Obrazy na stronie
[ocr errors]

and then, from every creek along the shore, worshipping alike to the overthrow of their as far as the eye could reach, the black forms worldly interests, and at the imminent peril of the fishermen's boats shot out swift and of their lives. How brightly and tenderly the stealthy into the shining sea.

moonlight shone upon the altar and the people By the time the boats had arrived alongside before it !- how 'solemnly and divinely the of the ship, the lamp had been kindled before deep harmonies, as they chanted the penithe altar, and its fame was gleaming red and tential Psalms, mingled with the hoarse singdull in the radiant moonlight. Two of the ing of the freshening night-breeze in the rigpriests on board were clothed in their robes ging, of the ship!- how sweetly the still, of office, and were waiting in their appointed rushing murmur of many voices, as they places to begin the service. But there was a uttered the responses together, now died third, dressed only in the ordinary attire of away and now rose again softly into the mysbis calling, who mingled with the congrega- terious night! tion, and spoke a few words to each of the Of all the members of the congregation persons composing it, as, one by one, they young or old — there was but one over whom mounted the sides of the ship. Those who that impressive service exercised no influence had never seen him before knew by the famous of consolation or of peace ; that one was Gabriivory crucifix in his hand that the priest who el. Often, throughout the day, his reproachreceived them was Father Paul. Gabriel ing conscience had spoken within him again looked at this man, whom he now beheld for and again. Often, when he joined the little the first time, with a mixture of astonishment assembly on the beach, he turned away his and awe; for he saw that the renowned chief face in secret shame and apprehension from of the Christians of Brittany was, to all ap- Rose and her father. Vainly, after gaining pearance, but little older than himself. The the deck of the ship, did he try to meet the espression on the pale calm face of the priest eye of Father Paul as frankly, as readily, and was so gentle and kind, that children just able as affectionately as others met it. The burden to walk tottered up to him, and held familiarly of concealment seemed too heavy to be borne by the skirts of his black gown, whenever bis in the presence of the priest - and yet, torclear blue eyes rested on theirs, while he ment as it was, he still bore it! But when beckoned them to his side. No one would he knelt with the rest of the congregation and ever have guessed from the countenance of saw Rose kneeling by his side — when he Father Paul what deadly perils he had con- felt the calmness of the solemn night and the fronted, but for the scar of a sabre-wound, as still sea filling his heart — when the sounds yet hardly healed, which ran across his fore- of the first prayers spoke with a dread spiritual head. That wound had been dealt while he language of their own to his soul —then, the was kneeling before the altar, in the last remembrance of the confession which he had church in Brittany wbich had escaped spolia- neglected, and the terror of receiving unpretion. He would have died where he knelt, pared the sacrament which he knew would be but for the peasants who were praying with offered to him — grew too vivid to be enhim, and who, unarmed as they were, threw dured ; the sense that he merited no longer, themselves like tigers on the soldiery, and at though once worthy of it, the confidence in awful sacrifice of their own lives saved the life his perfect truth and candor placed in him by of their priest. There was not a man now on the woman with whom he was soon to stand board the ship who would have hesitated, had before the altar, overwhelmed him with the occasion called for it again, to have rescued shame; the mere act of kneeling among that him in the same way.

congregation, the passive accomplice by his The service began. Since the days when silence and secresy, for aught he knew to the the primitive Christians worshipped amid the contrary, of a crime which it was his bounden caverns of the earth, can any service be duty to denounce, appalled him as if he had imagined nobler in itself, or sublimer in the already committed sacrilege that could never circumstances surrounding it, than that which be forgiven. Tears flowed down his cheeks, was now offered up? Here was no artificial though he strove to repress them; sobs burst pomp, no gaudy profusion of ornament, no from him, though he tried to stile them. He attendant grandeur of man's creation. All knew that others besides Rose were looking around this church spread the hushed and at him in astonishinent and alarm; but he awful majesty of the tranquil sea. The roof could neither control himself, nor move to of this cathedral was the immeasurable leave his place, nor raise his eyes even-until heaven, the pure moon its onė great light, the suddenly he felt a band laid on his shoulder. countless glories of the stars its only adorn- That touch, slight as it was, ran through him ment. Here were no hired singers or rich instantly. He looked up, and saw Father priest-princes; no curious sight-seers, or care- Paul standing by his side. less lovers or sweet sounds. This congrega Beckoning to him to follow, and signing to tion and they who had gathered it together, the congregation not to suspend their devowere all poor alike, all persecuted alike, all tions, ho led Gabriel out of the assembly

then paused for a moment, reflecting -- then and pointed to a scar which was now plainly beckoning again, took hirn into the cabin of visible on one side of his throat. He said the ship, and closed the door carefully. something, at the same time; but the bell

