The heroine of the novel is known among the Martins under the title of: The orphan of Bérésina.
Those familiar with Thérèse know that this is the nickname given to her by her father.
by Ms Woillez
tenth edition, Tours: MAME, PRINTERS-LIBRARIES, 1852.
When, deceived by victory, the French entered Moscow on September 14, 1812, they found in that vast city nothing but a frightful solitude, which was like the omen of all the reverses with which they were about to be overwhelmed. At their approach, the inhabitants had deserted their dwellings, and the small number of those who had not been able to make the summit had taken refuge in the cellars or in the immense underground passages above which rises the ancient Kremlin palace. .
It was during a dark night that the victorious army entered this deserted city. No light illumined his silent walk; all around her was calm as the tomb. Worn out with fatigue and suffering, the soldiers, dismayed, advance only with fear in the midst of the thick darkness that surrounds them. At this lugubrious moment, each of them sadly turns his thoughts back to France, to that beloved France, from which seven hundred leagues separate him, where all his affections, all his sympathies call him back, and which perhaps he will never see again. !...
Following this army, threatened with so many disasters, came a great number of wounded, who fell from exhaustion on the thresholds of the dwellings. One of these unfortunates, left behind, walks painfully, leaning on the arm of a woman who, carrying her arms and their common baggage, seems to forget her own fatigue to concern herself only with him. "Take courage, my Antoine," she said to him in a voice of emotion; the regiment cannot be far; soon we will join him, and we will find an ambulance. . . But what ! he falls, he no longer answers me. . . My God ! what to become in the middle of this darkness? »
The wounded man, in fact, dropped to the ground; he no longer has the strength to utter a single word, and the poor woman despairs at his side. Suddenly, glancing wildly around her, she thought she saw a dim light in a house; Immediately seizing the gun which she had placed against the wall, she knocked at the door with redoubled knocks, and begged for help with a lamentable voice.
" Who are you? what do you want ? asks someone timidly, half-opening a window.
"I am French," replies the unfortunate woman; and my husband is dying a few steps from your house. . . In the name of God, have mercy on him! do not deny us your assistance! »
At the same moment several lights flickered, the door opened, and a woman of about thirty-eight years old appeared, followed by a charming young lady. Both are pale, and seem agitated with fear; but at the sight of the wounded they only think of lavishing help on him, and invite him, as soon as he is able to get up, to enter their dwelling. "May Heaven reward you," said the brave
soldier looking at the older of the two ladies. You are French, I believe? It is to a compatriot that I owe my life; my wife and I will never forget it.
- Oh ! no, resumes the latter quickly, we are only poor people, but we have the heart to recognize a benefit, and yours, Madame, will never be erased from our memory. »
The one to whom these naive expressions of gratitude were addressed was indeed French, and at the moment enjoyed a lively pleasure in hearing them in her natural language. We must have lived far from the places where we were born; one must have experienced the sadness that a foreign land inspires when one is forced to live there, to understand what kind of charm is attached to the accents of a compatriot; these accents are for the United like a delicious harmony which penetrates it with the sweetest emotions; they trace to her memories of affection and happiness which she sought in vain around her.
Madame Obinski, as the compassionate lady was called, was born in Paris, and had resided in Moscow since her marriage to a famous Russian doctor, whom she had had the misfortune to lose recently. A girl, to whom she had transmitted all her virtues and the distinguished talents that she herself possessed, was her only consolation on this icy land of Russia, where the children of our beautiful France have so much difficulty in acclimatizing. . Alone, without support, with this daughter so dear, Madame Obinski, in the midst of the calamities which the war brought to Moscow, had for a moment thought of fleeing at the same time as the inhabitants of that city; but her French title having caused her to be abandoned by all those who could help her in her flight, and even by the people who were in her service, she had seen no other remedy for this cruel situation than to shut herself up. home with her Juliet, hoping that Heaven would deign to grant them the protection that men refused them. The young girl herself had encouraged her in this hope, for, although she had not yet reached her eighteenth year, she showed in the midst of their sad abandonment a strength of character and a resignation well above his age: it was one of those organizations which misfortune ripens quickly, and to which it gives new energy. Madame Obinski, in molding her daughter's heart, had taken care, moreover, to cause there to germinate very early the religious principles which constitute the strength of the true Christian, and without which there could be no solid virtue. From her earliest childhood, Juliette had learned to lean on God in all the circumstances of her life, and the most tender piety had blended in her heart with the affectionate feelings she had for her family.
Endowed with an exquisite sensibility, she showed herself no less eager than her mother for the relief of the poor wounded man; and the latter's wife could not weary of admiring with what zeal, what active charity, this young girl seemed to multiply herself to succor the unfortunates whom she had never seen, and whose social position was so inferior to hers.
After giving their new guests all the care their situation demanded, after having settled them in a very warm room, where the wounded man found an excellent bed, the mother and daughter retired to their apartment, blessing Providence for having empowered to do this good work. Neither of them was willing to indulge in rest, for the events of that night caused them great agitation. Madame Obinski especially thought only with a shudder of all the dangers which surrounded them in this abandoned town, which an enemy army had just invaded. Pressing her daughter in her arms, and no longer able to hide her alarm from her, she said: "I fear, oh my Juliet, that the moment of the most cruel trials has arrived for us. Perhaps I did not protect you enough against them, and yet it is by knowing the danger, it is by knowing how to envisage it calmly, that one often succeeds in protecting oneself from it. Something that happens, and we can fear everything in the midst of this conquering army, promise me not to let fear dominate you. The weakness of our sex does not exclude moral courage, especially when we draw it from our trust in God. Remember that if this God of goodness allows his children to be tested on earth, it is in order to exercise their virtue, to make them more worthy of him; but may he never cease to extend his protective hand over those who serve him faithfully. »
Attentive to her mother's lessons, Juliette promised her, showering her with the sweetest caresses, never to forget them. However, having no experience of the dangers of which they spoke to her, it seemed to her that this tender mother exaggerated them a little, and her security had something so naive, so touching, that Madame Obinski did not have the courage to to destroy her entirely by giving her too frightful a picture of the evils she feared. Locking up her sad presentiments, therefore, in the depths of her heart, she persuaded Juliette, after this interview, to give herself up to sleep for a few hours, and passed the rest of the night in reflecting on the course she should adopt. The idea occurred to her to write to some chief of the army to ask him to take under his protection the house in which she lived. She had no other title to obtain this favor than to be a widow and a Frenchwoman; but she thought that these two titles would be enough to interest a man of honor, and she began to write her letter, hoping that the soldier's wife would tell her the chief to whom she should address it, and perhaps consent to deliver it. herself.
As soon as day broke, the latter came to reiterate her thanks to her two benefactresses, and to announce to them that her husband, thanks to their charitable care, was in the most satisfactory condition. "Since you had the kindness to take in a poor wounded man," she said to Madame Obinski, "you will not refuse me to watch over him while I go and give my
news to the regiment. No one must believe that my Antoine is among the dead; it is besides necessary that one knows that there are here compassionate French women, who saved the life of a brave sergeant of the imperial guard. Our general is also a brave man; he is the most respectable, the best of men; he loves us, Antoine and me, because both of us lack neither honor nor courage; and you will see that he will recognize what you have done for us, protecting you against any insult. »
This woman, in fact, although a simple cantiniere, enjoyed great consideration in her husband's regiment. It was known that she had embraced her profession only so as not to be separated from her Antoine, and that noble devotion, the purity of her morals, the courage, the humanity of which she had given the most striking proofs in all the occasions had obtained for him the general esteem and the favor of the chiefs; Marianne, as the sergeant's wife was called, was then over forty years old. The fatigues and ailments of every kind which she had just experienced during this campaign had singularly altered her features; but her natural energy still gave her the appearance of great agility, and the whole of her face bore such a stamp of frankness and honesty, that it was impossible to see her without feeling prejudiced in her favour.
When Madame Obinski showed her the letter she had just written, she eagerly consented to take charge of it, and then went away, not without thanking this lady again, and recommending her dear Antoine, whose recovery only depended on a few days of rest.
Wars begin with the ambition of princes and end with the misfortune of peoples.
BARTHELEMY, Voyage of Anacharsis.
Several hours had already passed since Marianne's departure. Up to then everything had remained peaceful in the street where Madame Obinski and her daughter lived, and they were beginning to reassure themselves, when suddenly sinister cries: Fire! fire! came and carried deep terror into their souls.
The fire was, in fact, not far from their dwelling. It had already broken out at two o'clock in the morning in several other quarters, and had at first taken only a feeble rise; but little by little the Russian incendiaries approached the center of the town; they threw flammable materials into the abandoned houses, no matter how hard the French tried to oppose their design; and they thus succeeded in spreading over several points of the unhappy city the frightful disaster which was to consummate its ruin. Those of the inhabitants who had remained hidden then came out of their retreat, and witnessed this great catastrophe crossing their arms, with the gloomy impassivity of despair.
At the first cry of alarm, Madame Obinski and Miette went up, distraught, to a terrace which overlooked their house, to make sure which way the danger came from, but a suffocating odor and a rain of fire forced them to come down again immediately. conflagration was near them; a few more moments, and he would reach them. . .
" What to do? what to become? cried the unhappy mother, looking at her. daughter, with horrible heartbreak.
Such was the key determination of these Tommes, blinded by revenge, that they did not spare the boats loaded with grain of oats and other foodstuffs, which were found in large numbers on the Moskva. All were consumed, and sank into the waters with a frightful crackling.
— Take courage, mum, replies the latter, you told me, God does not abandon his children. »
This word restores to the unfortunate woman the strength she needs to endure this dreadful crisis. Hastily picking up diamonds of a rather large price, the papers and the gold which she possesses, she divides this last object into two parts, takes one, gives the other to Juliette, and then goes towards the bedroom. of the wounded man, who, despite his weakness, had risen at the first cry:
“Come,” she said to him, “I don't know where we'll go: death, a terrible death threatens us on all sides, but we'll at least try to flee it. Come, make haste; my daughter and I will support your steps. »
The two then led the poor soldier away; then, casting around them a sad and last look, they finally move away from this house where Juliette was born, where the sweetest memories are attached, and which soon will only offer a heap of ruins.
But this painful thought vanishes before the perils which surround them: already the air is ablaze, already one no longer breathes in the midst of the fiery furnaces presented by the various streets which one must traverse. Hampered at every moment in their progress by the falling burning rubble and by the weakness of their companion, the two unfortunate women advance only with desperate slowness.
“Leave me! leave me! said the brave sergeant to them, I can face death; but you, Madame, but this young person. . . Ah! run away ! I beg you ! »
At the same time he tries to escape the support of his generous leaders, who, unable to bring themselves to abandon him, try to drag him away in spite of himself. Soon, both exhausted, they seem unable to continue on their way, and it is then the poor wounded man who supports them and drags them along. But the further they advanced, the greater the danger: the fire, like a devastating torrent, invaded all the surrounding streets, and no hope of salvation remained for these three unfortunates, when suddenly they saw running towards them, through the flames. , Marianne, the heroic Marianne, followed by two soldiers.
“Save your sergeant! she cries to them; I take care of the two ladies. »
Then taking them each by the arm, she guides them through the fire with admirable coolness, seeking to keep all dangers away from them, and at the same time watching over her Antoine, whom she does not lose sight of. a single moment.
Finally they all arrived safe and sound on a vast esplanade where they are allowed to breathe. Juliette throws herself on her mother's breast, and the two hold each other in embrace for a few moments, unable to express what they feel.
"Come on, let's not soften," said Marianne, "we still need courage. Poor ladies! you must follow me, for you will not be safe anywhere in this city doomed to destruction. Be reassured however, you will have an asylum: I saw, not far from the camp where we are going, some abandoned cottages, it is there that I will take you, you will at least be sheltered from danger there, and Antoine and I will share with you what little we have. »
Juliette and her mother thank the worthy woman, and follow her, their hearts swollen with tears. Alas! a few moments before, they had been surrounded by all the comforts of life; they had a rich dwelling, where they could exercise generous hospitality, and now they have no other refuge than a miserable cabin, where pity will have to provide for their subsistence. . .
" My daughter ! my poor child! said Madame Obinski, while Juliette pressed her hand with an indescribable expression of tenderness and pain.
Seeking to distract them, Marianne told them and her husband, who was following them, leaning on the two soldiers, what had happened to him since the morning.
'When I left you,' she told them, 'I thought I could rejoin the regiment which was to bivouac near the Kremlin; but I learned that, having received counter-orders, he was ordered to encamp under the walls of Moscow. I had to look for it, it took me some time; at last I found him, I saw our general, I gave him the letter I had taken care of, and I immediately obtained from him a note for the marshal commanding the place, so that he might protect the house where we had taken refuge. . Two soldiers from the company were instructed to follow me to lend assistance if necessary, for it was then known that paid men were seeking to burn the town. My heart beating with fear for my Antoine and for our dear benefactresses, continues the good woman, looking at the two ladies, I therefore hastened to retrace my steps, and I resolved, whatever my anxiety, to go first at the commander; but on entering Moscow I saw fire break out at several points; so, thinking only of the danger you might be running, I flew home. We had all the trouble in the world to get there, although the fire had not yet reached it. Having knocked in vain, we forced the door open, and I cannot tell you what I felt when I no longer found you there. Not losing courage, however, and thinking that the three of you had taken the road to the Kremlin, where Antoine knew that I had to go, I followed in your footsteps with these brave people, and the good Lord guided our steps, since we had the pleasure of meeting you. »
Madame Obinski had listened to Marianne with the keenest interest, for the story of this excellent woman depicted both the energy of her character and the goodness of her heart.
"You called us your benefactresses," she said. this lady ; it is we, on the contrary, who have contracted an eternal obligation towards you: without your generous help, it was all over for us, and it is still to them that we will owe the shelter we need in the midst of of such a disaster. »
At this moment, Antoine and the soldiers who accompanied him separated from the two fugitives who took the road to the cabins with Marianne. Already some inhabitants of Moscow had taken refuge there, and from all sides one heard only cries, moans which tore the heart. The sergeant's wife hastened to visit these scattered cottages, and finally had the joy of finding an empty one into which she led her two unfortunate companions. Both of them fell, exhausted with fatigue, on a stone bench, the only piece of furniture that had remained in this wretched little room.
The day had disappeared, and Marianne was obliged to leave them in the midst of the profound darkness which surrounded them, to go to the camp in search of light and some indispensable provisions. 'Don't be afraid,' she told them, 'my absence won't be long; certain now that my husband is surrounded by his comrades, who will care for him with zeal, I can watch over you during this sad night, if my presence can reassure you. This offer was gratefully accepted, and the excellent woman went away.
When they saw themselves alone at the bottom of the dark hovel, the two unfortunates felt their sadness redoubled to such an extent that it was impossible for them at first to communicate to each other what they were experiencing: there are such cruel evils in life. , that the soul, struck by their excess, refuses the outpourings that could relieve it. Nevertheless the young girl, trying to drive away the painful thoughts that were overwhelming her, hugged her mother and said to her: “Let us pray, dear mother, let us pray, perhaps God will give us the strength to bear our misfortune. Immediately, both of them falling to their knees, they invoked Heaven with such fervor that they finally regained the resignation they lacked.
Oh ! how to be pitied are those who do not know what resource prayer has for afflicted souls; and how much Mrs. Obinski had to praise herself, in this painful circumstance, for having given her daughter a Christian education which made her feel the value of this powerful consolation, and which made her by that very fact superior to the adversity!
Marianne, on returning to them, was delighted to see the happy change which had taken place during her absence, and hastened to offer them the provisions she had procured. These provisions consisted of a kind of black broth, made with bad flour, and some badly cooked vegetables, which had no flavor; but, in the midst of the general scarcity, many other unfortunates would still have considered themselves very lucky to find so many; and the mother and daughter, who had taken no food since the morning, did honor to these dishes, without complaining of their coarseness.
However, the evening progressed; the brightness of the fire had diminished a little, and Mme. cabin, came to snatch this last hope from him.
The fire, indeed, had resumed in the city with a new intensity. Thousands of incendiary rockets, incessantly launched from the top of the steeples by the orders of Rostopchine, governor of Moscow, had set fire to the vast warehouses of flour, oil, brandy, and other combustible materials which this city ; a rain of burning coals, an ocean of flames of a livid blue covered its vast enclosure, and chased away torrents of smoke which made the air suffocating. The cries, the groans of the innumerable victims abandoned in the hospitals (The number of wounded or sick abandoned in Moscow is brought to twenty thousand when the Russian authorities ordered the fire. The French troops devoted themselves generously to rescue these unfortunate people from death but they could only save four thousand) came to mingle with this scene of horror. In vain the unfortunate struggled against death; soon their cries ceased to be heard: the act of destruction was consummated; all, or almost all, had perished in the flames, and four-fifths of the houses of Moscow no longer existed. . . (At the moment of this dreadful disaster, the fire reached the Kremlin, which contained an artillery park, and one shudders to think that a single spark falling on a box could produce a general explosion. Napoleon, who had lived in this palace since the morning, could only leave it through the flames with his officers and his guard; all escaped, in the most horrible confusion, through a postern overlooking the Moskva).
One must have seen such a catastrophe, one must have been among those who had to suffer its disastrous results, to form an idea of what Madame Obinski felt during that disastrous night. Leaning against the wretched hut, then her only shelter, she followed with a dull eye the progress of the conflagration which consummated her ruin, without a single word, a single complaint, escaping from her mouth; the pain she was seized with no longer had any expression to produce itself outside. His daughter, this child so dear, brought up until then in a kind of opulence, was therefore going to be reduced to the last degree of misfortune? What will become of them in this foreign land, where pity did not even deign to extend a helping hand to them, when they could still offer him part of their wealth in exchange? Such are the painful thoughts which present themselves to the dejected spirit of the poor mother.
Juliette, whom Heaven had endowed with a superior intelligence, easily divines all that goes on in the heart of this mother so tenderly loved. “Dear mother,” she said to her, “it is God who wants us to be poor from now on: let us submit to his designs; he knows what suits us. Besides, hasn't he given me strength and health? You have often repeated to me that with this one is never completely unhappy. I will work; thanks to your care, I have some talents: don't you see how happy I will be to use them for you? Believe me, I will regret nothing of our past ease; she had no other value in my eyes than to give me the power to relieve the unfortunate. God does not want it to be so; His will be done! the happiness of working for my mother will console me, will amply compensate me for everything. »
There is something so sweet, so delicious for the heart of a mother in the testimonies of tenderness she receives from her child, that this pure enjoyment alone can make her endure the most cruel adversities. “Oh! be blessed, a thousand times blessed, said Madame Obinski to her Juliette. Dear child, it is you, always you, who give me the example of courage; I would be very ungrateful to Providence if I dared to complain when it left me such a treasure. »
A little calm having returned to the heart of the poor mother, she waited more patiently for news of the fire, which the French were doing their best to stop. A battalion of the Imperial Guard succeeded in extinguishing that of the Kremlin; several large buildings were also preserved from their ruin, and one could finally return to the unfortunate city.
