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As soon as Basil came in, he hastened to his wife's room to speak some word of comfort to her, which his kind heart had suggested to him by the way- and this he was anxious to do before he went to the chateau.
"O, Basil !” she said, as soon as he came into the room, lifting herself in her bed and clasping her hands, “Basil, my beloved husband, do for me one favour; entreat for me, supplicate for me, that I may be allowed to nurse the unhappy baby of the chateau !”
My dear, your health !” said Basil, in a voice which indicated that he was going to expostulate.
“If I am dear to you," said she, interrupting him, “ if I am dear to you, bring me the baby: promise me that you will."
Basil smiled; but it was a smile in which a strong feeling of sorrow and pity was the prevailing expression. “Make yourself easy," he said, " and I will do for you all that is possible in this matter.”
Basil went up to the chateau. He found every thing in confusion: no orders given about the funeral, nor any preparations made for it; while the infant, for whom no one appeared to care, although dressed superbly, seemed to be calmly delivered up to death by its unfeeling attendants. For it refused to eat such food as was prepared for it: and no one had proposed to procure it a nurse, from whon it might receive that kind of food which is natural to infants, and always instinctively desired by them.
In the mean time, no one had dared to approach the count, who still remained shut up in his closet. Basil . adventured to knock at the door, and after much solicitation procured admittance. There he received authority to order and arrange the funeral of the poor countess, and to do what he pleased with the infant, whom the count expressed a wish never to behold. Although Basil was extremely impatient to set the mind of his wife at ease with respect to the infant, and to give certain necessary orders in the chateau, yet he could not, as a Christian, allow this opportunity to pass of speaking some word, in season or out of season, to his lord on the subject of religion; entreating him at the same time to look upward for comfort.
What effect his exhortations might have upon the
count, Basil could form no opinion. However, he considered that he had done his duty in this matter, and hoped that he should be enabled to follow up this pious work by frequent aud earnest prayer in behalf of his lord.
When Basil had given such orders as he thought immediately necessary at the chateau, which he did with as much dispatch as possible, he took the infant from the arms of its hireling attendants, and, wrapping it up in his own mantle, carried it carefully down to his house, looking frequently by the way to observe whether it breathed, as he had been led to think that it held its life on an exceedingly precarious tenure. On arriving at his own door, his heart beat with joy to think of the pleasure he was going to afford his wife. He went softly up to her room, and, gently opening the door, stood by her bedside with the babe in his arms. She gave a piercing cry of joy when she perceived what he had brought wrapped in his mantle, and, raising herself in her bed, received the noble but unfortunate infant to her maternal bosom with emotions which may be more easily conceived than described. These are the feelings which make women truly lovely; wherein self is wholly disregarded, while the heart is drawn out to the orphan, the fatherless, and the helpless. On such occasions beauty becomes tenfold more beautiful, and even the most ordinary features acquire an inexpressible loveliness.
It was a matter of ne consideration with Blanche and Basil how they were to be rewarded for their intended care of the infant; but all their anxiety seemed to be, whether with their utmost attention it might have a chance of living and doing well. While they were eagerly hanging over it, the child opened its little eyes, and uttered a faint cry. The first thing which Blanche did, was to disencumber it of its superb dress and those tight bandages with which it was swathed and bound; after which she put on it the light dress prepared for her own poor infant. It seemed to be instantly relieved, and very soon had established itself in great comfort and apparent high enjoyment in all the privileges which Blanche's own child would have possessed had it lived. Several times during the evening it took its nourishment, and slept comfortably in the intervals on the bosom of its new mother; while the whole heart of Blanche was lifted up in grati
tude for the happiness she now enjoyed, as well as in earnest prayer for the divine blessing on her adopted baby.
Basil now returned, much relieved in mind, to the chateau, where he endeavoured to arrange every thing according to the wishes of the count. The remains of the countess were committed to the earth with great magnificence--and before many weeks had passed away, Basil had the same duties to perform for the poor count himself, who died a victim to excessive grief. The count left behind himn a will, in which he commended his elder daughter to the care of the next heir, who was a married man and had several sons; requesting that she might be brought up in the family, educated with care, that is, with attention to the acquirement of elegant manners and accomplishments, and that, when of proper age, she might be given in marriage to the son of her guardian. He also left in the hand of trustees, a large sum of money, which was to be paid as her dowry on the day of her marriage. He likewise requested that his second daughter, of whom he spoke in his will as of one born under evil auspices, might be left in the family of Basil till the marriage of her sister, and then placed in a convent for life. In case of the death of her sister, he however hinted, that he hoped his heir would receive this his second child into the chateau in her sister's place, and make her his daughter-in-law; under which circumstances she was to receive the dowry intended for her sister. He moreover desired in his will, that she should be called Theodosia, after her mother; and that a yearly consideration should be made to Basil and his wife for their care of her till she should remove to the convent: but he left Theodosia no other fortune except a small sum, which was to be given to the convent of her choice.