You have something on your mind," he above tolled while he spoke. It was the said simply and quietly, taking the young signal of the elevation of the Host. Gabriel man by the hand. “ I may be able to relieve felt an arm passed round him, guiding him to you, if you tell me what it is."

his knees, and sustaining him from sinking to As Gabriel heard these gentle words, and the floor. For one moment longer he was saw, by the light of a lamp which burnt conscious that the bell had stopped, that there before a cross fixed against the wall, the sad was dead silence, that Father Paul was kneel. kindness of expression with which the priest ing by him beneath the cross, with bowed was regarding him, the oppression that had head — then all objects around vanished; and lain so long on his heart seemed to leave it in he saw and knew nothing more. an instant. The haunting fear of ever divulg When he recovered his senses, he was still ing his fatal suspicions and his fatal secret in the cabin - the man whose life his father had vanished, as it were, at the touch of had attempted was bending over him, and Father Paul's hand. For the first time, he sprinkling water on his face — and the clear now repeated to another ear — the sounds of voices of the women and children of the conprayer and praise rising grandly, the while gregation were joining the voices of the men from the congregation above his grand- in singing the Agnus Dei. father's death-bed confession, word for word “Look up at me without fear, Gabriel,” almost as he heard it in the cottage on the said the priest.

" I desire not to avenge night of the storm.

injuries ; I visit not the sins of the father on Once, and once only, did Father Paul in- the child. Look up, and listen! I have terrupt the narrative, which in whispers was strange things to speak of; and I have a addressed to him. Gabriel had hardly re- sacred mission to fulfil before the morning, in peated the first two or three sentences of his which you must be my guide.": grandfather's confession, when the priest, in Gabriel attempted to kneel and kiss his quick altered tones, abruptly asked him his hand, but Father Paul stopped him, and name and place of abode. As the question said, pointing to the cross : “ Kneel to that was answered, Father Paul's calm face became not to me; not to your fellow-mortal, and suddenly agitated; but the next momerft, your friend – for I will be your friend, resolutely resuming his self-possession, he Gabriel; believing that God's mercy has bowed his head, as a sign that Gabriel was to ordered it so. And now listen to me,” he continue ; clasped his trembling hands, and proceeded, with a brotherly tenderness in his raising them as if in silent prayer, fixed his manner which went to Gabriel's heart. "The eyes intently on the cross. He never looked service is nearly ended. What I have to tell away from it while the terrible narrative pro- you must be told at once ; the errand on ceeded. But when Gabriel described his which you will guide ine must be performed search at the Merchant's Table; and, refer- before tomorrow dawns. Sit here near me; ring to his father's behavior since that time, and attend to what I now say.". appealed to the priest to know whether he Gabriel obeyed : Father Paul then proceeded might, even yet, in defiance of appearances, thus : be still filially justified in doubting whether " I believe the confession made to you by the crime had really been perpetrated then your grandfather to have been true in every Father Paul moved near to him once more, particular. On the evening to which he reand spoke again.

ferred you, I approached your cottage, as be * Compose yourself, and look at me,” he said, for the purpose of asking shelter for the , said, with all and more than all his former pight. At that period, I had been studying sad kindness of voice and manner. “I can hard to qualify myself for the holy calling end your doubts forever. Gabriel, your which I now pursue ; and, on the completion father was guilty in intention and in act; of my studies, had indulged in the recreation but the victim of his crime still lives. I can of a tour on foot through Brittany, by way of

innocently and agreeably occupying the leiGabriel's heart beat wildly; a deadly cold- sure time then at my disposal, before I entered ness crept over him, as he saw Father Paul the priesthood. When I accosted your father, loosen the fastening of his cussock round the I had lost my way, had been walking for throat. At that instant the chanting of the many hours, and was glad of any rest that I congregation above ceased ; and then, the could get for the night.