In a hurry to leave the sad little room where they had just spent such painful moments, wanting moreover to know the extent of their losses, Mme Obinski and her daughter met the next day with the small number of inhabitants who had taken refuge in the village, and resumed with them and the good Marianne, who wished to accompany them, the road to Moscow. To get there they had to cross various bivouacs, which the army, driven out by the conflagration, had been forced to establish in the middle of devastated and muddy fields. These bivouacs all had a singular aspect which struck the imagination with profound sadness. When the French troops had entered the city, pillage had been expressly forbidden, and this defense was religiously observed until the hour of the disaster; but when it was evident that the fire was going to devour everything, complete liberty was granted to the soldiers, and they used it so liberally, that their camp was like a rich improvised bazaar in the mud (The populace of Moscow, moreover, played a very great role in the looting; it was she who discovered the places where the most precious objects were hidden, and the soldier, who at first remained a quiet spectator, soon became an active part). One could see there piled up pell-mell, next to the military luggage, all that the luxury of the North can offer of most invaluable in pieces of furniture, furs, cashmeres, etc. The pieces of silverware were there especially in profusion, and the soldiers, always oblivious of the day before and careless of the morrow, merrily ate their poor black broth and pieces of bloody horse from this princely plate. A few thousand loaves of bread would have been much better for them than all this wealth; but at this moment they consoled them at least for the privations they had to endure, and they helped them to forget about the evils which threatened them in this distant country, where the most fatal blindness had led them.
Madame Obinski and Juliette could not see this sad spectacle without being painfully affected; but it was in Moscow, it was in this city that had once been so rich, so flourishing, that the most cruel impressions awaited them. Nearly twelve thousand houses, eight hundred churches, innumerable factories, the magnificent bazaar, almost all the stores containing the subsistence of the population had been the prey of the flames; and the second capital of Russia offered little more than a vast plain covered with smoking ruins, in the midst of which wandered a crowd of unfortunate Muscovites, making the air resound with their heart-rending cries. driven by hunger and despair, to rush into the Moskva, to retrieve grain that the Russian authorities had thrown there, and then sink into the waves after fruitless efforts).
Distraught at the sight of this scene of desolation, the mother and daughter search in vain for the place occupied by their former home and the other houses they owned: everything has disappeared. On all sides one sees only heaps of rubble and whirlwinds of hot ashes, which a furious wind spreads in the air like a thick fog.
"Let's flee! let's flee! said Madame Obinski, dragging her daughter away. . . But where to go, my God, where to find shelter in the midst of this terrible disaster? And the unfortunate woman, leaning on Juliette's arm, and followed by Marianne, strides away, as if flight could remedy her ills.
All three had been walking aimlessly for an hour among the scattered debris, when suddenly Juliette exclaimed: “Mama! a large number of houses are still standing! see, see over there, it's the Foundling Hospital, I recognize it. Let's go this way; who knows ? perhaps they will not refuse to give asylum to the widow, to the daughter of their former doctor. You remember all my father did for this establishment; the court itself paid tribute to his zeal as well as his generous devotion, and the administrators could not have forgotten it. »
A little revived by this glimmer of hope, Madame Obinski allowed herself to be led by her courageous child, who, in this fatal circumstance, was much more occupied with the anxiety in which she saw her than with her own misfortune. Finally they arrive, not without difficulty, at the large quay of the Moskva, where the hospital for Foundlings is located. A backup picket, sent to this house on September 14 by the French authorities, had fortunately succeeded in saving it from incendiary rockets and looting. The children above twelve years of age had been evacuated, before the entry of the French, to Nijni Novgorod, under the direction of the chief director; but, through unheard-of foresight, there remained about five hundred who would undoubtedly have perished in the general conflagration, if Napoleon had not provided for their safety.
Uncertain of the reception she would be given in this house, Madame Obinski only came there trembling; for unfortunately she knew by experience that if public calamities sometimes give rise to noble and great deeds, sometimes also these same calamities excite in souls a cold selfishness which closes them to pity. The abandonment in which all her acquaintances and the persons employed in her service had left her during the flight of the inhabitants, was too striking a proof of this truth for her to be without fear, when the general ruin did not leave her. everyone but stupor and despair. Emboldened, however, by the very excess of such misfortune, the poor mother asked to speak to the deputy director, whom she had had occasion to see once or twice since her stay in Moscow. He was a respectable old man, whose years had not cooled his heart; Madame Obinski had scarcely explained what she expected of him when he hastened to grant her request, and to surround her, as well as her daughter, with all the care that their situation demanded.
Happy to see them at last in safety in a house where at least the basic necessities of life will no longer be lacking, Marianne prepared to take leave of them, promising to come and see them often, as long as her husband's regiment was in Moscow. The most tender thanks were lavished on her, and Madame Obinski, worried about the destitution in which the excellent woman would find herself during her stay in Russia, wished to make her accept part of the gold which she had saved at the time of her flight; but Marianne refused: "No, no, Madame, keep this gold," she said to her; it will be much more useful to you than to me; I know how to endure privations; but you, but this dear child, whose resignation and courage I so admired, it is undoubtedly the first time that adversity has struck you, and it is a hard apprenticeship that I would appreciate painful to watch you do. . . Don't insist any longer, she added with deep emotion: only allow me to hope, after the service you have rendered me and the interest you show me at this moment, that you will sometimes think of poor Marianne, who will never forget you. »
Juliette and her mother could not hear these words without being deeply touched by them; they embraced the worthy woman who had given them marks of such generous devotion, and their sadness increased still more after her departure. Still striving to compress the thoughts
oppressive forces that pursued them, they hastened to thank God for not having abandoned them when millions of unfortunates were wandering and deprived of everything.
It is above all by the comparison that we make of our ills with those of others that we feel our courage and our gratitude towards God being revived; because, whatever the adversities and the sufferings that overwhelm us, there are very certainly beings even more unhappy than us on this land so fertile in pain. These suffering beings are creatures similar to us; they have the same rights as us before the sovereign master of our destinies, and yet we sometimes dare to find ourselves more to be pitied than them, we even dare to accuse Heaven of too much rigor, when we should be thanking it for sparing us trouble. that we would not have the courage to suffer with the same resignation.
Fortunately our good Juliette had drawn, as we have said, from her education more correct ideas. Her own misfortune did not render her insensitive to the evils she saw suffered around her, and during the days which followed the frightful disaster in Moscow, she often solicited from her mother some portions of their meager resources, to save families. unhappy with hunger and despair.
Provisions had then become so scarce that it was only at an exorbitant price that one could procure the most meager food; the French authority was even obliged to have distributions made to the most needy inhabitants.
It was impossible for such a state of things to continue; for scarcity was ever increasing; and the army itself ends up wanting everything. Negotiations for peace had been initiated by the Emperor Napoleon; a suspension of arms took place; but soon the Russians broke it, hostilities resumed with a new fury, and consternation became general.
It was then that most of the French families who lived in Moscow before the occupation of this city took the resolution to flee it and follow their compatriots to return to France; for there was no longer any pity for them to expect from the former governor, whose vengeance had just shown itself so terrible: the cruelty of the Cossacks or slavery in Siberia, such was the dreadful prospect which seemed to present itself. to all those who would remain in Muscovy with the title of Frenchman.
These terrors, which the disastrous events which had just taken place justified only too well, also seized Juliette's mother. For a long time already, all her thoughts had been directed towards France, which she had not seen for nearly twenty years, and all her wishes tended from then on to return there.
A French lady, whom she often had occasion to see at the house of the sub-director of the establishment where she had been given refuge, only strengthened her in this project. This lady, named Madame Durval, pursued by the common terror, proposed to leave immediately with her husband in the wake of the army, and persuaded Madame Obinski to join the trip.
Juliette at first shared her mother's joy; but soon a feeling of fear, which the catastrophe which she had just witnessed had not a little contributed to excite in her heart, clung in spite of herself to the thought of this distant journey. Besides, she loved the country where she was born; it was his father's, and now he had to leave him, never to see the grave where the remains of this beloved father were buried.
This idea filled Juliette with great bitterness, and it was not always without effort that she succeeded in containing her sadness.
Soon this sadness increased, for the preparations for departure were almost finished. The diamonds that Mrs. Obinski had had the good fortune to save from the fire having been bought from her by a foreign merchant, the sum she withdrew from them, together with what she already had in her possession, enabled her to provide of the long journey she was about to undertake, and even ensured her some means of subsistence for a certain period of time in her homeland. However, on the verge of abandoning a country where she had spent the best years of her life, Juliette's mother needed all her courage not to give in to the fears which also came to assail her, and which sometimes even shook her resolve. ; but however she considered her fate and that of her daughter, she saw nothing but danger everywhere, and she thought, in going away, that she was taking the course which offered the least.
Before leaving Moscow, she still had one duty to fulfill: she wanted to see once more the tomb of a husband whom she loved dearly, and whose support she now needed so much. “Come,” she said to her daughter, “come; going to ask God at his very tomb for the strength to part with it and to bear
our misfortune. »
Fortunately the fire had not extended its ravages as far as the cemetery of the Muscovites, and those who had to mourn their ruin could still go and kneel in this place consecrated to pain and meditation. I say to meditation, because it seems to me impossible to approach such a place without the soul drawing from it some salutary thought, some memory of the holy affections of childhood, or some warning of the brevity of life. . . . What a book indeed, all these tombs! how eloquently it speaks to the heart of him who knows how to read it! how he shows her the nothingness of things here below! Ah! it is in these pages traced by death that we should go and study the necessity of virtue. Won, man could not remain indifferent to her, if he dared approach these tombs more often, which seem to say to him: "Go, despise the false glory, the grandeurs, the riches, the vain pleasures of a corrupting world; all this is only a prestige which will vanish like a light vapour; the only reality is the destruction of your body and the immortality of your soul! for this fragile body, dust and oblivion; for your soul the heavenly abode, where endless happiness awaits it, if it has not betrayed its mission during its short pilgrimage on earth. Woe to him who remains deaf to such teachings! woe to him who treads the grass of a cemetery without emotion, and who does not formulate a prayer from the bottom of his heart at the sight of these tombs, where so many affections, so many hopes have been swallowed up, but where the thought of God always arises.
This thought occupied Madame Obinski and Juliette when they approached the funereal monument they had come to fetch; but, kneeling on the stone, thinking that they were seeing this place for the last time, an inexpressible pain seized them both.
“O my father! exclaimed the young girl, it is therefore for ever that we must leave you! The earth that covers your dear remains will no longer be watered by our tears; we will no longer come to pour out our eternal regrets to them. Ah! at least, from the bottom of your grave, bless your poor child who will go away from you forever.
'Juliet,' said Madame Obinski to her, whose heart was broken, but who was trying to revive her own courage, 'your gaze must be lifted to heaven, asking for your father's blessing; it is there that he tastes the happiness of the angels, and that we will join him, I hope, wherever our sad days will henceforth pass. . . . Don't you feel that this hope is the most beautiful present that the Creator has given us? Hey! What do passing pains and misfortunes matter, after all, when eternity belongs to us, when we can conquer heaven by virtue! »
These words restored Juliette to herself. Rising then, she took her mother's hand, brought it to her lips, and walked away with her from the mausoleum, striving to show more calm and resignation.
However, the retreat of the French army was resolved in the Kremlin, where vain hopes had been entertained (Napoleon had returned to live in this palace after the fire. It was from there that he proposed to the Emperor to Russia to conclude peace; but all its offers having been rejected, our army had to suffer all the consequences of this disastrous campaign). Already various corps of troops were beginning to move. Marianne, who had come very frequently to see those whom she always called her benefactresses, and who had enthusiastically adopted Madame Obinski's plan to return to France, urged her and her traveling companions to follow the regiment whose husband was one of them, assuring them that it was the only way of escaping the attack of the Cossacks, scattered throughout the country they were about to travel. This advice was appreciated by M. Durval, who occupied himself with great zeal in the preparations necessary for such a long journey; and the regiment having received the order to leave, Juliet and her mother finally left Moscow.
As fire tries the potter's vessel, so misfortune tries the just.
ECCLESIASTIC, XXVII, 6.
It was on October 19 that this departure took place. The weather was superb, and, something unheard of in this country, no snow had yet been seen on the ground, which made the French believe that the severity of the climate had been exaggerated for them. Also, forgetting the fatigues and the dangers they had had to face to come so far to seek the honor of bivouacking in the second capital of the czars, all left full of joy at the memory. of the mother country, where they hope soon to celebrate the new glory acquired by our arms. Poor French people, how deluded they are!
The carriage of our travellers, among whom was Marianne, was comfortable and light. M. Durval, who knew that the country we were going to cross had been completely ruined by the successive passage of the Russian and French armies, had added a van loaded with all the provisions that we had been able to procure in the vicinity of Moscow. . This van also carried food for the horses that were to travel most of the way.
However, we only walked very slowly, because, apart from the obstruction of the roads, it was impossible to pass the French troops without running the risk of falling into the midst of the Cossacks. These barbarians, seeking only to plunder and to hinder the retreat, arrived on the first day on the flanks of the various French divisions, their lances at rest and uttering terrible howls. They were repulsed at all points, and their various attacks had at first no disastrous consequence for the army; only they lost considerable time, and caused mortal terror to the families that events had forced to undertake this perilous journey, in the midst of two parties.
enemies who disputed the ground step by step.
Antoine had obtained, thanks to the esteem he enjoyed, that Madame Obinski and her companions marched under the protection of her regiment, and one of the leaders, a man as obliging as he was brave, took pleasure in rendering them all the services during the journey. were in his power. However, the defense of this courageous troop did not entirely reassure them against the fears which constantly came to assail them. Juliette, trembling at the first shots she heard, first sought shelter in her mother's arms; but she saw her herself so terrified that she soon endeavored to moderate her terror, so as not to add to that of this unfortunate mother, who already reproached herself for having yielded to her first terrors in leaving Moscow.
The explosion of the Kremlin (A mine had been placed by order of Napoleon in the grounds of this palace; the rearguard of the army set fire to it on leaving, and soon a large part of this ancient residence of the czars offered only a heap of ruins. This act of revenge, which no military reason seemed to require, further fueled the hatred of the Russians against the French, and contributed not a little, no doubt, to increase the fury that they began to pursue them in the unfortunate retreat), which made itself heard the day after the departure, nevertheless made Madame Obinski believe that the course she had chosen was dictated by prudence; for this new catastrophe, which multiplied the victims, could give rise to fears that the unfortunate city was doomed to complete destruction. This fear was not realized; but it still darkens the painful reflections that this war gave rise to, in which all the hateful passions were unleashed to multiply the disasters.
It was at Feminskoe, about ten leagues from Moscow, that our travelers heard this terrible explosion; but unfortunately ! the sad impressions which this new catastrophe left in their hearts were nothing in comparison with what they experienced when, a few days later, they had to cross the plains of Borodino. There, fifty-two days before, a great battle had taken place; thirty thousand brave men had lost their lives there, and these fields of carnage were still strewn with their mortal remains. At this sight, the soldier himself, although accustomed to these bloody scenes, turns his head away with a shudder. The pace is hurried, the cars also move more quickly; Marianne and M. Durval hasten to lower the blinds; but Juliette has seen these corpses which the animals of prey feed on: a cry of horror escapes her, all her limbs are seized with a convulsive trembling, and it is only after having shed a torrent of tears that she finally manages to calm down a bit. "O my daughter, my darling Juliette, take courage, I implore you," Madame Obinski said to her, pressing her to her heart. Ah! I feel it too late, I caused all your evils by wanting to save you from the dangers I feared for you. . . But until now your soul has not yielded to the cruel trials we have had to undergo; ask God to strengthen it again.
— Yes, replied Juliette, looking at her mother with tenderness, let us pray for the strength we need; but let us also pray for all these poor people, whose remains are doomed to abandonment on this desolate land. And taking a book that never left her, she read aloud the prayers of the dead, in a tone so touching and so penetrating, that, in spite of themselves, those present were deeply touched by it.
Until then the couple Durval and Marianne had thought only very vaguely of the necessity of religion; but these sublime prayers, addressed to God on a battlefield covered with corpses, by a weak young girl barely recovered from her terror, give them such a lofty idea of Christianity and of the charity that it commands, that they do not can defend themselves from making a salutary return on themselves. It is thus that the true Christian, whatever his age and his sex, exercises around him a kind of priesthood which is never without some happy result: when piety dares to show itself in the open, incredulity envy in spite of she her sweetness and her convictions; from there to repentance and faith, very often there is only one step. "I want to love and serve God like you," said Marianne, affectionately taking Juliette's hand; yes, I feel that your prayers go straight to my heart. Ah! repeat them, repeat them again, so that we may all be blessed, and that the souls of all these brave men may be received into heaven! »
M. and Mme Durval, no less moved than the sergeant's wife, also looked at the young girl with a tender air; and when she began to pray again, their voices mingled with hers.
Finally they moved away from these fields of desolation; but each day their ills increase. The country they travel through is no more than a vast desert where death seems to threaten them from all sides: not a house, not a cottage that is not in ruins; everything was burned, ransacked by the inhabitants before they fled; and the unfortunate traveller, on advancing, does not find even the most meager shelter in which to rest his exhausted body.
To make matters worse, the mild temperature which had been enjoyed during the first days of the retreat was suddenly replaced by bitter cold, then by abundant snow which covered the ground with a thick layer as slippery as ice. and on which the horses made vain efforts to advance. Those of these animals that were dragging cars were so exhausted that it was necessary, by force of arms, to push the wheels in order to lighten their burden, and very often they still fell and never got up again.
Alas! how many poor soldiers suffered the same fate! how many of these unfortunates, frozen with cold, devoured by hunger, breathed their last sigh on this fatal land, without a single friend closing their eyes, without a single laurel being thrown on their tomb, and without their desolate families could ever know where their bones lie!
It was impossible that such a spectacle would not tear the hearts of those who shared such cruel evils. Until then our travellers, thanks to the care of M. Durval, had not yet lacked food: their van was provided with salted meats, rice, vegetables, which were cooked during the Baltics; but these provisions, which were so precious to them, often had to be shared with the unfortunate people who surrounded them. The wounded, the women, the children were there, in the midst of the disaster, perishing for lack of help, and Juliette above all could not see their sufferings without feeling the need to relieve them. Often at mealtimes, which we always had in the car, she said to her mother: “Mommy, I can't eat; but, I beg of you, give me the share you intended for me, and allow me to take it to those unfortunate little ones who are there, moaning on the road. When she had obtained what she wanted, the charitable child stopped the horses, and dashed off with Marianne to meet the unfortunate people she wanted to help.
