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France, possessed of an immense fortune, he found a joy in bestowing abundant alms. The old beggar had become the object of a sort of affection, and every morning the Abbé Paulin de Saint C accompanied with benevolent words his charity, which had become a daily income.
One day James did not appear at the usual hour. The Abbé Paulin, desirous of not losing this opportunity for his charity, sought the dwelling of the beggar, and found the old man lying sick on a couch. The eyes of the clergyman were smitten with the luxury and the misery which appeared in the furniture of that habitation. A magnificent gold watch was suspended over the miserable bolster; two pictures, richly framed, and covered with crape, were placed on a white-washed wall; a crucifix in ivory, of beautiful workmanship, was hanging at the feet of the sick man; an antiquated chair, with gothic carvings, and among a few worn-out books lay a mass book with silver clasps; all the remainder of the furniture announced frightful misery. The presence of the priest revived the old man, and with an accent full of gratitude, the latter cried out
“ M. Abbé, you are then kind enough to remember an unhappy man?"
My friend,” replied M. Paulin, a priest forgets none but the happy ones. I come to inquire whether you want any assistance."
“ I want nothing," answered the beggar,“ my death is approaching ; my conscience alone is not quiet.”
“ Your conscience ! have you any great fault to expiate !"
“ A crime, an enormous crime; a crime for which my whole life has been a cruel and useless expiation; a crime beyond pardon !"
“A crime beyond pardon! there does not exist any! The divine mercy is greater than all the crimes of man."
“ But a criminal, polluted with the most horrible crime, what has he to hope for ? Pardon? There is none for me.
Yes, there is,” cried out the priest with enthusiasm ; to doubt it would be a more horrible blasphemy than your very crimes itself. Religion stretches out her arms to repentance. James, if your repentance is sincere, implore the divine good. ness, it will not abandon you. Make your confession.”
Thereupon the priest uncovered himself, and after pronouncing the sublime words, which open to the penitent the gates of heaven, he listened to the beggar.
“ The son of a poor farmer, honoured with the affection of a family of high rank, whose lands my father cultivated, I was from my infancy welcomed at the castle of my masters. Des. tined to be valet-de-chambre to the heir of the family, the education they gave me, my rapid progress in study, and the benevolence of my masters, changed my condition: I was raised to the rank of a secretary. I was just turned of twentyfive years of age, when the revolution first broke out in France ; my mind was easily seduced by reading the newspapers of that period; my ambition made me tired of my precarious situation. I conceived the project of abandoning for the camp the castle which had been the asylum of my youth. Had I followed that first impulse, ingratitude would have saved me from a crime ! The fury of the revolutionists soon spread through the provinces ; my masters, fearing to be arrested in their castle, dismissed all their servants. A sum of money was realized in haste, and selecting from among their rich furniture a few articles, precious for family recollections, they went to Paris to seek an asylum in the crowd, and find repose in the obscurity of their dwelling. I followed them, as a child of the house. Terror reigned uncontrolled throughout France, and nobody knew the place of concealment of my masters.
Inscribed on the list of emigrants, confiscation had soon devoured their property ; but it was nothing to them, for they were together tranquil and unknown. Animated by a lively faith in Providence, they lived in the expectation of better times. Vain hope! the only person who could reveal their retreat, and snatch them from their asylum, had the baseness to denounce them. This informer is myself. The father, the mother, four daughters, angels in beauty and innocence, and a young boy, of ten years of age, were thrown together into a dungeon, and delivered up to the horrors of captivity. Their trial commenced. The most frivolous pretences were then sufficient to condemn the innocent! yet the public accuser could hardly find one motive for prosecution against that noble and virtuous family. A man was found, who was the confidant of their secrets and their most intimate thoughts; be magnified the most simple circumstances of their lives into guilt, and invented the frivolous crime of conspiracy. This calumniator, this false witness, I am he. The fatal sentence of death was passed upon the whole family, except the young son, an unhappy orphan, destined to weep the loss of all his kindred, and to curse his assassin, if he ever knew him. Resigned, and finding consolation in their virtues, that unfortunate family expected death in prison. A mistake took place in the order of the executions. The day appointed for theirs passed over, and if nobody had meddled with it, they would have escaped the scaffold, it being the eve of the ninth of