It is unnecessary to sudden and awful stillness was deepened pain you now, by reference to the events rather than interrupted by the faint sound of which followed my entrance under your one voice praying. Slowly and with trem- father's roof. I remember nothing that hape bling fingers the priest removed the band round pened from the time when I laid down to his neck — paused a little — sighed heavily - sleep before the fire, until the time when I re

[ocr errors]

prove it."

covered my senses at the place which you | sacred vocation to which I was destined. But call The Merchant's Table. My first sensa- my miraculous escape from death made an tion was that of being moved into the cold impression on my mind, which gave me air ;. when I opened my eyes I saw the great another and an infinitely higher view of this Druid stones rising close above me, and two vocation - the view which I have since strirmen on either side of me rilling my pockets. en, and shall always strive for the future, to They found nothing valuable there, and were maiutain. As I lay, during the first days of about to leave me where I lay, when I gathered my recovery, examining my own heart, and strength enough to appeal to their mercy considering in what manner it would be my through their cupidity: Money, was not duty to act towards your father, when I was scarce with me then, and I was able to offer restored to health, a thought came into my them a rich reward (which they ultimately mind which calmed, comforted, and resolved received as I had promised) if they would all my doubts. I said within myself — In a take me to any place where I could get shel- few months more I shall be called to be one ter and medical help. I suppose they in- of the chosen ministers of God. If I am ferred by my language and accent — perhaps worthy of my vocation, my first desire towards also by the linen I wore, which they exam- this man, who has attempted to take my life, ined closely - that I belonged to the higher should bé, not to know that human justice ranks of the community, in spite of the plain- has overtaken him, but to know that he has ness of my outer garments; and might there- truly and religiously repented and made fore be in a position to make good my promise atonement for his guilt

. To such repentance tu them. I heard one say to the other, 'Let and atonement let it be my duty to call him; vs risk it;' and then they took me in their if he reject that appeal, and be hardened only arms, carried me down to a boat on the beach, the more against me because I have forgiven and rowed to a vessel in the offing. The him my injuries, then it will be time enough next day they disembarked me at Paimboeuf, to denounce him for his crimes to his fellowwhere I got the assistance which I so much men. Surely it must be well for me, here needed. I learnt through the confidence they and hereafter, if I begin my career in the were obliged to place in me, in order to give holy priesthood by helping to save from hell me the means of sending them their promised the soul of the man who, of all others, has reward, that these men were smugglers, and most cruelly wronged me.' It was for this that they were in the habit of using the cavity reason, Gabriel — it was because I desired to in which I had been laid, as a place of con- go straightway to your father's cottage and cealment for goods, and for letters of advice reclaim him after he had believed me to be to their accomplices. This accounted for dead - that I kept the secret and entreated of their finding me. As to my wound, I was in- my superiors that I might be sent to Brittany. formed by the surgeon who attended me, that But this, as I have said, was not to be at first, it had missed being inflicted in a mortal part and when my desire was granted, my place by less than a quarter of an inch, and that, as was assigned me in a far district. The perseit was, nothing but the action of the night air cution under which we still suffer broke out; in coagulating the blood over the place had, in the designs of my life were changed; my own the first instance, saved my life. 'To be brief, will became no longer mine to guide me. But, I recovered after a long illoess, returned to through sorrow and suffering, and danger and Paris, and was called to the priesthood. The bloodshed, I am now led after many days to will of my superiors obliged me to perform the execution of that first purpose which I the first duties of my vocation in the great formed on entering the priesthood. Gabriel ! city; but my own wish was to be appointed when the service is over, and the congregation to a cure of souls in your province, Gabriel. are dispersed, you must guide me to the door Can you imagine why?".

of your father's cottage. The answer to this question was in Ga He held up his hand, in sign of silence, as briel's heart; but he was still too deeply Gabriel was about to answer. Just then, the awed and affected by what he had heard to officiating priests above were pronouncing the give it utterance.

final benediction. When it was over, Father “I must tell you then what my motive Paul opened the cabin-door. As he ascended was," said Father Paul. “You must know, the steps, followed by Gabriel, Père Bonan first, that I unifuruly abstained from dis- met them. The old man looked doubtfully closing to any one where and by whom my life and searchingly on his future son-in-law, as had been aitempted. I kept this a secret he respectfully whispered a few words in the from the men who rescued me — from the sur-ear of the priest. Father Paul listened attengeon — from my own friends even. My reason tively, answered in a whisper, and then turned for such a proceeding was, I would fain be- to Gabriel, first telling the few people near lieve, a Christian reason. I hope I had al- them to withdraw a little. I have been ways felt a sincere and humble desire to prove asked whether there is any impediment to myself, by the help of God, worthy of the your marriage,” he said, “and bare answered