One day she stripped herself of a coat lined with fur, to cover a poor woman half frozen, and carrying a young child in her arms. She to whom such a precious gift was offered hesitated at first to accept it, for it was repugnant to her, however poor, to deprive her young benefactress of such a useful object. “Take, take,” said Juliette to her with tears in her eyes, “I can do without this garment; the cold makes me suffer little, I'm used to it; but you, but that poor little one! Ah! I am only too happy to alleviate your ills. At the same time she wraps them both in the fur coat, and escapes without waiting for new thanks.
The traveling companions of this amiable girl, continual witnesses of the noble qualities of her heart, could not tire of admiring her. The very men whom M. Durval had chosen to drive their carriages had boundless respect for her, and at every stop it was a question of who among them would serve her most eagerly.
However, the disasters of the army increased in a frightful proportion; discouragement and despair won the hearts of all these brave men, who had so often faced death without turning pale. Napoleon, a stick in his hand, often walked among them, seeking, by his example and by benevolent words, to raise the courage of the most downcast. Everyone then reproached him inwardly for having penetrated into Muscovy and for having remained thirty-four days in the midst of the ashes of the burnt city, without foreseeing the difficulties of the return; each suffering, each setback was a new accusation which rose up in the hearts of all these men. Yet there was not one who would not have shed the last drop of his blood for him, for his blindness during this campaign had not erased the glorious memories engraved in their memory, and the moral strength he showed in the in the midst of so many reverses would have increased their devotion even more, if this devotion could have been increased.
Finally, on the 10th of November, the army reached Smolensk, situated ninety-two leagues from Moscow: it received plentiful distributions there, and was able to forget for a few moments the evils it had just suffered. Our travelers were also able to rest in this town and renew their nearly exhausted provisions.
But during their stay, the cold, which had increased gradually since the appearance of the snow, suddenly rose to nineteen degrees, and the effects of this sudden progression were so terrible on the army, that many men perished. , and that a greater number had frozen feet, hands, noses or ears.
Fortunately the weather warmed up on the 14th, and we took advantage of this improvement to get going again. But if one felt some relief from the cold, the excessive fatigue occasioned by the forced marches, the bivouacs and the privations which he was still to undergo, multiplied the sick among the soldiers every day. Many of them, stricken with a kind of delirium, threw down their weapons and fell on the road. In vain their comrades called them and tried to revive them; they no longer heard anything; the very instinct of self-preservation, ordinarily so powerful in man, was extinguished in their hearts; death seemed to them the only desirable good, and they awaited it with frightful impassivity.
To so many misfortunes were added daily bloody combats which had to be sustained against an enemy far superior in number, accustomed besides to the rigors of the climate, and who at all points sought to impede the retreat. From Smolensk, the attacks were still more frequent, and diminished the number of our combatants, who seemed to quintuple their forces to support the glory of the French arms. Never did an army find itself in more terrible circumstances, or show more constancy and heroism.
The Imperial Guard, although much reduced, still presented an imposing mass, and performed prodigies of valor every day. Protected by these brave men, our travelers followed their route with more safety than most of the other fugitive families; they also experienced much less suffering, because until then they had not yet lacked food, and their car sheltered them night and day against the cold. But, advancing towards the Berezina, the means of transport for the wounded lacking, they were obliged to give up this carriage which was so useful to them, and it was with great difficulty that they obtained permission to keep their van. This change was extremely painful to them; nevertheless, comparing their situation with that of so many other unfortunate people around them, they must still have blessed Providence, which had provided them with this resource.
It was on the morning of November 26 that they managed to build two bridges over the Berezina, which had to be crossed at all costs. A few troops had been thrown to the other bank by means of puny rafts, and they repelled the enemy who sought to prevent our constructions, during which the courage of the pontonniers was not belied for a single moment. The devotion they showed in this circumstance surpasses all that the human mind can imagine in terms of heroism. These intrepid men whose memory will live on in posterity, braving the most severe cold and all the difficulties presented to them by the ice cubes with which the river was covered, immersed themselves in water up to their chests, and worked thus for several hours. , deprived of liquors and substantial food. It was to expose oneself to an almost certain death; but the army was there, watching them; it was on their labours, on their courage, that his safety depended; they sacrificed themselves for her.
There is no expression to describe the impatience and anxiety with which everyone was agitated while awaiting the end of this work. A witness to all their difficulties, and unable to hide from herself the danger which the crossing of one or the other of these two bridges, built in haste and without any suitable materials, shuddered at the thought of crossing one of them with his Juliette. In vain Marianne, accustomed to crossing these kinds of passages, tries to reassure her by promising to watch over this daughter so dear, the unfortunate mother can no longer cast her eyes on the river without being seized with deep terror, and she never tires of hugging Juliette in her arms, as if a fatal presentiment warned her of some misfortune.
Finally, at one o'clock in the afternoon, the first bridge being finished, the second corps crossed it to support the skirmishers engaged at this place with an enemy division. The Emperor then passed it with his guard, and the order was at first pretty well observed. But night having come, the passage continued in the light of the moon, and soon the obstruction increased to such a point that our travelers hesitated for a few moments to follow the body which protected them. However, we had to make up our minds. They had gotten out of the van, which took the lead and reached the other side. Monsieur and Madame Durval followed him. Marianne then, seizing Juliette's arm, said to Madame Obinski: "Come on, Madame, be brave, you have to walk!" Entrust your daughter to me, I will answer for her with my life. "At this moment Antoine was running up to hasten their passage: he saw the fears of the unhappy mother, seized her hand and dragged her away, while Marianne, holding Juliette, rushed intrepidly with her onto the bridge, trying to to protect it from any accident finally they are both on the other bank Antoine and Mrs. Obinski are close to arriving there too; but, oh pain! at the moment when they are about to touch the edge, the crowd which precedes them rejects them back; then a terrible creaking is heard, the bridge is broken and they are thrown into the waves at the sight of Juliette and Marianne who were waiting for them.
" My mother ! my Antoine, save them! save them! shouted these two unfortunates together; but unfortunately ! no one worries about their cries or their despair: the most horrible confusion reigns on the shore, and the excess of misfortune at this moment closes all souls to pity. In vain they roam the banks of the river, in vain they call the objects of their affection, everything is deaf to their voice: each one bumps into them, each repels them, and it is only several hours later that Mr. and Mrs. Durval reach to find them on the beach where their pain is exhaled.
Juliette, who was then seized with horrible convulsions, no longer saw anything of what was passing around her, and her friends took advantage of this species of insensitivity to carry her into the van, where they lavished on her all the help were in their power. For a long time their care had no success: at every moment, the unfortunate fell into deep fainting spells which made people fear for her life. Marianne, delivered on her side to the most dreadful despair, had returned to the shore, and spent the rest of the night there, still hoping that her Antoine and Madame Obinski would be saved from the waves; but all her researches were useless, and she no longer doubted the reality of her misfortune.
However, thanks to the zeal of the pontonniers, the bridge had been repaired, and the passage continued, when at two o'clock in the morning this bridge broke again; it was then necessary that the artillery and the baggage cleared a road on the second, which was narrower and without edges.
Here the pen refuses to retrace the horror scenes that took place, because it was exactly on a path of corpses that the horses and carriages passed. In vain the unfortunate pedestrians, whose mass increased every moment, struggled to dispute their passage; knocked down without pity, crushed under the wheels, they fell into the river and disappeared in the middle of the ice cubes. Some, with the courage of despair, clung to the planks of the bridge, and thus remained suspended above the abyss; but soon their crushed hands let this feeble support escape, and they were going to swell the number of victims. Whole caissons, conductors and horses, fell on these unfortunates and hastened their destruction.
We saw, however, in the midst of this terrible catastrophe, traits of devotion which do honor to humanity. Brave soldiers, escaping from the waves as if by a miracle, dared to rush there again to save the poor children whom their mothers were trying to raise above the waves, in order to delay their death for a few moments. Officers also flew to the aid of their comrades who were perishing, and they then harnessed themselves to sledges to transport them near the bivouacs, where the most touching care was lavished on them.
It was at daybreak that these disastrous events took place. Marianne saw part of it, and her heart, broken as it was, could not remain indifferent to the spectacle presented by the shore. This feeling of compassion naturally brought her back to the thought of Juliette, for whom she had conceived a deep affection, and whom their common misfortune made her still dearer. When she joined her, the poor child had regained consciousness, and the sight of her companion in misfortune wrung tears from her which relieved her a little.
"Let's go back to the river," she said to him in a weak voice; good Marianne, do not refuse me!
- Alas! Mademoiselle, I went back there, I saw everything, traveled through everything, and we have no hope left.
- Never mind, let's go, or I'll go alone. »
In vain the Durval couple wanted to divert her from her plan. Leaning on Marianne's arm, she got out of the van and staggered towards the spot on the Berezina where her unfortunate mother and Antoine had been thrown into the waves with the crowd. There, seized with a convulsive trembling, and falling to her knees, she exclaimed in a heartrending voice: "O my mother, if you are no longer, if your soul is in heaven, ask God to take your child. What would she do without you on this miserable earth, where she has seen only pain, and where she has not even a single friend to protect her?
"Are you forgetting poor Marianne?" interrupted the latter. Alas! yes, I am very poor, very unhappy; I have lost my only support, the object of my dearest affections; but God, by striking me with such a terrible blow, has left me a duty to fulfill. Your mother, in the hour of peril, confided you to my care; you are young, without support, I will fulfill towards you the task imposed on me by such a painful situation. From now on I will follow you, I will serve you, I will work for you, as a mother works for her daughter, and I only ask you in exchange to love me a little and never separate us. »
Finishing these words, the excellent woman took Juliette in her arms, and succeeded in leading her away from the shore, where M. and Mme. Durval had followed them. These were far from having the sensibility and greatness of soul of the poor widow; but they sincerely pitied her as well as the young orphan, and endeavored to give to both the care which their misfortune demanded.
It is to be well advanced in the science of life to know how to suffer.
However dreadful the moment when death robs us of those we cherish, the days which follow this loss are assuredly still more dreadful, because then our soul, returned from its first shock, can calculate the immensity of the void where it remains submerged. This, at least, was what the unfortunate Juliette felt after the event we have just described. There were times when his mind, as if lost in the wave of pain, only vaguely recalled to him the horrible image of his mother engulfed in the waves; at this moment he seemed to him to be the plaything of a painful dream; but when she emerged from this kind of numbness, when the sad reality appeared to her in its entirety, the unfortunate woman relapsed into gloomy despair and invoked death as her sole refuge. Suddenly, however, in the midst of one of these attacks, the thought of God came to strike her; she began to pray, and little by little her oppressed heart found some relief.
Until then she had not noticed that we had left the banks of the Berezina, where a bloody battle was at that moment taking place which completed the ruin of our unfortunate army. When the orphan realized that we were getting away from the river, her tears began again, and she begged to be allowed to go back again; but M. and Mme Durval having demonstrated to her the impossibility of satisfying her, she insisted no longer, and shut up her grief in the depths of her soul.
Oh ! what heartrending thoughts succeeded the enchanting dreams of his childhood! How everything has changed for her! What misfortunes have accumulated on his head in the space of a few months! Formerly surrounded by a beloved father and mother, guided by their love, by their wise advice, she thought of the future only with the happy carelessness that happiness gives: now here she is alone in the world, here she is. deprived of everything, exposed to all privations, to all perils, without any other support than the pity of those around her, and who themselves are overwhelmed under the weight of their own ills.
Fortunately, we repeat, Juliette had a solid piety and a great confidence in God; when these cruel ideas came to assail her, she raised her soul to Heaven; immediately an inner voice seemed to tell her that she would not be abandoned in the midst of the storms of life; then the virtuous child placed her fate in the hands of Providence, and if her tears continued to flow, at least her mouth never uttered a murmur. “It is by the afflictions that strike us, as brass is struck by a hammer,” says Saint Augustine, “that the soul expands and polishes itself. Indeed, when misfortune fails to bring us down, when the sublime hopes of religion sustain us amidst the tribulations and sufferings with which this life is strewn, it is very rare that our soul does not acquire a new degree. strength and elevation that prosperity could not give him. Also, the pious Juliette, overwhelmed by the weight of her regrets, but resolved to submit to the divine will, no longer bothered those around her by her complaints or by her pain; she suffered in silence, and did not even seem to notice the privations and the pains which she continued to endure during the journey: these pains, what were they in her eyes, compared to the loss which had struck her? ?
Finally, after having shared all the disasters which our unfortunate army continued to experience in its retreat, the orphan and her companions, reduced to the most deplorable state, arrived at Warsaw, and then proceeded to Strasbourg, where M. and Madame Durval had quite extensive commercial relations.
These spouses, almost entirely ruined by the fire in Moscow, counting on going immediately to the United States to re-establish their affairs there, were forced to announce to the poor orphan the obligation in which they were to separate from her. This news caused her deep despondency, for, during the disastrous journey she had just made, these two persons had shown her too affectionate care for her not to be grateful; and this separation, in her isolation, was a new pain which she felt keenly! Also sorry to leave her, when their support was still so necessary to her, the two spouses urged her to try, before their departure, to place herself either as governess with young children, or as assistant mistress in some institution of Strasbourg, so that they might carry away, having separated from her, some peace of mind about her fate. Juliette consented to this project, and various respectable people having seconded her, she was offered, a few days later, a job with the wife of a merchant, whose wealth was renowned throughout the province, and who had two small children. daughters she wanted to raise before her eyes.
It was not without difficulty, however, that the young Muscovite decided to present herself to the lady to whom she had been announced. Her natural shyness, the deep feeling of her unhappiness, the cruel apprenticeship she was about to make of a situation so new and almost always so painful for those who are forced to accept it, everything excited in her soul a redoubled sadness. and discouragement. But in the end it was necessary to live, it was also necessary to sustain the existence of the devoted friend who had shared his misfortune, and whose fate was henceforth linked to his; she resigned herself.
The broken heart, the pallor on the face, 1 unfortunate person went with Mrs. Durval towards the residence of Mrs. V ***, mother of the two children. Never, perhaps, had the luxury of the finest hotels in the capital surpassed that which was noticed by the simple merchant. One would have said that the masters of this rich residence, unable to impose respect by titles of nobility, which so many people affect to disdain and which all envy those who own them, wanted to dazzle the crowd with the sumptuousness they displayed. . Madame Durval was amazed, and could not help expressing her admiration for her young companion. “Oh! Madam, replied the poor child, whom the speeches and the brazen looks of a crowd of valets had tortured on arriving, I cannot admire this sumptuous display with you; I admit that I would have much preferred to find, instead of so much opulence, a modest dwelling which was more in keeping with the social position of the masters and which would have given me a more favorable idea of urbanity and the simplicity of their manners. »
They had been introduced into a large living room, where they waited impatiently for the pleasure of Madame Y***, to whom they had gone to announce them. During this wait, which lasted a considerable time, an elegant maid walked past them several times, eyeing the orphan with a disdainful smile and seeming to say to her: "Here I will have precedence over you." A few moments later, the same woman reappeared with two little girls, whose sullen and haughty air already announced their bad education. They did not salute on entering, and after having looked at Juliette in a stupid way, the one who seemed the oldest said to her maid, loud enough to be heard: "My God, she looks sad!" Why is she dressed in black like this? I don't want a governess dressed like that. »
Juliette, when the little girls had retired, expressed to her companion all the repugnance she felt at taking on such pupils; but Madame Durval, who did not want her attentions to be wasted, replied rather curtly: “Patience, Mademoiselle, patience; you must, above all, see Mme Y*** . She is said to be very generous when you know how to please her; besides, the jobs of governess are not
not common in this city: this is the only one there at the moment; it would be folly not to accept it. »
The poor child, who saw that she was not understood, was silent and submitted to an interview from which she augured only increased suffering.
At last a servant appeared and told them that Madame Y*** consented to receive them; then, having led them through several rooms, each more magnificent than the next, he opened the door of a charming boudoir at the back of which the lady of the place was nonchalantly lying on a divan, which was also trodden on by a horrible pug.
M'"e V*** was a woman of about twenty-eight, who had never been pretty, but who had all the pretensions capable of making beauty itself ugly. narrow and full of arrogance. A woman of a certain age, with a hard and common air, the two little girls whom Juliette had already seen, and the maid with the impertinent look, were near her, forming a sort of a kind of Areopagus getting ready to judge the merit of the poor foreigner.
"Come near, Mademoiselle," said Madame V*¥* to her, showing her a seat; I was told you were looking for a job as a governess?
"I did indeed want her, Madame."
- It is not enough to desire it, you have to know if you are in a condition to fulfill it. Have you ever had any education?
- No Madam.
- How then do you intend to preside over that of my daughters? it is a profession that cannot be learned at will.
- I intended, Madam, to put into practice
the lessons that I received myself and which are
faithfully etched in my memory. . .
— This cannot replace experience. Today we think we are fit for everything, when often we are fit for nothing. You were born in Russia, I believe? I would have preferred an Englishwoman. . . However, we could try. How old are you ?
'Eighteen years old, ma'am.
- It's very young! You have, I have been told, lost your mother? »
Here Juliette vainly tried to hold back her tears.
"My God, I understand your pain," resumed Mme y*, "but there is no remedy for it; and if I
take you to be with my children, yet you shouldn't always cry like that, these dear little ones would be saddened; already, I must tell you, they have told me that your air and your mourning clothes displease them: they are so little accustomed to seeing misfortune!
“I believe so, madam; and this remark struck me so much on entering here, that I regretted having asked you to admit me into your presence.
- For what ? if you promise me not to be always like this, and above all never to upset them.
'It's a double promise that I couldn't make without fear of contradicting myself.
“But, in obtaining a job in my house, you must nevertheless submit to my will and endeavor to please your pupils; this is the first care I require of a governess. How much do you know about pleasure talents?
“It is a useless subject to discuss between us, Madame; I don't think I suit you in other respects, and I ask your permission to withdraw. »
At the same time, Juliette, having risen, was already bowing to go out, when Madame Durval, who had not felt like her how shocking Madame V***'s tone and language were, approached her. the latter and began to praise her protegee, so as to make her want to become attached to her. But the orphan's resolution was taken: she had foreseen, from the first moment, that a woman of such caliber would never be fit for anything but to destroy the care that would be taken for the education of her children. , and she had too much elevation in her feelings to accept functions which would have put her constantly in contradiction with the duties which she would have imposed on herself. The continuation of Mme V***'s interview having only confirmed her in this opinion, she refused, to the great regret of her companion, and perhaps also of the opulent woman, all the advantages offered him, and left the magnificent hotel, sadder, more discouraged than before.