These were the most important particulars contained in the count's will. But it seemed that in these arrangements the old gentleman had never taken it into consideration that Basil and his wife were heretics, and that Theodosia would consequently be brought up by them in their own way of thinking; a circumstance undoubtedly calculated to prevent her entering into a catholic convent. But the count being a freethinker, a description of men even at that time abounding in France, he considered all religious controversies as absurd; every denomination of Christians as equally right or equally wrong; and religion itself important only as it affected the wellbeing of states. As to any further consequences of religion, he, like Gallio, cared for none of these things. (Acts xviii. 17.)
The new count arrived at the chateau in time to be present at the funeral of his predecessor, to whose memory he paid all imaginable outward respect, professing his intention to execute precisely every article of his last will. He took Eleanor into his family, to be educated as the destined bride of his son and heir. He caused Theodosia to be christened with pomp, and then delivered her again with a handsome present to Blanche. After which, having arranged and settled every thing at the chateau, he returned to Paris, where his lady and children resided; leaving the charge of his estates to Basil, with whose fidelity he was well acquainted. I must not forget to say that he took the little Eleanor with him.
This great revolution having taken place in the noble family of L--, every thing was restored to quiet again in the course of a few weeks. And now the happy Blanche found herself in tranquil possession of her little nursling. From day to day she watched the growth of the lovely baby. Within a month after its birth, under the tender care of Blanche, its limbs grew plump and round, and its skin became of a milk-white fairness. In the second month, it could hold its head almost erect; its features at the same time assuming a form that promised a more than ordinary degree of loveliness. In another month, it began to know its adopted mother, and often, when taking its nourishment, would leave off to smile at her, and lift its hand to her mouth. From day to day its infantine beauties continued to open and expand, while a thousand sweet endearing ways made it the little darling of the whole family; but especially of its foster-mother, whose feelings towards it were of a peculiar nature which baffles all description. Thus, as this little creature grew in stature, she became more and more engaging to those about her; and Blanche especially found that her affection for the child was of such a description as might render it productive of unhappiness to both parties : she therefore made it a matter of
continual prayer, that she might be enabled to give her an education in all things conformable to the pleasure of God, and such as might render her early sojourn in that house not a misfortune but a blessing.
Blanche herself had enjoyed many advantages of education beyond what the wife of a man in Basil's situation could be supposed to have possessed. She was the only child of her father, who was a widower; and he being a man of considerable learning, and living in great retirement, had found a peculiar pleasure in instructing his daughter: besides which, she had spent some years with a lady of high rank, of the reformed Church, who had withdrawn from the world in order to enjoy religious retirement; and who, having taken a particular fancy to Blanche, had spent much time in giving her such instructions as literary fathers are not calculated to furnish. Blanche was therefore in every point more capable of educating Theodosia, than the world in general would have supposed: but though this afforded her a real gratification, it gave rise to no self-confidence, being fully persuaded that the work of educating an immortal soul for eternity, was not only infinitely above all her own ability, but above that of every human creature. She had been taught by her pious father to know, that between the work proposed, and the best means which can be used by the most judicious teacher for effecting it, there is a mighty chasm that cannot be filled up by all the exertions which human skill or affection can make. At the same time she had been taught, that while this reflection should humble the vain instructor, and so prevent all reliance upon his own qualifications ; it ought also to yield that man sweet consolation, who looks continually for help from above, and who, knowing his own insufficiency, rests fully assured that a faithful God will complete the work which he knows to be beyond the best abilities of his most favoured agents. To work with God, and according to his will, in the business of education, was therefore what Blanche supposed to be the sum of human wisdom in so important a
Accordingly, she made it her prayer in the management of all her children, that she might have wisdom to commence her labours in the same manner as the Father of spirits for the most part begins his deal