Thermidor. A man, impatient to enrich himself with their spoils, repaired to the revolutionary tribunal, caused the error to be rectified ; his zeal was regarded with a diploma of civism. The order for the execution was delivered immediately, and on that very evening the frightful justice of those times had its course. This wicked informer, I am he. At the close of the day, by torch-light, the fatal cart transported the noble family to death! The father, with the impress of profound sorrow on his brow, pressed in his arms his two youngest daughters ; the mother, a heroic and christian-like woman, did the same with the two eldest ; and all mingling their recollections, their tears and their hopes, were repeating the funeral prayers. They did not even once utter the name of their assassin. As it was late, the executioner, tired of his task, had entrusted a valet with this late execution. Little accustomed to the hor. rible work, the valet, on the way, begged the assistance of a passer-by. The latter consented to help him in his ignoble function. This man, is myself. The reward of so many crimes, was a sum of three thousand francs in gold; and the precious articles, still deposited here around me, are the witnesses of my guilt. After I had committed this crime, I tried to bury the recollection of it in debauchery; the gold obtained by my infamous conduct was hardly spent, when remorse took possession of my soul. No project, no enterprise, no labour of mine, was crowned with success. I became poor and infirm. Charity allowed me a privilege place at the gate of the church, where I passed so many years. The remembrance of my crime was overwhelming; so poignant, that, despairing of divine goodness, I never dared implore the consolation of religion, nor enter the church. The alms I received, yours especially, M. Abbé, aided me to hoard a sum equal to that I stole from my former masters: here it is. The objects of luxury which you remark in my room, this watch, this crucifix, this book, these veiled portraits, were all taken from my victims. Oh! how long and profound has my repentance been, but how powerless! M. Abbé, do you believe I can hope pardon from God!"
My son!” replied the Abbé, “ your crime, no doubt, is frightful : the circumstances of it are atrocious. Orphans, who were deprived of their parents by the revolution, understand better than any one else, all the bitterness of the anguish suffered by your victims! A whole life passed in tears, is not too much for the expiation of such a crime. Yet the treasures of divine mercy are immense. Relying on your repentance, and full of confidence in the exhaustible goodness of God, I think I can assure you of his pardon."
The priest then rose up. The beggar, as if animated by a new life, got out of bed and knelt down. The Abbé Paulin de Saint C. was going to pronounce the powerful words which bind or loosen the sins of man, when the beggar cried out:
“ Father, wait !” before I receive God's pardon, let me get rid of the fruit of my crime. Take these objects, sell them, distribute the price to the poor.” In his hasty movements, the beggar snatched away the crape which covered the two pictures. “ Behold !" said he,
,_" behold the august images of my masters !”
At this sight the Abbé Paulin de Saint C. let these words escape :-“ My father! my mother !"
Immediately, the remembrance of that horrible catastrophe, the presence of the assassin, the sight of those objects, seized upon the soul of the priest, and yielded to an unexpected emotion, he fell upon a chair. His head leaning on his hands, he shed abundant tears ; a deep wound had opened afresh in his heart.
The beggar, overpowered, not daring to lift up his looks on the son of his masters, on the terrible and angry judge, who owed him vengeance rather than pardon, rolled himself at his feet, bedewed them with tears, and repeated, in a tone of despair—“My master! my master!"
The priest endeavoured, without looking at him, to check his grief. The beggar cried out :
“Yes, I am an assassin, a monster, an infamous wretch ! M. Abbé, dispose of my life! What must I do to avenge
Avenge me!" replied the priest, recalled to himself by these words—" avenge me, unhappy man !"
“ Was I not then right in saying that my crime was beyond pardon! I knew it well, that religion itself would repulse me. Repentance will avail nothing to a criminal of so deep a dye; there is no forgiveness for me-no more pardon-no forgive
These last words, pronounced with a terrible accent, reached to the soul of the priest, his mission and his duties. The struggle between filial grief and the exercise of his sacred
functions ceased immediately. Human weakness had for a
“ Christian, is your repentance sincere ?"
“ Our God, immolated on this cross by men, grants you pardon! Finish your confession."
Then the priest, with one hand uplifted over the beggar, holding in the other the sign of the redemption, bade the divine mercy descend on the assassin of his whole family!
With his face against the earth, the beggar remained immoveable at the priest's feet. The latter stretched out his hand to raise him up-he was no more !
The violet peeps from its emerald bed,