Back with Marianne, she poured out before this devoted friend the painful feelings which she had tried to contain in front of Madame Durval. The only instinct of the heart made them understand to the good widow; so she did everything she could to console her and raise her courage. However, a decision had to be made, the two spouses were going to leave Strasbourg, and Juliette did not want to stay after them in a town where it had been impossible for her to find a suitable place.
Finally, heartbroken, with no other resource than a modest sum that could barely provide for her needs for a few months, and having no other support in the world than her companion in misfortune, she took the road with her. from Paris, where M. Durval had advised her to go, assuring her that she would find it easier there to create a livelihood in the teaching career, much less encumbered by women at that time. , than it is today. Letters addressed by this obliging man to various people whom he had known before his stay in Russia seemed to encourage the hopes of the orphan, and yet, what anxiety, what bitterness remained attached to her situation!
Seated next to the faithful Marianne, at the back of the stagecoach to which their former traveling companions had taken them, she devours her tears; for, in certain souls, sorrow has its modesty, it cannot bear curious and indifferent looks. So Juliette doesn't even dare to look up at the people around her; she feels that she is in the midst of strangers to whom her sadness does not inspire any sort of interest. Alas! they are still strangers that she will find at the end of the road; no sign of affection will greet her when she arrives in the city where her mother was born! Perhaps she still has a few distant relatives; at least she has heard it said; but they are unaware of its existence; and she barely knows their name. Besides, what would she seek from them? it would seem to them only an importunate charge. 'No, no,' she said to herself, 'I am not going to implore the help of pity; I will work, and God will deign to support the efforts of the poor child who no longer has a mother. »
This last thought raised Juliette's courage a little. However, since the loss that had struck her, her physical strength had been almost entirely broken down. A continual fever, further increased by excessive fatigue, devoured her inwardly, and she had barely spent a few hours in the carriage when, feeling her sufferings redouble, she feared that she was in no condition to continue her journey. . To make matters worse, the path she was traveling was covered with snow, and the diligence moved only with desperate slowness. Several times the unfortunate woman was on the point of asking to stay in one of the houses she saw on the road, and always the fear of alarming her companion restrained her. However, she took the resolution to stop in the first town she found on her way, if the evil continued to overwhelm her in such a violent manner; but for that she still had to wait several hours, and this waiting put her to the torture.
No matter how hard she tried to contain her complaints, Marianne was not long in noticing her condition. Already the excellent woman gave herself up to the liveliest alarm, when suddenly, on the verge of arriving at a fairly large village of which the steeple and the first houses could be seen, the carriage was carried away with extraordinary rapidity. This car was at the moment descending a fairly high hill, which the snow made very slippery. No precautions had been taken; the postilion, troubled, no longer being master of the horses, let go of the reins, and the carriage, after having covered a great space in a few seconds, was overturned on the edge of a deep ravine, into which the slightest movement could precipitate it.
Fortunately this accident took place almost at the entrance of the village. Several people, among whom were a venerable ecclesiastic and a decorated man, ran to the help of the travellers, who all, more or less bruised, hastened to get out of the fatal carriage. Juliette was unable to follow their example, for a violent contusion on her head had almost completely deprived her of the use of her senses, and Marianne, in despair, supported her in her arms, begging those present to come to her aid. . Immediately we hurry; the young person, still unconscious, is removed from the diligence with all possible precautions; a few moments later they place her on a chair with arms, and carry her to the village. Marianne asks that we stop at the first cottage that comes along; but the ecclesiastic pointed out to him that his companion would not receive there all the assistance necessary for her situation. Finally, after a few minutes, you find yourself in front of a very beautiful castle, preceded by a long avenue. The porters turn in this direction: several ladies come to meet the young stranger and lavish
care ; everything is useless, nothing manages to bring her back to life, and Marianne, ever more desperate, is on the verge of falling into the same state.
Orders had been given to fetch a doctor. He arrived a few moments later, examined the patient, and having immediately placed her on a bed, he bled her, after which she seemed to revive a little. His gaze fell first on Marianne, all of whose features depicted deep concern. She wanted to speak to him, she didn't have the strength, and her eyes grew heavy again. The doctor seemed worried about the state of the pulse. Already, by various questions addressed to Marianne, he had learned of the recent misfortunes of the orphan, and had no doubt that they had as much a part in the gravity of her condition as the accident which had just befall her; so he recommended that she be left in absolute calm and above all that she should not experience any kind of emotion.
The masters of the house had retired just as they had put her to bed, leaving with her a woman who had orders to attend attentively to all her needs and those of her companion. The ecclesiastic had also left the room; but judging, like the doctor, that the patient's condition was rather serious, he waited in the adjoining room to make sure whether she would not need the consolations of religion. Marianne caught sight of him as she drove the doctor home, and told him that Juliette had just fallen into a deep sleep. The tears of the poor woman continued to flow, for she still had strong alarms; and his heart, so full of sadness, poured out before the venerable old man, telling him of his misfortune and that of the young Muscovite, in terms so naive, so touching, that it still increased the interest he felt. already penetrated.
M. de Bonnier, as this compassionate man was called, added to all the virtues of his profession a lofty wisdom and a profound sensibility which he extended to all suffering beings. The most to be pitied was always the one whom he received with the greatest eagerness and benevolence. Never had a cold selfishness closed his heart to pity; all he owned was the patrimony of the poor. Pastor for ten years in the village of Bert, he had not spent a single day, a single hour of his life, without taking care to improve, by his help, his credit or his advice, the lot of his parishioners, and without seeking to reawaken among them the religious sentiments which the political storms had effaced there. Her gentle and persuasive piety went on, without ever tiring, seeking the impious even under her roof, and almost always she emerged victorious from the struggle in which she entered, for the most hardened souls could not resist her.
It was impossible for a man of such a character not to be deeply touched by the misfortunes of this young stranger, who was portrayed to him as so gentle, so virtuous, and so neglected. After having expressed to Marianne all the feelings of benevolence which were in his heart, he returned with her to the interesting patient, who, a few moments later, awoke. Pleasantly surprised on seeing before her the venerable face of the old man, she seemed to reflect, and asked where she was.
“You are, Mademoiselle,” replied M. de Bonnier, “with perfectly honorable people, with Colonel Baron de Granville, who, like his family, takes a keen interest in your situation. Allow me to add that you see in me a sincere friend, quite ready to serve you and to offer you consolation. »
Juliette clasped her hands, then cast a grateful look on the pastor; but, too weak to express it to him, she closed her eyes again, and two streams of tears were immediately seen to run down her cheeks.
“Poor child! said M. de Bonnier, how his heart is filled with sadness! »
And kneeling down, he prayed in a low voice for the unfortunate young girl, who presented to him at this moment the most touching image of grief. Having then noticed that she had fallen back into a fairly peaceful sleep, he went out cautiously, recommending that Marianne send him word if the orphan wished to see him again, and went to join the Baron de Granville, who was waiting for him impatiently. to know news of the young traveler collected in her house.
This brave soldier, a former pupil of M. de Bonnier, showed himself worthy of such a master, for he combined the most distinguished talents with a nobility of feelings and a kindness of heart which contact with the world could not alter. As frank as he was loyal in his dealings, he was generally honoured, and all he needed to be happy was to have in his wife a soul which corresponded to his own.
The character of the Baroness de Granville had, in fact, no sort of sympathy with that of her husband. Married very young, without having any idea of the duties of her new state, and naturally very frivolous, she had at first seen only the bright side of her situation, then had thrown herself into Paris in the whirlwind of the great world, thinking only of pointing out her beauty and the splendor she displayed there. Unfortunately M. de Granville had been obliged to leave her immediately after their marriage to go to the army, leaving her under the control of an aunt whom he believed capable of directing her. The latter, on the contrary, although already quite advanced in age, combined all the quirks of a futile and proud woman with an unbridled taste for the pleasures of the world. Soon her niece's house was raised to the most opulent footing, and in the space of a year the dowry which the latter had brought to her husband was found to be entirely dissipated.
Enlightened too late on such a breach of trust, but too generous to impose on his young wife the full weight of his indignation, the colonel, back with her, confined himself to showing her the wrong she had done to herself. done to herself, by retiring for the future the opulence to which she attached so much value. Having then separated her from her aunt, for whom he could no longer have any kind of consideration, he took her to Lorraine, where he owned a very pretty property, and again promised her happiness if she would conform to the kind of life he wanted her to adopt. The gentleness of his manners, the tender indulgence he showed her, knew at first how to triumph over the annoyance she felt at being thus separated from the world and from the vain pleasures she had tasted in it; containing her mood and her complaints, she forced herself to smile at her new situation, but the basis of her character remained the same, and it took all the firmness of the colonel to succeed in establishing in her household the economy which had become indispensable. to the present state of his fortune.
However, the baroness made him the father of a little girl, and five years later he had the happiness of attracting to his side the worthy tutor who had brought him up. Then his disenchanted life took on an entirely different aspect; each time his service allowed him to return to Bert, he found there, if not perfect happiness, at least the caresses of his dear little Lucie, whom he adored, and the consolations of the friend of his youth, of whom he never never tired of admiring the virtues.
Such was the family to which Providence had led Juliette and Marianne.
When M. de Granville had heard his former master's report, his interest in the young stranger increased still further, and he considered himself happy to be able to show her generous hospitality; for, having also shared the disasters of Moscow, better than anyone else he could appreciate what she had had to suffer to continue her journey, after the loss which had befallen her.
Still completely impressed by M. de Bonnier's story, the colonel returned to the drawing-room, where the baroness and her daughter were company with some ladies of the neighborhood. All at the same time questioned him about the young traveller, and when he had informed them of her misfortunes, all also were in ecstasies over the courage it had taken him to bear so many evils.
"I would have died a thousand times if I had been struck by such adversities," exclaimed young Lucie, "for they seem to me beyond human strength."
"Without doubt, my child," replied the Baroness; but it is to be hoped that you will never be exposed to it. It is likely that this young person was born into a class where one is forced
to practice early to bear the pains of the mind and the fatigues of the body, otherwise she would inevitably have succumbed under the weight of so many disasters.
"This young person," continued M. de Bonnier, who had just entered gravely, "seems, on the contrary, to have been brought up with all the care, all the delicacies of opulence: her parents were , an honorable rank in Moscow; but everything leads to believe that, by a solid education, based on religion, they knew how to protect her, from her childhood, against the pains and setbacks which can affect all classes of society; this is, no doubt, what gave her strength when the hour of suffering arrived for her. »
The baroness blushed on hearing the old man's words; but she dared not reply, lest her husband should make some unflattering remark to her on the opinion which she had just expressed so lightly in front of her daughter.
Although having all the faults of a futile and uncultivated mind, Lucie's mother was not, however, devoid of endearing qualities; his heart had kindness, even generosity; and if levity sometimes stifled these happy dispositions, her first impulse always led her to show herself compassionate towards the misfortune which demanded her support. Also that of the orphan touched her so sincerely, that she redoubled her attentions so that all the care was lavished on her.
For several days these treatments met with no success: the poor patient still seemed in the same state, and Marianne kept shedding tears. Finally the strength of youth triumphed over illness: Juliette fully regained consciousness, and the first use she made of it was to open her heart to the holy old man, whom she had seen assiduously at her bedside, like a consoling angel. M. de Tourner could not read this pious and candid soul without feeling the sweetest impressions, and it was with real happiness that he called upon her heavenly blessings.
"Come, my child," he then said to him, "take courage again, and God, sooner or later, will reward your resignation in adversity and your constancy in virtue." It is his divine providence that has led everything; let us adore his decrees together, and see in me henceforth a friend, a second father, who will always be ready to support you in the midst of the pitfalls with which this unhappy life is sown. »
Deeply touched by this language, Juliette thanked the worthy priest with all the sensitivity of which her soul was capable, and then testified to him the desire to express her. gratitude to her generous hosts, whom she had not yet seen, but whose attentions penetrated her. The doctor, who arrived, opposed her plan, prescribing her absolute rest for a few more days, and he recommended that no one be allowed to enter near her, except the good priest, whose presence seemed to him to be so pleasant.
Whatever the doctor's fears, Juliette found herself much better the next day, for she had drawn from the consolations of religion and from the touching benevolence of the one who had offered them, a strength that all the help of medicine could not. could have returned to him. A few days later she was able to get up and go to a large room not far from her bedroom, where she walked, leaning on the arm of her faithful Marianne, who did not know how to express her joy at to see her finally brought back to life.
The room they were in then
linked a bookcase and various musical instruments, among which Juliette noticed a very beautiful piano which was open. All these objects brought her back to the time of her happiness, to that time when, surrounded by a dear family, her youth passed away in the midst of pleasant studies and expressions of affection. For a moment her tears flowed bitterly; but soon remembering the advice of the holy old man, she tried to tear herself away from her sad thoughts by approaching the piano. Juliette was passionately fond of this instrument, on which she had acquired great skill. His fingers wandered over the keys in a distracted way at first; but little by little the attraction of the music prevailing over her sad preoccupations, she began to play a very difficult piece which she found on the music stand, and executed it with such perfection, that the good Marianne, who did not know that she had such a talent, listened to her in true ecstasy, not daring to move for fear of interrupting her.
While both of them were thus occupied, they did not notice that a door had been furtively opened, through which a young person of about fifteen years old stuck her pretty head to listen. Juliette saw her in a mirror placed above the piano, and rising immediately, she seemed a little troubled; but the young girl reassured her by running towards her, and saying to her with a charming smile:
“It's me, it's Lucie, don't be afraid. The priest didn't want me to open that door, but I couldn't resist the desire I had to see you. Now go on playing, please, because papa and mamma are there with M. de Bonnier; they listened to you too, and you would scold me if you deprived them of hearing you. »
At this moment the good priest entered, followed by M. and Mme. de Granville; the orphan was then able to express to the two spouses all the gratitude with which her heart was filled for their generous hospitality.
Pressed afterwards by the Baroness and by Lucie to go back to the piano, she did not want to be asked, and at first played with a little hesitation; but soon his execution firmed up and became as pure as it was brilliant. She was successively asked for two pieces which presented the greatest difficulties: she played them open-book with such skill, such perfection, that her listeners were in awe.
a real delight. Overwhelmed with praise by the Baroness, she did not affect that false modesty which is too often only a veil with which vanity adorns itself, but she replied with deep sensitivity: "It's to my mother, Madame, that I owe what you deign to praise. Alas! his lessons were stolen from me too soon!
"His work, however, does not appear to have remained imperfect," said M. de Granville; I am sure, Mademoiselle, that the piano is not the only talent you possess. Please tell us about your other studies.
"Yes, my dear child," resumed M. de Bonnier, who enjoyed the successes of his young protegee and who had her views; yes, tell us everything you learned; speak with confidence, they are friends who listen to you. »
Juliette, ever more moved in recalling all that she owed to her mother's care, replied: "I studied history, especially sacred history, geography, the Russian, Italian and French languages, and I I tried my hand at painting a bit.
"As you tried your hand at the piano, perhaps," interrupted young Lucie. 0 Mademoiselle, how happy you are to know so many things, and how I would like to be like you! »
A little confused by the thinking of her daughter, whose education had hitherto been very neglected, the baroness hastened to interrupt a conversation which made her ill at ease, and Juliette withdrew after having renewed her thanks for all the favors with which she had been showered since her entry into the house.
Several days passed; the young convalescent finally regained her strength, and made herself more and more loved by the Granville family, by the graces of her mind, her unalterable gentleness, and all the virtues that shone in her.
However kindly they showed her, she reflected that she could no longer stay with her generous hosts without risking abusing their kindness, and spoke of the necessity of her departure to the venerable pastor, who had become his guide and support. The good old man, while approving the delicacy of the feelings she expressed, told her not to rush anything, because he thought he had found a way to fix her with him. An hour after he had left her, Juliette was summoned by the colonel, whom she found alone in the library.
Until then M. de Granville had rarely spoken to the orphan, and while having the greatest regard for her, he had refrained from mingling his praises with those often lavished on her by the Baroness, as well as all the other people. who frequented the castle. On the other hand, he had studied her with great attention in her least actions, as in her least speeches, and she had become the object of all his conversations with M. de Bonnier.
Juliette on approaching him seemed a little disturbed, for, although the baron's face painted a great kindness, a deep melancholy, which he was not always able to contain, usually gave him a serious air which imposed on the shy girl.
"Reassure yourself, Mademoiselle," said this respectable man to her, noticing her embarrassment, "the interview I have taken the liberty of having you ask for is not, I hope, to be painful to you." M. de Bonnier, who knew how to obtain your confidence, and who deserves it in so many respects, must have told you that my family and I take a keen interest in you; my desire would be to see you convinced of it.
"You have given me too real proof of it, sir," replied Juliette, "for me to be able to doubt this generous feeling on your part."
'However, I have just learned that your intention is to leave us; would you dislike among us?
“I hope, sir, that you don't think so. How could I be displeased in the midst of those who have shown me such noble hospitality? It is to you, it is to the care with which you have condescended to surround me, that I owe my life, and this memory will follow me everywhere; but the greater your kindness and that of Madame la Baroness have been for the poor stranger, the less she must abuse it: you have restored her health, she must now make use of this benefit by seeking to create the means of existence.
"The means are all found, Mademoiselle," interrupted M. de Granville, "if you deign to consent to the proposal I am about to make to you." You are destined for education: well! take charge of that of my Lucie: become her friend, her companion, the guide of her youth; repair, by your advice and your example, the faults which the weakness of which it has hitherto been the object has caused it to contract, and you will thus acquire eternal rights to recognition.
of a father who will take into account everything you do for his child.
"Such a mark of confidence, M. le Baron, astonishes me as much as it honors me," replied Juliette, deeply touched; but, realizing how much flattering it contains for me, I dare not accept it, because I feel too much below what you expect from my care. The important mission of teaching a young girl of fifteen requires experience which I have not yet been able to acquire; I have barely reached my eighteenth year; the little I know could, I think, serve me with young children, or in a boarding house; but that I now become the guide of a young person whose age differs so little from mine, it would be to risk, it seems to me, to fulfill only imperfectly the duties which would be entrusted to me, and this thought would disturb my rest.
