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Tostes is a beautiful little village; for it cannot be called a market-town, although it has a market-house and spacious hall, where a fair is held. It also boasts of a well-built chateau surrounded by avenues of lofty trees, a superior inn, and a neat church. Behind the market-place is a grove, in which the peasants frequently assemble to dance, the approach to which from the highroad is under the pillars which support the building; and beyond this grove the country assumes a more wild and picturesque form than in those parts near the highroad. Here are deep lanes shaded with high trees. These lanes, in summer, are hardly passable to a delicate foot, and are, in winter, utterly impracticable, since they then serve as channels to watercourses. Little cottages, covered with thatch, and half embosomed in trees, are scattered, in different directions, among the fields adjoining these lanes; and, in summer, an infinite variety of beautiful wild flowers meet the eye on every side; while the branches of the trees are, at the same season, filled with a number of such birds as love cool and solitary places, rendering those retreats still more inviting by their soft and harmonious songs.
The little cottage left by the honest Gaspard de Foix to his widow and daughters, was situated in a field at the extremity of a short path which led from the more busy part of the village. The field which afforded the site of this cottage was at once so shady and fragrant, that a sweeter retirement can scarcely be imagined. The cottage itself was encircled by a small garden abounding with rose bushes, the late occupant having been accustomed to make part of her rent by preparing rose-water, which she sent annually to a certain perfumer in Rouen. It was built, as most of the cottages are in Normandy, of timber and thatch, and could boast of four apartments; the chief of which was a hall, paved with glazed red tiles, and hung with an imitation of the tapestry of Gobelin, painted in oil colours. It could boast also of certain pieces of furniture, counted rather costly in that place: namely, a table of acajon surmounted by a slab of grey marble, a looking-glass in a gilt frame, and an ornamented time-piece, which stood upon the mantle-shelf.
And although the rest of the
furniture of this room was of a more common kind, yet the few sumptuous pieces I have already described were considered sufficient to mark the whole apartment as belonging to the habitation of no ordinary persons.
In this agreeable abode the widow and her daughters soon found themselves comfortably settled; while the Bible which the old lady had brought with her from Rouen, and which had been delivered into her hands by her dying husband, furnished Madame de Foix with, so many rich sources of consolation, that her grief shortly assumed the softest and most tender character.
It was late in autumn when this family took possession of their cottage; and, during the winter, which proved severe, they spent their time in great privacy, being occupied in making such arrangements as might render their habitation more to their liking.
At length, the frozen chains in which nature had been bound during the wanderings of the sun in our southern hemisphere began to dissolve, and she prepared again to display those innumerable charms with which she takes delight to adorn the haunts of the peasant. The daughters of Madame de Foix had never enjoyed an opportunity of observing the gradual advancement of the spring amidst any thing like natural scenes; they were, therefore, infinitely interested in the opening of every bud and the bursting forth of every leaf. The early note of the cuckoo filled them with extacy; and it was an event of importance to them when they discovered the first lamb of the season following its parent with trembling and uncertain steps.
In the mean time, as the spring advanced, those pleasures which are so eagerly pursued in the open air by the peasantry of both sexes in this country began again to make their appearance, It was the earliest Sunday in April, a cloudless and beautiful afternoon, when the peasants first repaired to the Guinguette, or public place from whence refreshments were distributed to the persons who collected themselves to dance in the open air, which, as I before remarked, was in a grove behind the market-house. The cottage of Madame de Foix was not so remote from this place, but that the sound of the violin and the jocund voices of the young peasantry could be heard, sometimes more plainly, and at other times
more indistinctly, at the bottom of the garden, as the breeze wafted the sound to and from that quarter. “What is that sound?” said Annette, the younger daughter of Madame de Foix, who was sitting with her sister on a bench in a lower part of the garden.
“ It is the sound of the villagers in the Guinguette," said Rosalie.
“ And they are dancing!” said Annette, with a deep sigh.
Undoubtedly,” replied Rosalie. “Why do you express surprise? Is it not the common custom of the country to repair to the Guinguette on a Sunday evening?”
Yes,” answered Annette, “I know it is the custom, and I cannot see the harm of it.”