that there is none. What you have said to but without quivering; his eyes glared, but me has been said in confession, and is a secret without moving in their orbits. The lovely between us two. Remember that; and forget moonlight itself looked ghastly and horrible, not, at the same time, the service which I shining on the supernatural panic-deformity shall require of you to-night, after the mar- of that face! Gabriel turned away his head in riage ceremony is over. Where is Rose terror. He heard the voice of Father Paul Bonan?" he added aloud, looking round saying to him : Wait here till I come hack;" him. Rose came forward. Father Paul took then there was an instant of silence again her hand, and placed it in Gabriel's. “ Lead - then a low groaning sound, that seemed hier to the altar steps," he said, - and wait to articulate the name of God; a sound unthere for me.”

like his father's voice, unlike any human It was more than an hour later; the boats voice he had ever heard — and then the noise had left the ship's side ; the congregation had of a closing door. He looked up, and saw dispersed over the face of the country. - but that he was standing alone before the cottage. still the vessel remained at anchor. Those Once, after an interval, he approached the who were left in her watched the land more window. He just saw through it the hand anxiously than usual; for they knew that of the priest holding on high the ivory crucifix; Father Paul had risked meeting the soldiers but stopped not to see inore, for he heard of the republic by trusting himself on shore. such words, such sounds, as drove him back A bout was awaiting his return on the to his former place. There he stayed, until beach; half of the crew, armed, being posted the noise of something falling heavily within as scouts in various directions on the high the cottage, struck on his ear. Again he land of the heath. They would have followed advanced towards the door ; heard Father and guarded the priest to the place of his Paul praying ; listened for several minutes ; destination ; but he forbade it, and, leaving then heard a moaning voice, now joining them abruptly, walked swiftly onward with itself to the voice of the priest, now choked one young man only for his companion. in sobs and bitter wailing. Once more he

Gabriel had committed his brother and his went back out of hearing, and stirred not sisters to the charge of Rose. They were to again from his place. He waited a long and go to the farm-house that night with his a weary time there – so long that one of the newly-married wife and her father and mother. scouts on the look-out came towards him, Father Paul had desired that this might be evidently suspicious of the delay in the done. When Gabriel and he were left alone priest's return. He waved the man back, to follow the path which led to the fisher- and then looked again towards the door. At man's cottage, the priest never spoke while last, he saw it open saw Father Paul apthey walked on - never looked aside either proach him, leading François Sarzeau by the to the right or the left - always held his hand. ivory crucifix clasped to his breast. They The fisherman never raised his downcast arrived at the door. “ Knock,” whispered eyes to his son's face ; tears trickled silently Father Paul to Gabriel," and then wait here over his cheeks ; he followed the hand that with me."

lep him, as a little child might have followed The door was opened. On a lovely moon- it, listening anxiously and humbly at the light night François Sarzeau had stood on priest's side to every word that he spoke. that threshold, years since, with a bleeding - Gabriel," said Father Paul, in a voice body in his arms; on a lovely moonlight which trembled a little, for the first time that night, he now stood here again, confronting night — “Gabriel, it has pleased God to the very man whose life he had attempted, grant the perfect fulfilment of the purpose and knowing him not.

which brought me to this place ; I tell you Father Paul advanced a few spaces, so that this, as all that you need – as all, I beliere, the moonlight fell fuller on his features, and that you would wish to know of what bas removed his hat. François Sarzeau looked, passed while you have been left waiting for started, noved one step back, then stood me here. Such words as I have now to speak motionless and perfectly silent while all to you are spoken by your futher's earnest traces of expression of any kind suddenly desire. It is his own wish that I should comvanished from his face. Then the calm, clear municate to you his confession of having tones of the priest stole gently on the dead secretly followed you to The Merchant's Table, silence. “ I bring a message of peace and and of having discovered (as you discovered) forgiveness from a guest of former years,” he that no evidence of his guilt remained there. said ; and pointed, us he spoke, to the place This admission he thinks will be enough to where he had been wounded in the neck. account for his conduct towards yourself For one moment, Gabriel saw his father from that time to this. I have next to tell trembling violently from head to foot -- then you (also at your father's desire) that he has his limbs steadied again - stiffened suddenly, promised in my presence, and now promises as if struck by catalepsy. His lips parted, again in yours, sincerity of repentance in this