"Such a fear could be justified, Mademoiselle," resumed the baron, "if in your case reason had not preceded age." You speak from experience; perhaps, in fact, you lack that of the world; but you have that of misfortune, and of a misfortune experienced with the most courageous resignation; this is above all what I would like you to teach my daughter, who until now has counted too much on the happy situation she enjoys. If he should suddenly miss me, and the life of a soldier is certainly more exposed than that of other men, his fate would perhaps have to undergo painful changes for which his education has in no way prepared him. Teach him how to endure adversity; may she draw daily from your touching examples the love of religion, of virtue, of order, of work; inspire him with a taste for study and for the talents you possess; in a word, try to make her look like you, and you will have done enough for her happiness. For the rest, continued M. de Granville, our worthy friend has undertaken to assist you: his prudence, his wisdom will guide your efforts, and answer you in advance for the success they will obtain. I will add that the excellent woman who has accompanied you thus far will not leave you. Her character seems worthy of esteem to me, and I understand what sort of attachment you must have for her: it is right that your friends fulfill the duty of gratitude that you have contracted towards her, by offering her a pleasant and calm. »
This speech had moved Juliette to the bottom of her soul, and, whatever her fears still were, she dared insist less, since M. de Bonnier, who entered at that moment, urged her to accept the proposals. of the colonel, promising her to direct the education plan she would have to follow. It was therefore determined that she would never leave young Lucie, and her resolution was hardly known when the Baroness and her daughter came to express their joy.
Both of them, although of a character very opposed to that of the young foreigner, had not been able to refrain from feeling a great attachment for her, because her modesty, her grace, her gentleness generally produced this effect on all people. who were able to know it. Madame de Granville, accustomed, moreover, to spoiling her daughter and to demanding very little of her in terms of study, was delighted that the baron had chosen such a young governess, hoping to exert on her enough of authority so that she would conform to all the whims of her pupil, whom, she said, she had to make happy above all else. These ideas, which she was careful not to express to her husband, who would have severely condemned them, led her, no less than her natural inclination, to shower the orphan with expressions of affection.
The latter, however, was far from having banished all her fears about the duties she had just imposed on herself, for she was endowed with too sound a judgment for the lightness of the baroness and the weakness she showed to her daughter could have escaped him. In this last respect, Lucie's mother reminded her a little of Madame V*** of Strasbourg, and, although there was no comparison to be made between these two persons for mind, heart and manners, Juliette none the less dreaded encountering in Madame de Granville some of the obstacles which she would inevitably have encountered in the merchant's wife.
Locking up this uneasiness in the depths of her heart, she did not even show it to her faithful Marianne, because having learned early to be silent about the faults she noticed in others, she thought herself more and more obliged by the gratitude for not making known those of a person who, until then, had given him only testimonies of kindness. Less reserved, however, with the wise old man who was the repository of her most secret thoughts, she dared to speak to him openly on the subject, and told him what kinds of obstacles she feared to encounter.
"I also feared them for you, my daughter," replied M. de Bonnier; it may even be that my fears have exceeded yours, because, continual witness of the bad education that young Lucie receives, I cannot doubt the pains that you will encounter to reform her; but I thought I could count on the goodness of your heart, as well as on your reason. It seemed to me that you were capable of correcting, by your advice as well as by your examples, the faults of a child who lacks neither intelligence nor sensitivity, and in whom you knew how to inspire the shame of her ignorance. It is already a step in the right direction. For you it is still a question, it is true, of great perseverance, of sustained firmness with mother and daughter, at the same time of boundless devotion for both of them; but if, always animated by Christian charity, you envisage the good that you can produce, these things will become easy for you, and I answer you in advance for the success of your efforts. »
The wise old man then gave his protegee all the advice he thought best suited to smoothing out her difficulties, and instructed her never to slacken the plan of education she would adopt, assuring her that M. de Granville
would approve of anything she felt she had to do to achieve her goal.
This assurance was no doubt of great weight for the orphan, but she was none the less dreaded the struggle she would have to sustain against the Baroness, and that added still more to the bitterness of her regrets. “O my mother! she would say, you who formed the heart of your poor child, inspire her today with all the courage, all the prudence she will need to lead herself down the thorny road where your loss has thrown her! »
Duties are never so forceful as when it costs to fulfill them.
Determined, however, to submit to the will of her protector, Juliette hastened to draw up a plan of education, which it was easy for her to model on the one her mother had followed. This plan, adopted in all its details by MM. de Bonnier et de Granville, was then communicated to the baroness, who abstained from making any objection to it, because, her husband having to leave immediately, she promised herself to make all the modifications suggested to her by her strange weakness. for his daughter and his disgust for the new kind of life that we wanted this child to follow.
The governess therefore took up her duties, and first sought to captivate the heart of her pupil, by showing him as much affection as gentleness. Things went wonderfully so long as the Baron supported by his presence the authority with which he had invested her; but an order to leave for the army of Germany soon after tore her from her family, and poor Juliette soon saw all the fears which had agitated her come true.
M. de Granville, before his departure, had however taken care to express his wishes in a clear and precise manner in relation to his daughter; he had demanded that the baroness promise him not to place any obstacle in the way of this child's studies, and above all to abstain from taking her with her on the frequent trips she made to Nancy or to the surrounding chateaux. All these recommendations had even been made in front of Lucie, and he left, hoping that everyone would submit to them; but he had scarcely gone away when the tastes for dissipation reawakened in mother and daughter with a new ardor. It was then a question, in order to indulge in them with greater security, of having the young governess share them, and also of putting to sleep the supervision of the venerable friend of M. de Granville. This did not seem impossible to the baroness, for the natural levity of her character often prevented her from grasping the inconveniences or the difficulties of the ill-considered projects she was forming.
One morning when Lucie and Juliette came to her apartment together, she said to the latter: "Don't you think that my daughter's cheeks have already lost their freshness?" In truth, whatever my husband may say, I think that the excessive work to which she has recently been subjected is essentially detrimental to her health. Studies must be measured against the strengths of those on whom they are imposed; you have to go by gradation, otherwise you risk losing everything by wanting to obtain everything. So I absolutely want my Lucie to rest, for a few days at least. You yourself, my young friend, you seem tired to me. I do not claim that you are bound to a continual tension of mind; some distractions are necessary for you, and I intend to share with you all those which I will enjoy myself. To please M. de Granville, who had further restricted our relations since the Moscow campaign, I saw myself condemned here to almost absolute solitude; but I have just received an invitation to a charming party, which one of my friends is to give in a few days. The whole province will be there; you will come there with my daughter, and I will give orders that your toilets leave nothing to be desired; I want, she continued, affectionately taking Juliette's hand, that everyone should admire my pretty Muscovite as I do.
- Oh! Madam, replied the latter, the memory of the dreadful misfortune which struck me is still too present in my heart for the sight of a party to dry up my tears; it would be for me, on the contrary, a redoubling of sadness. Besides, my situation, like the mourning garments that cover me, makes it an imperative law for me to flee pleasures that I have never envied, and which are not always without danger, I have been told. , for those looking for them. As for the assiduity of my care for our dear Lucie, far from suffering from it, I draw from it the only distraction that suits me; I could not take anything away from it without real prejudice for this child. You know, Madame, that she has reached the age when wasting time is an irreparable evil. The plan which has been adopted forbids us any dissipation which would tend to interrupt our daily studies, and I would be sorry if she did not consider it
as an absolute rule of his conduct. Besides, Lucie's health does not suffer in the least: we have several recreations during the day, frequent walks; and your alarms, Madam, only spring, I believe, from an excess of tenderness. . .
"However, you will allow me, Mademoiselle," interrupted the Baroness quickly, "to consider myself to be a competent judge in such a matter, and I declare to you that I no longer want my daughter to be continually compelled to work." She has hitherto enjoyed complete freedom, she has shared the rare distractions that I have been able to procure for myself since I was confined to this sort of desert; I want her to share them again. You are mistress to abstain from it; but assuredly I will not grant you the right to forbid them to my daughter, nor that of depriving me of her when it suits me to enjoy her presence.
'God forbid, Madam,' replied the orphan with dignity, 'that I wish to arrogate to myself here rights which entirely belong to you; I had for object in the opinion which I dared to emit only the interest of my pupil; from the moment that this opinion does not obtain your approval, there remains only one course for me to take, and I owe it to myself not to hesitate to adopt it. »
Rising then, she went out, bowing deeply to Madame de Granville, and went to her apartment, where she burst into tears. It was the first time that the poor child had had to fight, in such a painful way, against the one she considered her benefactress, and duty had to make it a law for her to have been capable of such effort. Her resolution was made, however: she had to get away from Lucie, whatever the friendship she already felt for her, rather than allow people to continue to give her a taste for dissipation; that was what she had wanted Madame de Granville to understand when she left her.
While she was sadly occupied with the means of getting M. de Bonnier to consent to her departure, without being forced to accuse the Baroness, the latter opened her door and presented herself before her. His temper still lasted; but, on seeing the young girl's tears, her natural goodness took over: stopping very troubled, she gently asked Juliette the subject of her affliction.
“I groan, Madame, at having lost in such a short time the kindness with which you wanted to honor me, and at being forced to show myself ungrateful towards you,” replied the orphan.
"I don't understand you, my dear child. It seemed to me just now that you had ended up giving in to my wishes with regard to Lucie, and in that case I don't see why I would withdraw from you a friendship of which you have so far shown yourself so worthy.
“The question you were discussing, Madame, was too delicate to push it any further in front of Mademoiselle, your daughter, who must above all respect your wishes; nevertheless you must have understood what my resolution should be.
"That's exactly what I wanted you to explain," continued the Baroness, still pretending not to understand her.
“I will always agree with you, Madame, on the eternal gratitude that I owe you; but I cannot agree with your desires with regard to my pupil. M. de Granville and yourself wanted me to undertake to make her make up for the time she lost: this loss is already considerable, and I could not, without betraying my duties, allow her to increase it by going to seek in the world of pleasures which would necessarily distance him more and more from the love of study that we wanted to inspire in him.
- So, Mademoiselle, your apparent submission was only a decoy that you wanted to offer me.
"It was, I repeat, Madame, the desire not to show myself any longer in opposition to you, reserving the right to go away afterwards, since we could not agree on such an important point."
- What ! you were thinking of leaving us! cried the baroness; but, in fact, that is real ingratitude.
'At least that's the appearance,' resumed Juliette; and it is precisely, Madame, what makes my tears flow.
"In truth, you are a very strange person!" Can't you reconcile what you call your duties with my views? Of course, I don't want my daughter to remain ignorant; I even admit that talents and knowledge please me; but, if it were necessary to sacrifice the happiness of my child to these advantages, I would still prefer that she knew less and that her youth were happier.
If you make Lucie's happiness consist of the pleasures of the world, Madame, I must confess in my turn that I cannot be the judge of such happiness, since I have never known it: yet a girl never tasted it. a purer one than the one I enjoyed with my parents; and I believe, allow me to say it, that this is the only true one, the only one which leaves behind no painful feeling, and which is entirely in tune with our needs.
- All in good time ; but notice, my dear Juliette, that your position must have been different from that of my daughter: the rank held by her father, that of my family, makes it my law to give him other ideas than those with which he fed you; each condition has its requirements, and my Lucie must learn to live from now on in the society in which she is destined to figure one day.
"I thought, Madame, that this sort of apprenticeship should only begin after she had acquired, within her family, the virtues, the education and the talents which alone can make her distinguish herself in the world." . The pleasures she will seek there now are only fit, it seems to me, to disgust her with those that suit her age, and to keep her away from the studies which should, by enlightening her mind, develop in her the love of the good, and to prepare for it for the future enjoyments that nothing can replace. Isn't it also to be feared that in the midst of these dissipations that you prematurely want to make known to her, she will encounter dangerous pitfalls, and that she will finally draw from them tastes, habits entirely contrary to her duties? as to his happiness? »
Here the baroness made a movement, like a person who feels attacked unexpectedly, for Juliette's last words reminded her of the lightness of her conduct, and, for the first time perhaps, she felt rising in the depths of her heart the regret of not having known how to bend her tastes to those of the estimable man to whom she was bound. The orphan did not know how many reproaches Madame de Granville had to make herself in this respect; sorry for the effect her speech had produced, she paused for a moment, and then said:
“Excuse me, Madame, I realize that my zeal has taken me too far. It was not for me, poor young girl, who have not yet acquired any right to your confidence, to dare to express before you opinions opposed to yours; I had to go away and keep quiet; but my affection for your child and the memory of all your quirks prevailed over the reserve I had to impose on myself. Deign to forgive me and promise me not to hate her who would have been too happy to recognize your benefits by her care and devotion.
'You won't take the evidence away from me,' replied the Baroness, 'because I certainly won't suffer you to leave us. What would my husband say if he were to know what had brought you to such a separation? He would prove me wrong, I'm sure; and that is what you would have attracted me to with such a strange resolution.
"I think, Madame, that you esteem me enough to believe that I will leave you entirely in charge of presenting her to him in the light that suits you best."
"I believe you are indeed capable of all that is good and generous," resumed Madame de Granville, squeezing Juliette's hand; but if you left us, my daughter and I, we would none the less lose a friend who is dear to us. Come on, my pretty mentor, listen to me! let's each give something up, and we'll be in complete agreement afterwards; I'll go this time only, with Lucie, to the party where I'm invited, then afterwards I'll abandon it to you so as not to dispute it with you any longer. What do you have to answer?
'Very little, Madame, for I feel that I have very bad grace in daring to insist further, even after the promise you deign to make to me; but, by remaining Lucie's teacher, I am forced to make her follow exactly the line of her duties, and it would be to suffer her to deviate from it if I allowed her to disobey her father, who, as you know, expressly forbade in her presence that she should return to the world before her education was completed.
- It is true ; but for once?
"This one time alone would be enough, Madame, to give your child the idea that she can come to terms with her duty: she must learn to submit to it, from now on, without any sort of restriction, if we want it to have fixed principles in the matter of virtue.
"That's pushing the severity too far." How do you expect a young girl of Lucie's age to force herself never to deviate for a moment from what is prescribed for her? He would have to be supposed to have a degree of reason of which older people are not even capable.
'Certainly, Madame, it is sometimes not without great effort that we submit, whatever our age, to all the duties which are assigned to us; but the more difficult it is, the more important it is to get used to it from one's youth. Christian education usually leads to this result: when we are animated by the love of God and by the fear of offending him, it is very rare that we do not have the strength to conquer ourselves.
“All that is very good; however, you will agree that I cannot now demand from my daughter the sacrifice of a pleasure which I have promised her.
'That's a disadvantage, no doubt. Madam ; but you could, it seems to me, go back on this promise, you would not miss the reasons; besides, a mother should never need to justify her wishes.
— So, Mademoiselle, this is your last word; you pretend that my daughter and I have deprived ourselves of this charming party, because you know very well that I will not give Lucie the grief of going there without her.
'I didn't claim anything, Madame; I have only expressed an opinion which you will condescend to approve, I hope, when you have given it a little thought. »
Juliette evidently suffered as she made this reply, and the struggle she was forced to maintain became so painful to her that she would have given anything in the world to be allowed to leave immediately a person whose ideas were so opposed to his.
However, the firmness she had just shown on this occasion had produced such an effect on the Baroness's mind that, not daring to insist any longer, she left without uttering another word. Juliette thought then that their rupture was no longer doubtful, and her heart was saddened by it, when she saw Lucie enter, all in tears, and looking so sullen, that she judged that Madame de Granville had had the courage to tell her she wasn't going to the party.
“You seem distressed, my young friend; has something bad happened to you? asked
'If it's not a misfortune, it's at least something that gives me great grief, Mademoiselle; for you will agree that it is very disagreeable to be forced to renounce a pleasure which we have been promised.
'It is indeed an annoyance, my dear Lucie; but if you wanted to recognize that instead of an annoyance of this kind, you could have been struck by real afflictions, by adversities which unfortunately are the share of so many unfortunate people in this world, I think that instead to complain about a pane you yourself this little sacrifice, in order to deserve to be spared greater ones.
- But why did mom promise me that we would go to this party? So it was to give me a pain instead of a pleasure?
'You sadden me, Lucie; I would never have believed that such words could escape you.
Oh what! you, the object of all your mother's tenderness, you dare form such a supposition against her! It is to miss at the same time all the feelings that you owe him. Believe me, push such a guilty thought away from you; whatever the will of her who gave you life, remember that it is always your good that she has in view, and that you must submit to it as an order emanating from Heaven itself. Ah! I find you very happy to still be able to follow the will of a mother. . . By how many sacrifices would I not buy such bliss! »
The orphan could not pronounce these last words without letting out tears, which touched Lucie deeply; for, despite all the faults which had been allowed to grow in this child, she was endowed with a sensibility which only required to be well directed in order to become a charming quality in her. Regretting what she had just said, and sincerely distressed at having awakened the painful memories of her governess, for whom she had as much respect as affection, she remained pensive; then suddenly throwing herself into Juliette's arms: "Pardon me," she said to him; I see now how wrong I was to express myself thus; but I was counting on having so much fun at this party!
'Dear Lucie, don't regret it; there are much sweeter pleasures of which you are still ignorant; we'll look for them, and I'm sure soon you won't want any more.
- Well ! I promise you not to think about it any more, and not to accuse mamma any more when she refuses me something. Let's go find her together, because she was also sad when I left her. »
At the same time she dragged Juliette away and showered the baroness with such tender caresses that the latter, pressing her to her heart, consoled herself for the privation she had imposed on herself. Turning then to the orphan, who was standing a few steps away in a modest attitude, she drew her towards her and said to her in a low voice:
— You are very severe; but I owe you one of the sweetest moments of my life; I won't forget it.
This moment was also very sweet for our Juliette, because the victory she had just won over the mother and her daughter proved to her that the difficulties she had feared to encounter for the education of her pupil would not be so insurmountable. that she had judged them first. It was easy for him to recognize that Madame de Granville's faults were due only to bad direction in her ideas, and it did not seem impossible to her to suggest faults more suited to her happiness as well as that of her family.
That same evening they had a talk together which only strengthened her in this resolution. Finding herself alone with the baroness, the latter said to her with a smile:
" Well ! I hope you must be happy with me? You have both triumphed today over my taste and my will. In truth, these are the sacrifices that I did not believe myself capable of making; what is certain is that no one would have obtained them before.
'Perhaps it was that in the past, Madame,' replied Juliette, 'you did not yet feel all the happiness enjoyed by a mother who devotes herself undividedly to the education of her daughter: Lucie was very young then; now that she has reached the age when she will feel the value of your care better every day, when she will compensate you more and more for it by her respect and her tenderness, you want to offer her in yourself the perfect model of all the virtues that she must acquire.
"No doubt, that is my wish," resumed the Baroness; but I admit to my shame that I lack the courage to realize it. O my dear Juliette, you don't know how much this world, which I must abandon entirely, offers to those who, like me, spent their youth there. It is an artificial life in which the heart has little part, I agree; but it is no less an enchantment, a continual occupation that delights us and robs us of ourselves. Here, on the contrary, in this retreat that I am forced to live in, where I have so rarely the possibility of indulging myself in the society I loved,
well, I'm dying of boredom; time, which I always found so fast, now seems to me unbearably long, and when the friends, with whom I have kept some relations, paint me a picture of the amusements they enjoy, I assure you that I feel very unhappy, because after all, what do I have to compensate myself?