Rosalie turned her eyes upon her sister with an expression of astonishment, and said, “Annette, have you forgotten our father, and the constant tendency of his instructions?”
· No,” said Annette: “I doubt not but that my father's memory is as dear to me as it is to you. Nevertheless I know that his ideas were singular and overstrict, and that no one agreed with him in his religious opinions, which were those of an old man,
and one soured by the world.”
“O, Annette! Annette!” returned Rosalie, “what man was less sour than our father? Whom have we ever known, whose cheerfulness, like his, knew no change; who smiled even on his death-bed, and on whose countenance rested the sweetest appearance of peace even in his coffin. It was my father, Annette, it father, who, of all the men I have ever known, alone understood the true nature of divine rest. He sought it faithfully on the Lord's-day, and it was added to him on every other day of the week; he sought it in life, and it was added to him in death.”
As she uttered these words, Rosalie had risen, and stood opposite to her sister; while the glow of her feelings gave a corresponding flush to her charming countenance, which at that moment displayed all that can well be conceived of the beauty of holiness adding its incomparable finish to the charms of youth. She ceased to speak, and, lifting her eyes up, being attract
ed by some sound without the little edge which surrounded the garden, she perceived Florimond approaching, a young farmer with whom she had become slightly acquainted passing and repassing with her mother to and from the halle.
This young man might best be described in the words of Thomson, the elegant poet of our neighbouring country.
-The pride of swains
Florimond possessed a large farm-house, and many fertile fields, in a remote part of the parish. He had neither parent, brother, nor sister living, and those families in the neighbourhood who had daughters to dispose of were looking with some anxiety for the moment when he should make the choice of his companion for life.
Such was the young man who stood before Rosalie, and thus addressed her:-" The evening is delightful, and our friends are assembled beneath the shade. May I not request the charming daughter of Madame de Foix to accompany me to the Guinguette? I have long earnestly sought such an occasion as this evening presents; and I should consider myself as being supremely happy, if she would accept my hand in the dance.”
Rosalie coloured, and modestly signified, that it was impossible for her to grant his request.
He expressed some surprise, asked if her mother were ill so as to require her presence at home, and continued to press his suit with so much vehemence, that she was, at length, compelled, though with some reluctance, to confess that her religious principles did not permit her to join the dance of the villagers on the Sunday.
The young man started at this declaration, and asked her wherein her religion differed from that of her country people?
She answered by simply stating the facts which we have before related respecting her father, together with
the views which he had acquired from Scripture concerning the nature of the Lord's-day and the duties which it required.
Notwithstanding the beautiful simplicity and clearness with which the amiable Rosalie told her story, it was evident that she failed to obtain the concurrence of the young man at that time. Indeed, it was not a favourable moment, humanly speaking, to produce convictions of a serious nature, when the heart was decidedly engaged in the pursuit of pleasure. He heard her out with restrained impatience; and then, with a look which signified, "What a pity it is that such notions should have entered the head of so lovely a young person!” he wished her a good evening, and walked off, in a manner which sufficiently indicated his disappointment.
We know not what passed in the mind of Rosalie on this occasion. Suffice it to say, that a deep blush spread itself over her cheek, and a tear started in her eye, when Florimond turned from her with some appearance of disdain; and that such was the abstraction of her mind for some seconds, that she stood immoveably fixed to the spot till the intervening branches of a neighbouring thicket concealed the young farmer from her view. But as she never afterwards adverted to the circumstance, and as she recovered her self-possession
space, so as to enter with her usual animation into the religious services of the evening with her mother and the rest of their little family, we may suppose that the struggle she passed through was short, and that she was enabled to obtain a speedy victory over her feelings, through the power of Him who makes his people more than conquerors of that evil nature by which the children of this world are held in perpetual bondage.
It was at a late hour on this very afternoon, and at the moment when some of those who had been amusing themselves at the Guinguette were passing by the cottage of Madame de Foix to return to their homes in distant parts of the parish, that this pious widow entered into a discourse, the subject of which was perhaps suggested by this very circumstance. She spoke of the life of faith, comparing it with that of sense; and, on
in a very