- When the persecution of our re- single cross. No one ever heard him complain, ligion has ceased - as cease it will, and that ever saw him in patient, ever detected him in speedily, be assured of it! - he solemnly faltering at his task. The shelter in an outpledges himself henceforth to devote his life, house, the crust of bread and drink of water, his strength, and what worldly possessions he which he could always get from the peasantry, may have, or may acquire, to the task of re- seemed to suffice him. Among the people erecting and restoring the roadside crosses who watched his perseverance, a belief began which have been sacrilegiously overthrown to gain ground that his life would be niracuand destroyed in his native province, and to lously prolonged until he had completed his doing good, good where he may. I have undertaking from one end of Brittany to the now said all that is required of me, and may other. But this was not to be. He was seen bid you farewell - bearing with me the one cold autumn evening, silently and steadily happy remembrance that I have left a father at work as usual, setting up a new cross on and son reconciled and restored to each other. the site of one which had been shattered to May God bless and prosper you, and those splinters in the troubled times. In the morndear to you, Gabriel ! May God accept your ing he was found lying dead beneath the sacred father's repentance, and bless him also symbol which his own hands had completed throughout his future life !"

and erected in its place during the night. They He took their hands pressed them long and buried him where he lay; and the priest who warmly, then turned and walked quickly consecrated the ground allowed Gabriel to endown the path which led to the beach. Ga- grave his father's epitaph in the wood of the briel dared not trust himself yet to speak ; but cross. It was simply the initial letters of the he raised his arm, and put it gently round his dead man's name, followed by this inscription father's neck. The two stood together so, -“ Pray for the repose of his soul; he died looking out dimly through the tears that filled penitent, and the doer of good works." their eyes, to the sea. They saw the boat put off in the bright track of the moonlight, and

Once, and once only, did Gabriel hear anyreach the vessel's side; they watched the thing of Father Paul. The good priest showed, spreading of the sails, and followed the slow by writing to the farm-house, that he had not course of the ship till she disappeared past a forgotten the family so largely indebted to hiin distant headland from sight. After that, they for their happiness. The letter was dated went into the cottage together. They knew

“ Rome." Father Paul said, that such serit not then ; but they had seen the last, in vices as he had been permitted to render to this world, of Father Paul.

the Church in Brittany, had obtained for him a new and a far more glorious trust than any

he had yet held. He had been recalled from The events foretold by the good priest hap- bis curacy, and appointed to be at the head pened sooner than even he had anticipated. of a mission which was shortly to be deA new government ruled the destinies of spatched to convert the inhabitants of a savage France, and the persecution ceased in Brittany. and a far distant land to the Christian faith. Among other propositions which were then He now wrote, as his brethren with him were submitted to the parliament, was one advocat- writing, to take leave of all friends forever in ing the restoration of the roadside crosses this world, before setting out — for it was throughout the province. It was found, how well known to the chosen persons entrusted ever, on inquiry, that these crosses were to be with the new mission, that they could only counted by thousands, and that the mere cost hope to advance its object by cheerfully riskof the wood required to reërect them necessi- ing their own lives for the sake of their tated an expenditure of money which the religion. He gave his blessing to François bankrupt nation could ill afford to spare. While Sarzeau, to Gabriel, and to his family; and this project was under discussion, and before bade them affectionately farewell for the last' it was finally rejected, one man had undertaken time. There was a postscript in the letter, the task which the government shrank from which was addressed to Rose, and which she attempting. When Gabriel left the cottage, often read afterwards with tearful eyes. The taking his brother and sisters to live with his writer begged that, if she should have any wife and himself at the farm-house, François children, she would show her friendly and Sarzeau left it also, to perform in highway Christian remembrance of him by teaching and byway his promise to Father Paul. For them to pray (as he hoped she herself would inonths and months he labored without inter- pray) that a blessing might attend Father inission at his task; still, always doing good, Paul's labors in the distant land. The priest's and rendering, help and kindness and true loving petition was never forgotten. When charity to all whom he could serve. He walked Rose taught its first prayer to her first child, many a weary mile, toiled through many a the little creature was instructed to end the bard day's work, humbled himself even to beg few simple words pronounced at its mother's of others, to get wood enough to restore a knees, with :-" God bless Father Paul!"

« PoprzedniaDalej »