'Very little, no doubt, Madame,' replied Juliette, 'if you consider the pleasures of the world as the only ones which can constitute happiness here below; but everything, if you wanted to reflect on the innumerable goods that Heaven has placed within your reach. It is thus that our joys and our sadness very often depend on the opinion we form of life; many people would, I think, be less inclined to complain about it, if they themselves did not endeavor to make it miserable.
"So you think I should only blame myself for the boredom I'm experiencing?"
"I think at least, Madame, that it would be up to you to reduce it considerably." To hope for perfect happiness on earth would doubtless be folly; but, however sad human life generally is, there are a great number of situations in which one can enjoy. I did not believe myself capable of doing; what is certain is that no one had obtained them before.
'Perhaps it's that in the past, Madame,' replied Juliette, 'you didn't yet feel all the happiness enjoyed by a mother who devotes herself undividedly to the education of her daughter: Lucie was very young then; now that she has reached the age when she will feel the value of your care better every day, when she will compensate you more and more for it by her respect and her tenderness, you want to offer her in yourself the perfect model of all the virtues that she must acquire.
"No doubt, that is my wish," resumed the Baroness; but I admit to my shame that I lack the courage to realize it. O my dear Juliette, you do not know how much this world, which I must abandon entirely, offers to those who, like me, have spent their youth there. It is an artificial life in which the heart has little part, I agree; but it is no less an enchantment, a continual occupation that delights us and robs us of ourselves. Here, on the contrary, in this retreat that I am forced to live in, where I have so rarely the possibility of giving myself over to the society I loved; well ! I am dying of boredom; time, which I always found so fast, now seems to me unbearably long, and when the friends, with whom I have kept some relations, paint me a picture of the amusements they enjoy, I assure you that I feel very unhappy, because after all, what do I have to compensate myself?
'Very little, no doubt, Madame,' replied Juliette, 'if you consider the pleasures of the world as the only ones which can constitute happiness here below; but everything, if you wanted to reflect on the innumerable goods that Heaven has placed within your reach. It is thus that our joys and our sadness very often depend on the opinion we form of life; many people would, I think, be less inclined to complain about it, if they themselves did not endeavor to make it miserable.
"So you think I should only blame myself for the boredom I'm experiencing?"
"I think at least, Madame, that it would be up to you to reduce it considerably." To hope for perfect happiness on earth would doubtless be madness; but, however sad human life generally is, there are a great number of situations where one can enjoy a large portion of this much envied happiness, when one wants to seek it around oneself and in one's own heart; this is the case in which you seem to me to be, Madame.
"How mistaken you are, my dear Juliette!" Didn't I just tell you that I find nothing worse than my existence, and can I hope to embellish it by distancing myself precisely from everything that can make it pleasant? Explain your thought to me, because I don't understand it.
"In truth, Madame, it is necessary to count a great deal on your indulgence, on your kindness, to dare to discuss with you a subject which my age and my experience seem to forbid me." If you demand that I answer your questions, please remember at least that each of the ideas that I express before you was suggested to me by my excellent mother, that it is always her judgments that I reproduce, and not mine.
"I know it," interrupted the baroness; and this is precisely what redoubles my confidence. All the virtues that shine in you, your precocious discernment, prove the high wisdom of her who brought you up, and I want to know all the ideas that she transmitted to you, especially on the point we are dealing with. Speak without fear, my young friend; tell me first how you think that by sacrificing my tastes, my habits, in a word, all the kinds of attractions that attach me to the world, I could escape the boredom with which I am devoured in this kind of desert, where I live in spite of myself.
"This desert, Madame, would offer you a thousand charms if you wanted to look for them there, and above all compare them to the vain pleasures you have enjoyed in the midst of the whirlwind of the world." Here everything is real, everything is according to the heart and reason; there everything is futile, everything is factitious, and can leave the soul with only importunate memories, only deceptive illusions, on which the mind can never feed without danger. At least that's what my mother thought of social dissipations; she only believed them proper to keep us away from occupations which befit our sex, and from the practice of the virtues which win the hearts of those we love.
“Remember, my Juliette, this tender mother used to tell me, that a woman is destined to occupy herself constantly with the happiness of everything around her. It is on her merit, her thoughtfulness, the security as well as the agreeableness of her character that the happiness of her parents depends first, and then that of the husband chosen for her. The outward charms he finds in her often receive, it is true, his first homage; but if she only knew how to be beautiful, she would obtain only a passing sentiment from him. To conquer all her affection and confidence, she must possess advantages that time cannot destroy; it is necessary that, without seeking to shine by the spirit, it endeavors to be always agreeable to him, that it studies its tastes, that it pays with its virtue the first tribute of admiration, that it associates to his joys, console him in his setbacks, may she finally be his best, his most constant friend.
“As a mother, the mission of the woman here below is even more sacred, because it is almost always on the education and the examples that she gives to her children that their future depends; it is from her that they must learn to practice all the duties that religion and society impose; and these duties she cannot study in the midst of the vain illusions of the world. . . Believe my experience, “fucked this good mother; never seeks anything but the pure pleasures that the interior of the family offers us; the life of woman, that life entirely of love, abnegation and sacrifice, must be there only, because the obscurity which surrounds her lends a new brilliance to her virtues. »
Juliette could have continued on the same subject for a long time without the Baroness being tempted to interrupt her, for this painting that Ion had just drawn for her of a modest and virtuous woman demonstrated to her, better than the most virtuous could have done. bloody reproaches, all the inconsistency of his past conduct. She had fallen into a dark reverie, from which she only emerged to express her regrets.
“How happy you are! she cried, looking at the young girl; how happy you are to have had a mother who engraved such lessons in your heart!. . . Alas! it is the opposite that has been done for me; instead of showing me the dangers of the world, it was painted before my eyes in the most seductive colors, and I had adopted most of its errors before I was in a condition to reflect on the pitfalls I could find there. meet. Even today, I confess, either blindly, or that the impressions that struck me have left too deep traces in my mind, I am not yet entirely undeceived by the illusions on which I nourished myself; nothing, moreover, can compensate me here. Haven't I neglected everything that could embellish my retirement, everything that could obtain for me the tenderness and confidence of the one to whom fate has bound me?
- Ah! Madam ! exclaimed the orphan in her turn. his heart.
'Duty alone attaches him to me, dear Juliette; and the misfortune is that I cannot complain about it, since I provoked his indifference by lacking in the spirit of order which he appreciates above all, and by not seeking to acquire the talents and qualities which can to please. Deceived until now by a foolish vanity, I persuaded myself that the beauty with which I was endowed should give me sufficient rights to his admiration, to his tenderness: you have destroyed my fatal error; but the damage is done, I can no longer repair it; I am thirty-four years old. . .
- Hey! What does age matter, Madam, resumed the young girl, when one has in oneself all that is necessary to make people forget any wrong? Do you not know the noble character of your
husband ? Deign to make some effort to prove your affection to him; deign to adopt his tastes, his feelings, devote yourself to the studies he loves, show him that, entirely to your duties as wife and mother, the retirement where you live no longer has anything frightening for you, soon you will reap the fruit of your cares, seeing that his happiness and that of your Lucia will be your work.
- Well ! then said Madame de Granville, completely defeated, "you will therefore be my guide, my support; for, without you, my perseverance would soon fail; it is on you that I must lean, if I want to triumph over myself. . . Oh ! do not lower your eyes thus, do not allege your extreme youth to me; are you not superior to me in reason as well as in talent? It is therefore up to you to give me lessons, which I would receive from no one else. You will also be my teacher, and so that from now on each of us can fully play his part, I want you to call me your Adele, as you call my daughter, my Lucie. »
The orphan had thrown herself into the arms of the Baroness, who held her there, weeping and laughing alternately.
“Speak, then,” she said to him afterwards; doesn't the pretty mentor want poor Adele?
"He is, on the contrary, so imbued with his kindness," continued the young girl, "that he does not know how to thank her for it, and that he would willingly ask, on his knees, to be treated less well, for the weight of his gratitude exceeds his strength.
— Gratitude! and what shall I say then, I, who will owe him everything? O my dear Juliet! it is only from this moment that I begin to feel the value of a pure friendship, which without you I would perhaps never have tasted. Now my heart is at ease, I am at peace with myself, because I seriously want to follow your advice and walk in your footsteps. »
These words deeply moved the orphan. Whatever the regrets with which her heart was still broken at the thought of the loss of her mother, she felt that life would be less sad for her now, since she could make her useful to the people who had so generously welcomed her into her home. distress ; and this thought was a powerful consolation to her.
Back with her faithful Marianne, who was waiting for her, she did not tell her about the conversation she had just had with Madame de Granville, but she showed her a more beaming face than usual, and then began to with her the evening prayer. Ever since misfortune had tied them together, they had never failed to come together to accomplish this pious duty, and the poor widow drew more courage and resignation from it every day. While weeping for her Antoine, she could not tire of thanking God for having preserved for her this young orphan, of whom she was proud as if she had given birth to her. Her affection for Juliette was even carried so far that she never allowed another to serve her: she watched over her as a tender mother watches over her child, and could not hear her praise without even outdoing her qualities.
Pleasantly surprised that evening by seeing the satisfied air of her good mistress, as she always called her, she took her hand affectionately and said:
“So my wishes have been granted: you are less sad, less downcast. Ah! may I finally see you happy!
- Happy ? you say. No, dear Marianne, no, I can no longer be one in this world, replied the young girl, since the loss of my mother will always be present in my heart; but I can taste the consolations that God, in his goodness, has condescended to offer me; he has given me in you a tender and faithful friend, and in this place, where his divine providence has led us, noble and generous protectors, who, each day, strive to soften our misfortune.
"Who would have repelled an angel like you?" Can we see you and not cherish you?
— Good Marianne, your affection for me goes much too far: here it is your heart that speaks, and not your reason, for you lend me a merit which assuredly I do not have; it would be lacking in gratitude towards our benefactors not to attribute to their goodness alone the expressions of interest which they give us. »
Marianne was silent, but did not lower her opinion on her beloved mistress. The latter, before going to bed, went to kiss Lucie, who was at the moment sleeping soundly in a room next to hers. Until then the young governess, while religiously fulfilling the duties entrusted to her, had feared to give herself up to all the affection that her pupil inspired in her, because the difficulties of her position seemed to her to presage an approaching separation; but the Baroness's new dispositions had dispelled her fears, and it seemed so sweet to her to be able at last to be able to abandon herself to her feelings for Lucie, that she remained for some time contemplating her, promising herself to leave no stone unturned. make her a virtuous woman. Having then withdrawn, she fell asleep peacefully, for the soul always finds a beneficent calm when it is in God that it puts its hope.
Christianity has placed charity as a well of abundance in the deserts of life.
The next morning, Juliette, on waking, found the consoling thoughts which had occupied her the day before. Already the sun was shining on the horizon; she got out of bed hastily to go and contemplate this magnificent painting. From its balcony or overlooked the village, around which extended the most charming landscape and immense meadows from which exhaled delicious perfumes. The earth, awakening at the first breath of spring, seemed to have put on its most brilliant adornment. In the meadows, in the woods, at the water's edge, everything came to life, everything took on a new life, everything seemed to resound with soft and distant harmonies. Never had the young Muscovite seen in her country so delightful a spectacle; for a few minutes she was as if in ecstasy, then she said, letting out tears: “0 my mother! my good mother! if you were there! »
At this moment Lucie was running towards her. “Already up, my good friend! what are you doing on this balcony this early in the morning? she said kissing him.
— I was contemplating, dear Lucie, this charming landscape. This first scene of spring is magnificent, and one cannot tire of admiring it, especially when one thinks that it is to God that we owe so many marvels. Look at this beautiful sun that will warm and vivify the earth; listen to the chirping of these pretty birds, which skip along the hedges and on the trees, where they will begin their nest; see these flowers about to bloom, this greenery of wheat and meadows; doesn't it seem that all this beautiful creation is reviving to celebrate its divine author? It is for the man whom he has formed in his image that all these things have been done; and yet this being so favored, so superior to the rest of nature, often forgets whence come to him so many graces and benefits. Ah! let us not imitate such ingratitude towards the Lord, my dear Lucia; let us pay homage to his power, to his goodness, by thanking him for his gifts. The two then prostrated themselves and began to pray with such fervor that they did not see the Baroness, who, at that moment, entered quietly with Marianne.
Madame de Granville felt nothing halfway; Preoccupied with her resolutions of the night before, and impatient to begin the studies her young friend had told her about, she had risen very early in the morning, contrary to her custom, to come and surprise her.
It would be impossible to describe the new emotions with which his soul was filled at the sight of the two young girls kneeling on the balcony, their hands joined, facing this beautiful sky, where their prayer rose like pure incense. The Baroness's first impulse was to run towards them and clasp them in her arms; but an unspeakable feeling kept her near the door, and falling on her knees, she too began to pray.
Juliette, turning round, saw her in that humble posture, and her heart quivered with joy. It was the first time she had seen him perform a religious act with such reverence, and her hopes from the night before only increased.
The baroness, having finished her prayer, came, still deeply moved, to embrace the two young girls. "I thought I was more early than you today," she told them; and it is you, on the contrary, who preceded me.
- Oh ! I'm very glad to have got up, continued Lucie; for my good friend taught me to admire all these beautiful things, which are the work of God. I confess that so far I have seen them without thinking about them, or at least without reflecting where they come from. Look, dear mother, at this pretty landscape. It is singular, it seems that the village has been embellished. See how all these cottages make a charming effect in the midst of greenery. What a pity to see them inhabited by such coarse beings.
"What you call coarse beings, my dear Lucie," interrupted the governess, "are simple and industrious people, who have a right to our regard and even to our gratitude, since it is to their hard work that we owe this variety of productions of the earth, which one sees with so much profusion on the table of the rich; and it is often in the midst of these good people that virtue will take refuge when other men misunderstand it. Yes, it is under their rustic roofs that one still sees filial piety in honor and hospitality without ostentation; it is there that the good housewife, while kneading her bread intended for her family, thinks at the same time of the share of the needy, who will come without fear to stop at her door; finally, it is there above all that peace and innocence reside, in the midst of work and resignation. Undoubtedly, continued Juliette, all those who live in these poor huts do not have to the same degree the virtues of which I speak: contact with towns may have spoiled some of them; but it must be the small number. There are still others who, overwhelmed by the weight of misery, sometimes envy the well-being of which they are deprived. These are easy to bring back to better ideas: a little gold offered to their poverty soon reconciles them with the opulence they accuse. It is almost always the fault of the rich when he attracts the hatred or the envy of the poor: stretch out your hand to those who suffer, show some interest in their ills, soon they will love you, they will bless you.
- Well ! I want to be loved, I want to be blessed, exclaimed Lucie hastily. From now on I will not speak so lightly of these good villagers, whom I found so rude and who are sometimes so unhappy. » Then, turning to his mother: « Mom, you had to give me several presents to go to this party, you know?. . . If today you wanted to give me the money you had spent on me?
"I will add to it, dear child, all that I would have spent on myself," replied the Baroness, who had taken her part in the orphan's words, and who was delighted to give her daughter the opportunity to show the goodness of his heart.
Lucie jumped for joy, and wanted to go at once and distribute all the money her mother promised her, to the poor peasants she met; but the young governess, knowing that charity needs to be enlightened in order to be well done, urged her to first seek out the most needy, in order to divide between them, according to their needs, the sum she could dispose of.
"It is not enough," she told him, "to want to relieve the unfortunate, one must also ensure that one's gifts are put to good use, if one wants to see them benefit." Besides, I believe I can point out to you some poor families who really need to be helped; I know one in particular which deserves the most lively interest, and I can take you to it, if you wish. »
Juliette, in fact, had no trouble showing her pupil the poorest huts in the village. Each time that she happened to go to church alone with Marianne, she never failed to visit one or two on her way out, and to leave there some mark of her benevolence. The employment which she held, and which was very generously remunerated to her, enabled her to satisfy the inclination of her heart in this respect. For a long time already she had wished to associate Lucie with her good works, but the obstacles which the baroness constantly raised in her plan of education had forced her to wait until this child was disposed to profit by her lessons and her examples.
Finally the moment has arrived when she will reap the fruit of her perseverance. Madame de Granville and Lucie show equal eagerness to visit the poor family whom she has just recommended to their charity. After lunch, the two of them took the road to the village with her and the good Marianne; in a few moments they arrived at a hovel which seemed on the point of falling into ruin, and near which a dog was lying. Suddenly awakened by the footsteps he heard, this dog began to bark with such violence that the Baroness and Lucie were on the point of taking flight. "Don't be afraid," said the orphan to them; it will do you no harm. Then opening the gate, which was at some distance from the cabin, she called the faithful animal, who ran up to her, leaping for joy, and licked her hands as of an old acquaintance.
A little reassured, the mother and daughter finally dared to follow Juliette and Marianne into the cottage. A woman, whom age had rendered blind and paralyzed, was there alone at the moment, seated in a large armchair at the corner of the fireplace, and tried, by means of a stick which usually served her for support, to revive the warmth of the hearth "Who's there?" she asked, hearing footsteps.
'It's me, Dame Marguerite; it's me, replied Juliette, taking her hand affectionately.
"God be praised!" because your dear presence always brings us happiness. Sit there, right next to me. I am going to tell you what we used the money you gave us the other day with so much charity.
“Good Marguerite,” interrupted the orphan quickly, “Madame la Baronne de Granville and her daughter are here with me; they came with the intention of relieving your sorrows and those of
your children: tell them all that you have suffered.
- What ! exclaimed the good woman. May God reward him! may he preserve her worthy husband! It is he who is good and accessible to the unfortunate! Ah! If he had been here last year when they took our poor André, who was the breadwinner of the family, perhaps he would not have left, and his poor grandmother would at least have died the consolation of blessing him...
"So conscription hit one of your children?" asked the Baroness.
