its with flowers.
rushing wings, was breathing the breath of life Often and often that strange scene on her on my soul. Thoughts deep and solemn rose in death-bed had recurred to me, and I had longed my mind-Life-Death-Eternity. I looked at to know what it all meant. What was the light the fair scene around me :-life was there—life that had come, that made her brighter and was mine! I looked at the many graves in the happier in death than I ever remembered her in churchyard :—there was death. And beyond, life ? I asked Barbe. But she either could not eternity. Life was mine then; it had once been or would not give me any answer. Once I had the portion of those who lay there—now, it was asked, after a fruitless search, for the book she death and eternity! And death and eternity had held in ber dying hand. But Barbe crossed would one day be my lot too. herself with an invocation to the Virgin, and said Never before had I in any measure realized the Father Lefévre had taken it. And then I re- awful import of that solemn word which now membered, what I scarce noticed at the time-seemed ringing through the inmost recesses of my that the day she died the priest bad lingered being, like an alarm-bell : Eternity-eternitylong in my mother's boudoir. And when, in my eternity : the mysterious--the endless—the unaimless wanderings through the darkened house, known ! I went listlessly in, I saw him with a little pile I know now it was God's voice that spoke of books and papers before him, which he was within me in those thoughts. There was nothing evidently preparing to take away.
in my training, in my associations, in what I knew I almost think, had he remained in Drécy, I of religion even, to arouse such. should have ventured to ask him for it, as I Close to my mother's grave was a flower