« EelmineJätka »
a shade of difference passed over the white face as she noticed the vacant slabs, and she walked away softly as she had entered, only muttering “ Pas encore !"
“ Persevering old woman!" said the agent, with a smile; “ her daughter went astray some six months ago, and she is alive enough and saucy enough for anything; the old woman would rather believe her dead, and so she comes daily in search of her, though I have often undeceived her as to her fate"
Another shrug of his shoulders for the weakness of human nature, and the agent bade us good morning, leaving us to turn back to the Rue de la Harpe in solemn silence. For my part, as I walked along the gay, busy streets so full of life, my heart swelled with compassionate prayers for the unhappy ones doomed to search for their hearts' treasures in the Morgue-to search successfully, alas !
We had hardly crossed the threshold of the house when Petit Jean himself rushed forwards, and caught Babois's hand, exclaiming earnestly:
“ Forgive me, forgive me, my good father!”
“ Tell me first where you come from, truant?” returned Babois, his tenderness melting away with his anxiety; “ I have been hunting for you all the day.”
The boy hung his head, overpowered by shame. “ I have been so wicked!” he faltered.
And now we all perceived another figure in the lodge standing by Madame Babois's chair. It was that of a Sister of Charity, a fine strong woman, whose firm step suited well her coarse shoes, whose active limbs, like her plain short dress, bespoke constant activity, not the romance of asceticism; no pale, languid devotee was there, but a healthy, hearty woman, whose energies were dedicated to the service of Christ in His own appointed way—“Feed my sheep.” And how tender was the touch of the hand she laid on Petit Jean's head, how sympathetic the glistening eye which beamed from the depths of her unbecoming but most sheltering head-dress of snowy linen.
“Good man,” she said, gently but firmly, “ bind up his wounded heart; do not probe it, he has sinned deeply, but he is deeply penitent. God is always merciful, how can we dare be otherwise ? Good-by, Petit Jean; next Sunday I will see you again ; now I must hasten away ; but remember, no more passion, no more ingratitude to God.”
Petit Jean sprang up and kissed her warmly. She received his caress with a smile, but she did not return it. All the warmth of her heart had for many years found vent not in soft caresses but in incessant, vigorous acts of benevolence. Her lips ever prayed and admonished, they had almost forgotten to kiss. What an impression she made on me! I wished to detain her, as she left the lodge with her swift firm step, but Will had now caught Petit Jean, and holding him by the ear, insisted upon knowing where he had spent the day.
“Tell them all about it, Petit Jean," said Madame Babois, who had already heard the story from the Sister of Charity.
“When I left here this morning," began the child, with a faltering voice, “I felt, oh I don't know how, but wicked, wicked and angry all over. They are unjust, unjust,' I kept on saying to myself; ‘I will never go back to them;' and I ran on, and still something always said unjust, unjust, in my heart. I came to the river; I was hot, furious; the
water looked cool and pleasant. If I die they will be sorry they accused me unjustly,' I thought; and in a moment, I hardly know how, I had jumped in. I felt the water all over me, it got down my throat suffocatingly; but I rose again to the light, and then I screamed for help, as loud as I could.”
Babois interrupted the recital by a hoarse laugh, and a “ Fichtre petit drôle, you have grand courage for a suiciden"
“ You should not laugh at him," I suggested. “No, no, it is very serious," replied Madame.
“ I don't know what happened after that,” resumed the boy; “but I found myself on a bed, all wrapped up in blankets, and by my side sat the same Sister of Charity who brought me here. She spoke to me very kindly, and told me to lie still, that my clothes were at the fire, and when they were dry she would take me home. After a while she asked me if I had a mother, upon which I told her all I knew about myself. She asked me more questions than I could answer, and she told me how wicked I had been, and she made me pray to be forgiven, and she prayed, too, for me. That is all.”