- Alas! yes, Madame: and, to crown her misfortune, sorrow soon after drove her father to the grave. I had to survive my son, judge of my pain! But that's not all: my poor daughter-in-law, with three young children and an unfortunate cripple like me, fell ill in her turn. For a day or two she dragged herself out of bed to help me and look after her children; but in the end the evil was the strongest; and without the priest, who sent us food every day, we would all have died of misery; for there are more poor than rich in this village, and no one but the holy man came to our aid. It was he too who took care of my good Christine; she recovered her health, and resumed her work; but the time for rent was approaching. He from whom we hold the little piece of land that sustains us, pressed us without pity; he even threatened to take our cow, the only possession we have left at present, and drive us out of this poor hovel. Christine and I were very distressed; yet we dared not tell our grief to the priest, who had already done so much for us. It was then that this angel came to our aid, continued Marguerite, turning towards the orphan. One day she saw Christine weeping in a corner of the church, her heart was touched by it, and on leaving she followed her with the brave woman who, they say, always accompanies her; then they came, then. . . »
Here Juliette tried again to interrupt Marguerite; but those who listened to him understood everything. The baroness, then approaching the blind man, said to him in a penetrating tone:
“My good mother, it is also this angel who brought us to you, my daughter and me; I bitterly regret not having come there sooner; but promise me to have recourse to us from now on in your needs.
— In the meantime, said Lucie in her turn, please accept this, Dame Marguerite. »
And the amiable child placed a pile of crowns in the poor woman's hand, which the latter received with great emotion.
At that moment Christine, weighed down by the weight of an enormous drunk, and followed by her three children, who also each had their own responsibilities, entered the cabin. Hidden from the sight of the baroness and Lucie, who had a reputation in the village for being very proud, she laid down her burden and bowed awkwardly, not daring to utter a single word.
“Come, come,” said his old mother, who had recognized his footsteps; see all this money; well ! it is Madame la Baronne and her daughter who give it to us: it is our dear benefactress who brought them here; they also took pity on our misery. »
Christine, clasping her hands, then looked at the mother and the daughter with a deep feeling of gratitude; Then turning her eyes to her three children, she said in a voice of emotion:
“Poor little ones! you won't be hungry, and our dear André will also have his share!
- He will come. I hope to look for it himself, good Christine, said the baroness to her; you are a widow, he is your eldest son, and this title gives him an incontestable right to exemption from military service. I am going to write to the Minister of War, of whom I am little known; and I think we will succeed. »
At these words, the two mothers were seized with such joy that it was impossible for them to express it otherwise than in tears. Deeply touched by this scene, Madame de Granville reiterated to the poor family the assurance of the lively interest which they inspired in her, and left the cottage, carrying in her heart such sweet emotions, that she said in a low voice as she went out to her young friend:
“It is to you, dear Juliette, that I owe the pleasure I have just tasted. Yes, I feel it, when the happiness of others is our work, it makes us happier than themselves. Ah! why have I neglected such pure enjoyment for so long! »
Lucie, who had stayed behind with Marianne, approached her teacher at this moment and said to her in her turn, with a mixture of gaiety and sentiment:
"My dear friend, if I were Empress, you would at once be appointed steward of my pleasures, for those you choose do so much good to the heart that one would no longer want to have any others. What a pity that my purse is almost empty, and that we cannot go every day to bring joy to poor people like these! I would be so happy to be able often to renew such good mornings!
— To renew it as often as possible, replied Juliette with a smile, we must first put ourselves to study with ardor; you know that your father has promised you to generously reward each of your progress; I am sure that, when he learns the worthy use you wish to make of his gifts, he will multiply them as much as circumstances permit.
'Here's a way; I was already thinking about it, and I will most certainly use it; but is there no other?
— There remains that of a severe economy in your toilet, and in many expenses of which your factitious needs often make you a necessity. The small privations that you would impose on yourself in this respect, dear Lucie, would have a double advantage for you: on the one hand, they would accustom you to knowing how to be satisfied with little; on the other hand, they would put you in a position to satisfy your heart by coming to the aid of those who suffer. We could, moreover, in our evening recreations, which are passed in readings and talks, work for the children of the poor and poor old people, make them linen, clothes, of which they almost always lack. While one of us reads aloud, the other pulls the needle. The fabrics we will use cost little, and we will collect our purses for purchases.
- Oh ! it is charming ! exclaimed Lucia; yes, that's what it says: first I'll save a lot, then I'll work. Mom, you will help us, won't you? you will join your savings with ours, you will work with us?
“With all my heart, dear child; I promise you.
"And I then," asked the good widow, "shall I watch you do it?"
"No, really," resumed Lucie; you, dear Marianne, you will be the chief worker, you will direct us, and you will go to discover the unfortunate. »
It would be difficult to express the keen satisfaction that the young teacher felt on hearing her pupil form such projects. The latter, on returning to the chateau, resumed her studies with renewed ardour; the baroness showed none the less to begin the course of instruction which she proposed to follow. She even wanted to join her daughter's exercises at once; but Juliette pointed out to him that it would be much more suitable for his studies to be secret at first, and she urged him not to let Lucie know of them until she had acquired a certain degree of superiority in this respect. .
We have said that Madame de Granville's education had been very little cultivated in her youth: except for a little piano, drawing, and the first elements of the French language, the rest had been totally neglected; but, resolved to repair this wrong, too often irreparable, and endowed with great intelligence, she knew how to profit so much from the lessons of her young friend, that her progress redoubled her zeal.
There was something very touching in the application of this woman, once indolent, futile, frivolous, and then so active, so eager to learn, so docile especially towards the one she wanted to imitate, and who, near of her, was only a child. Their role at each was opposite to their age; but the intimacy of their relationship suffered in no way, because, on the one hand, there existed a great fund of attachment, an unlimited trust, to which was added a sincere admiration; and on the other, a rare modesty and eager zeal, which never ceased to show respect.
Every day the belated reform which Madame de Granville endeavored to effect on herself became more apparent to those around her. M. de Bonnier, to whom Juliette had not communicated the resolutions of her noble friend, in order to leave her all the pleasure of the surprise, was truly stupefied when, on his return from a short trip which he had been forced , he found the wife of his former pupil almost entirely metamorphosed.
In fact, she was no longer the same person: the expression of her face was as changed as her habits and manners; her beauty, still so remarkable, seemed to have taken on a new luster. She perceived that the venerable old man was examining her with particular attention, and then finding herself alone with him:
"My respectable friend," she said to him, "you are looking here for the madwoman of yore, the dissipated wife, the inconsequential mother, who has shattered the happiness she owed to your care." Ah! I hope that this guilty being will no longer offend your eyes; in her place is a poor woman who today recognizes all her wrongs, who would like to repair them at the cost of her blood, but who fears that they will never be forgiven her by the one whose misfortune they have caused.
'Reassure yourself, Madame,' replied the old man. I know his soul, and I guarantee that they will fill him with the liveliest joy.
“I believe,” continued the Baroness, with touching simplicity, “that all these feelings were in my heart; however, without the virtuous Juliette, it is probable that they would have remained buried there: it is to her, to her advice, to her examples, that I owe my enlightenment at last on my duties. »
Then Madame de Granville told the good priest what the orphan's behavior had been, her courageous resistance, and finally the resolutions she had made her adopt.
Deeply moved by this story, which presaged a happy future for his dear pupil, and which at the same time so well justified all the hopes he had entertained of his protegee, despite her extreme youth, M. de Bonnier expressed to the Baroness the lively satisfaction with which he was imbued, and encouraged him, by his speeches full of unction, to persist in the new path which she had traced for herself. Knowing that until then, whatever his efforts had been with her, the maxims of the world had prevailed, in his mind, over the truths of religion, he skilfully took advantage of this moment to remind her of them again and again. lead to the holy practices of this sublime religion, so closely linked to our happiness as to our salvation.
"Believe me, Madame," he said to her; the virtue which wants to walk without this support is only a dissimulated pride which the slightest shock causes to fail. Who can answer for himself when he does not have God for guide and support? Today this God of goodness wants to count you among the number of his most faithful children, do not resist his grace, do not reject the hand he holds out to your weakness; with it, you will walk with a firm step in the narrow path that you want to follow. Soon also a sweet peace will return to your soul: and all your duties will become easy for you. »
The face of the venerable old man had at that moment something so serious and at the same time so touching, that the baroness no longer resisted this appeal to virtue.
"Tomorrow, Father," she said to him, "tomorrow morning I will go and see you at the court of penance." »
After having received this promise, which completed the proof of the complete change of his friend's wife, the old man rejoined the orphan, to whom he also wanted to express his complete satisfaction.
"Come, come, I bless you," he said to her, approaching her. Happy Juliet! it is to you, it is to the wise teachings that you have spread here, that I owe the fulfillment today of one of the most ardent wishes of my old age. Now I can die; I will fear nothing more for the safety of this family, which is so dear to me.
“O my respectable friend! what are you talking about dying? exclaimed Juliet. And me then, poor orphan, what would I do on earth if I too were to miss you?
"You would continue, my child, to practice there all the virtues that a wise mother has so happily germinated in your heart: you would continue to spread them around you, and you would find in them the strength to bear my loss, as you support those who hit you. The resignation you have shown has already earned you great rewards, you will obtain still others, I hope; so let us not think in advance of a sorrow which, to be inevitable, has not yet come. I live, my dear Juliette, I live to bless you, to share the joy you must feel on seeing the happy effects of your care and your perseverance. It is God himself who has inspired you in everything you have done: always follow this divine inspiration, and you will have worthily accomplished the mission he has entrusted to you. »
Juliette found much sweetness in the approval of the holy old man, to whom she bore the most tender veneration; but what he had just said to her about the probability of his approaching end, had awakened in her fears which the great age of the good priest justified only too well; and these fears added still more to the sadness which she vainly endeavored to remove from her heart. She had to be brought under control, however, to concern herself only with the Baroness, who, shortly afterwards, came to tell her herself the promise she had made to M. de Bonnier. This promise was made the next morning, and from that moment there was such agreement between the two friends that it seemed that the same impulse made them act.
Lucie's education soon felt the effects of this perfect harmony. Adored in the past by her mother, this child had become accustomed to being exacting, intractable and capricious; she was imperious or too familiar with the women who served her, and sometimes took pleasure in arousing jealousies and interminable discussions between them: she liked, moreover, to be noticed, and ordinarily showed respect only to titled or wealthy persons. .
Little by little all these faults changed. Juliette, by inspiring him with admiration at first by the superiority of her talents, the nobility of her manners and her language, had succeeded in gaining great sway over his mind. Lucie blushed before her for all her imperfections, and ardently desired to captivate her friendship; finally, the sudden change which took place in the Baroness completed what the young governess had so happily begun. Of all the lessons, there is none more fruitful than that of example. Lucie didn't realize how her mother had suddenly become so reasonable; but, seeing her perform all her duties strictly, receiving from her mouth the wisest advice, and observing that she constrained herself to the newly established order in her house, not only did she feel her respect grow for this good mother, but she tried to imitate her, and managed to correct herself in a very short time.
The charitable projects suggested to him by his friend also contributed not a little to excite his zeal, for nothing leads to good like good itself: the more one exercises it, the more one wishes to exercise it; it is an attraction with which the heart never loses its enchantment; and Lucie found so much in multiplying the happy ones around her, that this enjoyment was the one she sought with the most ardor.
He who has found a virtuous woman has found a treasure; he received from the Lord a source of bliss.
PROVERBS, xviii, 22.
For several months, things had been in this state at the Chateau de Bert***, when one morning a letter from the Colonel announced his arrival for the next day.
"A matter of service calls me back to France for a few days only, my dear Adèle," he wrote to the baroness. I will only have very short moments to spend with you; but I must still consider myself lucky to be able to taste this moment of happiness, in the midst of all the reverses with which we are struck here. It seems that fatality has attached itself to our weapons. Finally I will see you again! I am going to see my Lucie again, the friend of my childhood, always so venerated, and the second daughter sent to me by Providence. You announced to me that his examples and his lessons had all the success that I had hoped for with our child; Heaven be praised a thousand times! Oh ! If you only knew, my Adele, what good your letters have done me for the past few months, and how much they have attached me to this existence that before I had valued so little! . . But, farewell, farewell. Tomorrow I will see you again. »
This unexpected news threw the baroness into inexpressible confusion. She was delighted, no doubt, at the thought of seeing a husband again, whose tenderness and rare qualities she then appreciated; but she would have liked the progress she had made in her new studies, and of which she had kept the secret with him, to have been even more perceptible, since the principal aim of all her efforts had been to provide him with a pleasant surprise.
The next day, however, everything was in motion at the chateau to receive the one expected there. Lucie was drunk with joy. The orphan too was happy to see the respectable man who had shown her such noble confidence, and the good priest thanked God for allowing her to embrace her adopted son once more. In her confusion, Madame de Granville thought for a moment of preparing a little party for her husband, including the inhabitants of Bert. . . had been the actors; but, having concerted with her young friend, without whom she no longer took any decision, she soon recognized that the circumstances in which the army of Germany then found itself were too painful for the colonel to be disposed to take part. to public rejoicings, and she forbade her people any outward manifestation.
Desiring nevertheless to hasten the moment of a reunion so desired, she got into a carriage in the morning with M. de Bonnier, Juliette and Lucie, and had herself driven along the road by which M. de Granville was to arrive. A mixture of fear and joy made the heart of this woman once so frivolous and so indifferent to the best of husbands beat violently. When she saw him again, she recalled with bitterness her past inconsistencies, the little care she had taken to please him; and, however generous the indulgence he showed her in his letter, she could not imagine that he would ever entirely forgive her all that he had had to suffer.
" Oh ! how well he is avenged! she whispered to the venerable friend who was seated beside her; my regrets weigh on my heart like an immense weight, for I feel that M. de Granville will never be able to forget this levity which made me appear in his eyes, for so many years, so vain and so ridiculous. »
The old man tried in vain to reassure her; in spite of herself, fear prevailed over hope.
At last this painful anxiety ceased: Madame de Granville recognized her husband's carriage, and, precipitately getting out of hers with Lucie, she ran to meet him and kissed him with such an outpouring of tenderness that this single moment paid him off. of all his sorrows.
It was the first time that the excellent husband had received such a warm welcome. A lively and pure joy shone in his eyes when he joined the priest and Juliette, who, out of discretion, had remained at some distance; but how much the deep emotions which were depicted in him increased still more on arriving in his house! It was there above all that he was to acquire all the proofs of the happy change which his wife's letters had given him a presentiment of, and which her presence seemed to confirm to him.
Formerly the baroness, completely foreign to domestic care, had a housekeeper who governed the whole chateau and the mistress herself, because she knew how to make herself necessary, and because she combined extreme impertinence with great skill. . This character, who had only succeeded in multiplying the expenses and incurring the hatred of all those overwhelmed by his tyranny, had been dismissed. Several other useless servants had also been eliminated; nevertheless the service was carried out with remarkable punctuality, and an air of satisfaction reigned over all faces. Several embellishments which joined the useful to the pleasant, had been made in the gardens and the dependences. The baron's apartment had just been restored with perfect taste; the others stood out only by an air of arrangement and cleanliness which seemed to be the only luxury sought there henceforth. In a word, everything in this house announced the order and the assiduous care of the mistress, and she did the honors of it to her husband with such touching grace that, looking at her, he sometimes thought he was the plaything of a dream. He had seen everything, guessed everything. No improvement had escaped him, his tender glances went alternately from his wife to his daughter; then, of these two beings so dear, he brought them back to Juliette, whose happy influence he fully recognized, and he said in a low voice to his respectable friend, who shared his happiness: "This angel has done miracles here." How will I ever pay all that I owe him? »
After dinner, during which Lucie had given an exact account of her various studies, she took her place at the piano; his mother followed him there, at a sign from M. de Bonnier and the orphan, and together they performed a four-handed piece with such astonishing superiority that the colonel, no longer resisting his successive emotions, ran pressing them both in his arms, exclaiming, “Enough! enough ! you make me too happy! Then approaching the orphan, and shaking her hand with indescribable feeling: 'You have exceeded all my hopes,' he said to her, 'dear and good Juliette; after having made me the most fortunate of men, finish your work, promising me to look at me from now on
like your second father. The young girl was too moved to respond as she would have wished to this testimony of affection and gratitude, but the tears that moistened her eyelid told enough what was going on in her heart.
While this family scene was taking place, a crowd of villagers advanced towards the castle. A peasant woman, holding the hand of a young man covered with a bad military dress, was at the head of this troop. "Long live the Baroness de Granville!" Long live our brave colonel! Long live the young Muscovite! they all shouted together. The priest went to see what could give rise to these extraordinary cries, and returned immediately, bringing with him Christine and her son André. The crowd, out of respect, remained in the antechamber.
“Here he is, Madam! here it is ! said the happy mother, showing her beloved son to his benefactress; he has just arrived, and I wanted to bring him to you first. »
The colonel asked for some explanations. Then Christine, overcoming, in the excess of her joy, her usual timidity, began to relate all that the young Muscovite, the baroness and Lucie had done for her. “Since these good ladies came to our house,” she said, “my mother Marguerite, my children and I have lacked for nothing; all we needed was our André. Well ! Madame la Baroness gave it back to us! Ah! the good Lord will bless her, I hope, as well as these two dear young ladies; everything we do for the unfortunate, he returns with usury. »
M. de Granville was greatly touched, for his wife and daughter had just acquired in his eyes a new merit. He wanted to take part in their good work, by giving Christine's son new clothes, and by promising him that henceforth he would be employed at the chateau. Having also advanced towards the good villagers, who all had a real attachment to him, he addressed to them words full of benevolence, and had refreshments distributed to them which redoubled the cheers still further.
When all these good people had retired, the baron tenderly embraced his wife and daughter, and said to the latter: “I congratulate you, my Lucie; your heart knows how to appreciate the happiness of making people happy; it is an enjoyment which satiety cannot attain, and which almost always leads to virtue.
— Formerly, answered the young girl ingenuously, I did not know how to taste it, this enjoyment: I was afraid of these good peasants, or at least they inspired me with repugnance; my good friend, after making me blush for my stupidity, led me among them, showed me their misery, and now I am only happy when I can relieve it. »
Then, with all the liveliness of her age, she led her father to a cupboard in which were kept linen and clothes intended for the poor; Displaying these various objects in succession before the Baron's eyes, she showed him her mother's work, her own, and that of her young friend, and then said: "Tomorrow morning our good Marianne, who never tires when he act of the unfortunate, will go and distribute all these things to them, so that the joy of your arrival, dear Papa, will also spread in their cabins. »
These words, taken from the mouth of his child, further doubled the happiness of the excellent father; and when he rejoined the Baroness and Juliette, he again expressed to them the joy which filled his soul.
Alas! this joy, which he was so worthy to taste, was soon disturbed by the necessity of a new separation. The few days he was allowed to spend with his family passed away with desperate rapidity.
“Why did I see them again? he said to his venerable friend as he went to bid him farewell. Why did I spend such sweet moments with them, since once again I had to tear myself away from happiness? Less happy in the past, I found the strength to get away from here, and I counted my life for nothing in battles; but today that all my bonds are tightened, this separation seems dreadful to me, and it will not be without some fear, perhaps, that I will go to face new perils: existence acquires so much value in the midst of a family we feel loved!