“ Why, Jean, you have forgotten how you were saved," said Madamte Babois; “it is the most singular part of the story. You know the my lord Anglais who came to see you, sir; well, he was lounging on the quai, trying to induce his dog to have a swim, when my poor boy jumped in. Sir, without a moment's hesitation, in he went after him, swam to him, and bore him to the shore ; but with a sang froid, the good sister told me, he would not hear a word of thanks. But,' said she, tell me your name, that the mother of this poor boy may mention you in her prayers.' So then he drew a little case from his pocket, and gave her his card, and walked coolly away with his dog, all dripping with wet, but not hastening his step or looking more moved thap if he had taken a warm bath! Ah! they are curious, those English.” And Madame Babois produced the glazed, finely-engraved card, much stained with water, on which we read “ Honourable Charles Stiffley, Grafton-street."
“ Doosid lucky thing he was there," said Will, imitating his very indifferent style of speech.
When, some days afterwards, Will saw the Honourable Charles, and congratulated him on his Sunday morning's work, he replied with nonchalance, “Oh, ah! fine boy; hope his governor horsewhipped him soundly."
On the following Sunday, faithful to her promise, arrived the good Sister of Charity, and at my own desire I was allowed to see her. But she came not alone; with her was a younger sister, dressed, like herself, in a religious habit, but different as possible in face and manner. Delicate, timid, with hesitating step and sad, languid eyes, which dropped before the gaze of a stranger, as if she had known not only sorrow but shame. She coloured deeply as Sister Thérèse presented her, by the name of Agnes, to Madame Babois and Petit Jean.
“ You are very happy to have found so good a mother," she said gently to the boy ; “ you will never again cause her such anxiety. Think of her grief if she had lost you !" And her large eyes, filled with tears, were fixed earnestly on Petit Jean.
Sister Thérèse then asked permission to see the clothes which Madame had kept since the first night of the infant's arrival at her door. The other one turned them over and over with trembling hands and drooping lip, as if painful remembrances touched her at the sight of the little “ langes," now yellow with age. Then she fixed her eyes again on Petit Jean, and listened in silence to all Madame's loquacious descriptions of the courage, wit, and vivacity of the boy's earliest years.
Sister Thérèse, with kindly authority, gave good advice to Jean and his adopted mother, and promised to renew her visit at some future time. “ But,” said she, “ we have so little leisure; what with the school children and the sick, and the Church offices, we have rarely a moment to spare. Come, Agnes, bid farewell to the good Christian who has been a mother to a forsaken child. We have hardly time to gain the Hôtel Dieu for our watch."
She rose to depart, saluting us all with a wave of the hand and a quiet smile.
" Au revoir,” murmured the pale Sister Agnes, following her with a slow, mechanical step. She crossed the threshold, then suddenly returning, took Jean by the hand, and imprinted a long yearning kiss on his forehead; her lips seemed to grow there, and her sad eyes overflowed with tears meanwhile. Jean watched them from the door.
“ Mademoiselle," whispered the porteress to me, "did you observe that kiss ?”
“ Yes ; why?”
“Only mothers kiss like that,” she replied, shaking her head with a glance full of meaning—" only mothers! Hélas ! la pauvre fille !"
Three years afterwards, when I was far removed from the Quartier Latin, occurred one of those periodical minor revolutions to which poor France has been always subject since the great shock to her system in the latter part of the last century: sort of epileptic fits following a terrific attack of delirium, treated by copious bleeding instead of good food and tonics.
Petit Jean on this occasion headed a band of the youthful gardes mobiles, and received his death-blow at a very early stage of the business. He lay bleeding behind a barricade of overturned fiacres and omnibuses, when two Sisters of Charity advanced to him. One raised his head, the other attempted to stanch the blood from a wound in his breast.
“Ah! is it you, Sister Thérèse ? ever my good angel ; and you too, Sister Agnes?"
“Not sister," whispered the poor woman, pressing to her bosom his drooping head; “not sister, but mother, your own unfortunate, most erring mother. Tell me you forgive me, my son!”
Death was fast veiling the bright eyes which sought hers so eagerly at these words ; the hand which would have clasped hers fell limp and powerless ; but the lips moved, and on the strained ear of the listener fell the soft sound, “ My mother, my dear mother!" One kiss, and the newly claimed tie was severed, severed for a time, to be re-united-yes, grant it, forgiving Lord !-re-united for ever.
And so passed away Petit Jean; and good Madame Babois has had a florid history of him engraven on his tomb, which she decorates monthly with fresh wreaths and crosses, and inspects as often the little packet of linen so often watered by her tears.
Doctor Meyer and his wife are flourishing in Canada, where there is ample scope for the exercise of his talents, and fewer people to remark on
their little difference of rank in the social ladder. Will is a portly family man, and I have more than one small tyrant clinging to my maternal skirts. The Quartier Latin has become to me a dream; yet no ;-dreams are less pleasant, more eccentric; it is rather a page in the history of my life read over and over again by the lamp of memory-read so often, that my fond prejudice led me to fancy others might like to read it too. The mature reader will forgive me, for he too must have some vivid chapter in his youthful life over which he dwells when all has changed, the actors have vanished, the scene is shifted, nay, even his own identity lost in the difference of costume.
By EDGAR A. BOWRING, C.B.
For their lives in pleasure vying;
Their easy and painless dying.
The sickle falls,—all is ended!
Still blooming with life, these glad mortals,
The shadowy realm's dark portals.
They die with a joyous demeanour,
By Proserpine, bell's czarina.
Seven years I daily languish
In bitter and speechless anguish.
May be buried-my sole ambition.
For filling a martyr's position.
At a course so inconsequential;
That joy that is so essential.
And melancholy make me;
Of a Catholic I must betake me.
In Thine ears my wailings dreary-
For ever— miserere !
THE CONFEDERATE JUSTIFICATION.
TO THE EDITOR OF THE NEW MONTHLY MAGAZINE. SIR,—It was as far back as September that you were good enough to insert some observations of mine upon the present unhappy contest going on in the United States of North America. I did not flatter myself that they would have attracted notice on the other side of the Atlantic, and that an American gentleman, who declares himself to be of the State of Arkansas, in a publication entitled “ Confederate Notes for English Circulation,"* should have done me the honour of noticing, although in reprobation, the article to which I allude. Not that I complain; I am let off gently compared to Professor Cairnes, who, in his work entitled the “ Slave Power,” has shown a more decided feeling of opposition to the slave system which it has been the object of the Southern States not merely to maintain on the footing it stood at the period of the declaration of independence, but to extend and ramify as much as possible in order to render the extirpation of that curse of humanity next to impossible. As slaves could not be openly imported it became necessary to multiply them at home by all possible modes. A part of Virginia, rendered hopelessly barren owing to the over-cultivation of the soil, until it was utterly exhausted, turned the attention of a portion of its people to breeding slaves as they would breed swine; to dispose of in the more Southern markets. The trade became a flourishing one in the Virginian hutches. Cross-breeds, semi-whites, or pure African blood, all would do—like Peter Pindar's razors—to sell. In place of attempting to lessen the evil, the object was to increase and render it a lasting system. By dint of union in the Sputh, and by successful efforts to detach a certain number of members from the North, so far as to maintain a predominant influence in the government, not only the maintenance of slavery was strengthened and established on the firmest footing, but also its extension almost to the Pacific by new states. The American papers long ago detailed to the world the unseemly individual contests on the floor of the congress, proceeding even to coarse brutality towards individual representatives who ventured to censure the degrading system in a free expression of their opinions. Still slave-breeding went on. Many slaves had two or three wives. Some owners even hoped each woman would lie in annually, and enhance the stock for sale. As long as a preponderance was maintained by the South, matters proceeded with tolerable smoothness. Now and then the brutal explosion of an angry Southerner would take place when some one of the North ventured to be hostile in relation to slavery. The representatives of the South boast of being the élite of the American people, aping at a distance sufficiently remote the feudal lords of the past time in Europe with their wretched serfs. Yet matters going their own way, and the men in authority not presuming to differ from them,
* Confederate Notes for English Circulation. C. S. Simpson, 10, King William-street.
By M. B. H., of Arkansas.