_ Yes my dear child, replied the excellent man to whom these words were addressed, yes, I feel your pain. There are very painful duties to fulfill in this world, where we count few true pleasures! But the greater your sacrifice, the more the strength of your soul will grow, I hope, and the more consolation you will find in self-esteem. Every difficult action, which has a noble and high purpose, carries with it its reward. Who tells us, moreover, that you will not soon be returned to the objects of your just affection? This disastrous war cannot last forever; the nations are tired of fighting.
"I fear that ours," replied the colonel, "will at last succumb in the struggle, and sooner or later have to submit to the yoke of the foreigner." Whatever happens, whatever pain I feel in leaving what I hold dearest in the world, I will not be less devoted to my country. Here, in front of the friend of my youth, he continued, pressing M. de Bonnier's hand, I was able to abandon myself for a few moments to the weakness of my heart; but, in the face of the enemy, I dare to believe that my courage will not fail; promise me only to watch over my family, to direct it always by your wisdom and your prudence.
- Oh! I undertake it very willingly, as long as it pleases God to prolong my days, cried the worthy man, suppressing a sob on the point of escaping him. Farewell, my son, farewell! »
Both then threw themselves into each other's arms; they remained there for a moment in a painful embrace, then the old man stretched out his hand on the forehead of the warrior, who on his knees received his blessing; and they separated.
While this scene was taking place at the presbytery, all the inhabitants of the chateau were plunged into sadness. The horses were driven; the hour of departure was about to strike. The baroness and Lucie followed the movements of the clock with anguish, while Juliette, standing beside them, shed tears.
The baron, on returning, saw this group which contained his most tender affections, and feeling the necessity of hastening his not to yield to the pain which oppressed him, embraced his wife and daughter tightly, took to his lips the hand of the orphan, and left hastily, without being able to articulate a single word. A moment later, the noise of the wheels announced that he was moving away.
The Christian always regards himself as a traveler who passes here below through a valley of tears, and who rests only in the tomb.
Plunged into a gloomy despair, the baroness remained for two days as if devastated. It seemed that a disastrous presentiment clung to her at this cruel departure; I had been seized by a vague fear when her husband had gone away, and it was only after many efforts that Juliette succeeded in restoring a little calm and hope to him.
But while the latter lavished on the afflicted wife all the consolations that her heart suggested to her, a deep anxiety dominated her. The good priest, for whom she felt a quite filial affection, could not see the colonel's departure, in the circumstances in which France then found itself, without being deeply distressed. This affliction, which he sought to conceal under the appearance of great calm, had produced on his already very failing health such a disastrous effect that a few days later he was unable to come to the chateau. , and even to continue the exercise of his ministry. The words which had escaped her about her approaching end came back to Juliette's mind in a still more sinister way; and she no longer had a moment's rest. Chained to Madame de Granville and Lucie, who had to be constantly distracted like all people who are not accustomed to bearing the pains of life, the poor child only dared to leave them once or twice a day to go and make sure of the state of the old man; and although she had installed Marianne with him as soon as she realized that her situation required special care, she bitterly regretted not being able to consecrate herself to this dear friend: he was the greatest sacrifice she could make to her homework.
One morning when she went to his house as usual, she learned that since the day before he had felt so oppressed that he had not been able to leave the big armchair where he usually rested; and she was so struck by the change in his features that she immediately resolved never to leave him again, and sent word to the chateau that he was not expected.
The situation of M. de Bonnier had no other character than a general collapse; however, it was easy to see that this collapse tended to approach destruction. His doctor, who, together with all the inhabitants of Bert. . ., had a strong attachment to him, was sitting at his side when the orphan entered. She questioned him with a look, and could not make out at first what he thought of the position of his patient, whom he did not wish to alarm by manifesting his fears, or rather his sad convictions; but, when he went out, Juliette learned, on escorting him, that he entertained no hope. "In a few hours," he said in a voice of emotion, "everything will be over for this good man." He questioned me about his condition, and I confess that I did not have the courage to tell him the truth; I let him believe that his life could be prolonged still further. »
Overwhelmed by the weight of such a fatal arrest, the unfortunate young girl remained motionless for a few minutes: no complaint, however, came from her mouth; she had already learned so much to bear afflictions! but how at that moment all those she had suffered revived vividly and poignantly in the depths of her heart! Unable to return immediately to her venerable friend, she opened a small door which communicated from the presbytery to the church, and went to kneel in this rustic temple where every day she came to unite her prayers with those of the good villagers. .
The church was deserted: she could groan freely there; remembering, however, that his care could be useful to her dear patient, she soon returned to him, endeavoring to hide from him the traces of her pain.
At a sign from the old man, Marianne, who served him with the most affectionate zeal, left the orphan alone with him. “Come closer, my child,” he said to the latter in a very weak voice; come and give me a proof of your affection; that, my dear Juliette, will be the most precious of all, and I expect it from you, as from the most truly Christian soul that I know. Listen to me: I believe my end is near. For a long time already I had a presentiment of it, you know it, and God
did me the grace to prepare myself for it; but now that I seem to feel her still nearer, I would like to be quite clear about my condition. In vain I questioned the doctor, he tried to reassure me, and did not answer me as I wished. You also questioned him, no doubt, and he must have told you the truth: it is what I am asking of you, my daughter; Speak, speak without fear: a few duties remain for me to fulfill, and if everything is near an end for me, you understand how important it is for me to hurry. . . »
At this unexpected question, the orphan burst into tears, and fell distraught at the old man's feet, without being able to articulate a single word; he understood this mute answer, and having rung the bell, he gave orders in a low voice to the old housekeeper who waited on him; then, turning towards Juliette, he said to her with the calm of an angel: 'Don't cry, my child; you know that the Christian's death is only the end of his exile on earth: mine lasted eighty years, do not regret that it is ending; rather pray to the Lord to extend his mercies to a soul who longs only to return to the heavenly homeland. »
Juliette, still on her knees, continued to shed tears. He blessed her, and added: “Go, my daughter, go to the foot of the holy altars; it is there that you will find strength and consolation. If, as I hope, a few happy days still shine for you in this world, do not forget the friend who cherished you; always be good and virtuous, and we will find ourselves where there are only joys to be counted. »
At that moment a priest entered the venerable cure, and Juliette withdrew, barely able to support herself. The baroness and Lucie arrived; she led them to the church, where already all the inhabitants of Bert. . ., who had learned of the danger from their holy pastor, came in crowds. A deep affliction was painted on their faces. All began to pray, and never perhaps Heaven was invoked with a more sincere or more touching fervor.
A few moments later, the ringing of a bell announced that they were going to take holy viaticum to the one for whom so many wishes were raised to God. Oh! who could hear, without a moment of sadness and dread, that mournful sound which precedes death! The impious himself cannot remain insensitive to it, for he warns him that he too must one day appear before the sovereign Judge, and that the sublime hopes of the Christian will not follow him there.
Seized with deep grief, but with deep respect for the religious act which was about to take place, all the inhabitants accompanied the holy viaticum to the dwelling of the dying person. There, prostrate before his room, which was situated on the ground floor, and whose windows were open, they could still contemplate those venerable features which had so often been moved by the story of their ills: they breathed a joy ineffable, and seemed to be illuminated with a ray of celestial glory.
After having listened in deep recollection to the words addressed to him by the priest, M. de Bonnier received the sacraments; then, gathering the little strength that remained to him, he cast upon his parishioners a look full of affection, and said to them: “My friends! my children ! I am going to leave you, but we will rejoin in the bosom of God; I feel happy to die like this in the midst of you. . . Don't forget me in your prayers. I carry away the sweet hope that you will remain attached to the faith of your fathers. Neglect none of the practices of our holy religion; they alone can make us walk with firm step on the road to salvation. Always be united, help one another, and the Lord will bless you as I bless you. In this moment see her, of the holy man weakening; he remained for a few minutes with his head bowed, it seemed that it was all over, and the tears redoubled; but a few moments later he revived, saw the baroness who had knelt beside the orphan in a corner of the room, and having beckoned to her to approach, he charged her with his tender farewells for his dear pupil. Then feeling his strength declining, he asked for the prayer of the dying; they were scarcely finished when he fell asleep gently in the Lord, without appearing to have experienced the slightest suffering.
Each of those present regretted in this good man a father, a friend, a benefactor; and his death was a public calamity, which spread desolation in all hearts. Overwhelmed by such a fatal blow, the orphan nevertheless found a kind of consolation in this general mourning, which sympathized so well with her own grief. She escorted the baroness and Lucie back to the chateau; but she managed to come back afterwards with Marianne to pray near the remains of her “venerable friend, where the crowd thronged in religious silence.
The next day the local authorities opened a will which M. de Bonnier had left; and the regrets excited by his loss were redoubled when it was learned that his patrimony, which had always been that of the poor of his parish, was entirely bequeathed to them, with the exception of a sum of twelve thousand francs which he left to Juliet. “I wish,” he said, speaking of this last bequest, “that the interesting orphan, brought to me by Providence, find in this slight gift a mark of my constant solicitude for her. »
Juliette, although a stranger, had generally endeared herself to Bert. . . by her amiable qualities, her benevolence, and all the other virtues which she practiced; also this disposition of the good priest seemed to all a just reward offered to merit. But how to express the new impressions which were engraved in the soul of the orphan on receiving this unexpected benefit, and which was for her such a touching proof of the affection of her worthy friend. “Oh! she said to herself, shedding a torrent of tears, while watching until his last day for the relief of the unfortunate, he wanted to leave in my hands a deposit which enabled me to perpetuate his charities: this deposit will be sacred for me. ; my hand will never wipe away the tears of misfortune except in the name of my generous benefactor. »
On the day of the funeral, Juliette had the courage to join the crowd who came running from all sides to pay their last respects to the holy pastor. That day the work in the fields had been suspended, a gloomy silence reigned from one end of the village to the other, and all the inhabitants, poor and rich, went to the ceremony, carrying on them some outward signs of mourning. they had in their hearts. All also held themselves there in a contemplation which announced how fervent their prayers were; but when it was necessary to separate for ever from the object of their regrets, when they saw the tomb close again where they had deposited his venerated remains, their pain was no longer contained, and an explosion of sobs was heard.
“Who will love us as he loved us? who will now relieve our misery? some said. Who will guide us, who will comfort us like him? said the others; he was so good! so compassionate! And each went away, his heart heavy with sighs, telling all he owed to the virtuous man who, for ten years, had been the best of fathers to them all. “What life and what death! they cried on all sides, and the tears began to flow again.
Happy, a thousand times happy he whom such regrets accompany to his final resting place! This is assuredly the finest of all funeral orations.
Moral courage is the attribute of woman, especially when she draws it from her trust in God.
The unfortunate orphan was so overwhelmed on returning to the chateau that she was several days without being able to devote herself to her ordinary occupations. Reason, however, ended by regaining sufficient empire over her to make her contain in the depths of her heart the deep affliction with which she was penetrated. Hadn't she learned on the banks of the Beresina to endure even more cruel pains? Misfortune is such a great teacher when you want to listen to its lessons! Juliette had, moreover, to sustain herself in this last ordeal a thought which never left her, that of making herself dam, by her resignation and her courage, of those very people whose loss she lamented.
The moment she returned for the first ibis at Bert's church. . ., after the death of her venerable friend, was nevertheless very terrible for her: there, more than anywhere else, her memories were heart-rending; but there also were powerful consolations that his soul knew how to taste. The baroness and Lucie, who had accompanied her, admired, on leaving the holy place, what serenity had succeeded in her features to the gloomy sadness which had been depicted there before.
“How happy you are,” said his pupil, “to be able to master all the affections of your soul in this way! Certainly I don't feel such courage, and I'm afraid I'll never have it.
"Why, my dear Lucie," replied Juliette with a melancholy smile, "why despair so much of oneself?" Aided by grace, we manage, if not to overcome our pains, at least to resign ourselves to them; but for that we must look to heaven, we must open our hearts to the sweet, powerful consolations of Christianity, which does not forbid us tears, which even knows how to wipe them away by offering us hopes which surpass all our ills. It is from these hopes, so great, so sublime, my dear Lucie, that I try every day to draw the courage that you seem to envy me. Like you, I am still very young; and yet I have already experienced great suffering, bitter sorrow. Alas! Isn't pain forever? If I had abandoned myself to all those who have weighed down and who still weigh down on me, what would have become of me? Where are those who would not have tired of the continual manifestation of my sorrows? You, the first, would you have suffered with pleasure, for companion of your youth, a person whose tears would never have dried up? Won, no, don't believe it: we readily sympathize with misfortune; but this sympathy, so natural as it is to good hearts, does not prevent them from growing tired of gloomy pictures. It is therefore by necessity, as by religion, that we must strive to be courageous and resigned in the midst of the pains of life. Besides, my young friend, added the orphan with a sigh, may you never need such courage, it costs too much to acquire it!
- With you I might have it, replied Lucie, throwing herself on her teacher's neck; for I feel that your examples and your lessons are deeply engraved in my heart. »
These lessons, collected so usefully by the young girl, were also of a salutary effect for the Baroness, who more than ever needed to be supported in the midst of the grief and the torments with which she was tormented. The death of the venerable priest had followed the colonel's departure too closely for this loss, so keenly felt by all, not to awaken in her mind the fatal presentiments which she had endeavored to ward off. was pursued by the image of the dangers of her husband, and these continual fears threw her into a discouragement which undermined her health and her strength.
Such an alarming state did not escape Juliette, and, her attachment to the baroness making it her duty to seek to remedy it, she forgot herself to think only of restoring a little calm to this friend. which every day became more dear to him. It was not by banal consolations, which the indifferent formulate and the afflicted reject, that she tried to revive her courage; it was by showing him a tender and devoted affection that complaint never tires of, by surrounding him with those delicate attentions which the heart inspires, and which he alone can invent; by gathering around her all the distractions that could please her; finally, by interesting him in the sorrows of others and by offering him the opportunity to make people happy. Of all the means of consolation, the latter is assuredly the most powerful, because it gives the afflicted soul the only food that suits it: the more it suffers, the more it feels the need to identify with the evils it suffers. sees suffering; and the pleasure she finds in relieving them becomes relief for those she endures.
It was thus that Madame de Granville, by spreading new benefits around her, by unceasingly occupying herself with improving the lot of the needy families, who then came to speak to her with complete confidence of their needs, regained the strength to overcome her dejection, and to resume the studies which she had so happily begun under the direction of her young friend. A little tranquility therefore returned to the chateau; the colonel's letters arrived there irregularly, and although they were stamped with great sadness, increased still more by the death of the good priest, they all breathed such lively tenderness that the baroness always drew fresh courage from them.
But unfortunately ! the calm she enjoyed, and which the orphan did her best to maintain, was not to last long. Political events, which then pressed on with incredible rapidity, became daily more serious and more threatening: all the news which arrived from the army announced irreparable losses for France, and almost all the families were in mourning or in the most painful expectation. This profound uneasiness, which had succeeded the intoxication of so many triumphs, was not long in spreading even to Madame de Granville. For some days no letter from the Colonel had reached him; already mortal alarm had seized her heart, when one morning, eagerly opening a newspaper in the hope of finding there some news of her husband's regiment, she learned that this regiment, after having valiantly defended itself against the Russian phalanxes, had been cut to pieces, and that his brave colonel, covered with wounds, had fallen alive into the power of the enemy.
We will not try to paint the despair of the unhappy wife at this shocking news. Devastated by the blow which struck her, the unfortunate fell into a state which made her tremble for her life; a most intense nervous fever broke out, violent convulsions completely deprived her of the use of her limbs, and she continually uttered cries which tore the hearts of all who approached her.
Fixed night and day at her bedside, Juliette nursed her with all the tenderness, all the solicitude of which her loving soul was capable. It was she, too, who sustained the courage of poor Lucie, who. without her affection, would have succumbed to her pain. But while the orphan was thus devoting herself to the care demanded by mother and daughter, what anxiety, what torments devoured her! Constantly pursued by the thought of the brave colonel, she searched in her mind for some means of snatching him from his captivity, and was in despair at finding any that answered her wishes. On the other hand, the baroness' illness, far from diminishing, made frightful progress every day; to make matters worse, it was announced that the Allied troops had invaded French territory; that they advanced by forced marches on various points, notably on the road where the village of Bert was situated. . .
At this fatal news, terror seized all minds. Quivering at the mere name of the Cossacks, whose most horrible paintings had been painted for them, the inhabitants of the countryside fled distraught from their cottages, taking with them the cattle and all the objects they could transport: all the encumbered roads presented the bizarre and distressing picture of people bewildered by fear, going to seek refuge in the very place where others were preparing to take flight.
In the midst of this general terror, the poor orphan, left without advice, without support, to feelings of the keenest anxiety, was much more occupied with the dangers which threatened her two friends than with those which might affect her herself, and she was distressed when she saw the impossibility of transporting her dear patient, whose sufferings and delirium continued to increase. “How to protect her from this new misfortune? How can this child also be guaranteed, already so cruelly struck in what she holds most dear? she said to herself with anguish, considering the condition of Madame de Granville, from whom the slightest movement wrung plaintive cries.
One day when Juliette was absorbed in these painful thoughts, next to the baroness's bedside, she suddenly heard resounding in the village, that the main inhabitants had
abandoned, an extraordinary noise that made her shudder in spite of herself, thinking that it could be the announcement of the evils she feared. At the same moment, in fact, Lucie, who had gone down to the garden for a few minutes, ran hastily towards her mother's room, and threw herself wildly into her friend's arms: "The Cossacks!" the Cossacks! she said to him in a dull voice; I saw them; they are at the castle town. Marianne, when they approached, told me to come and lock myself up here with you and my poor mother. André, Christine's son, is downstairs with several of our good peasants; all conjure you not to show yourselves; they will know how, they say, to defend us against these barbarians. »
These last words redoubled the fears of the orphan, for she understood that mad resistance could compromise the safety of the castle. Proceeding at once towards the antechamber, where usually stood two women on duty, she instructed one of them to go and recommend in her name to Marianne and André to behave with prudence towards this troop, that the right of war made them mistress of their lives at this moment, and to grant her everything she demanded, rather than engage in a struggle in which she would necessarily have the advantage. Juliette knew that this order would be respected, because she was too generally cherished for anyone to want to break it.
A few moments later the same woman returned, her forehead pale, closing all the doors behind her, and exclaiming that the house was invaded by a whole company of Cossacks, whose long beards and gigantic pikes would make die of fear the most intrepid.
“What are Marianne and André doing? asked the orphan, trying to moderate the terror that struck her.
- Alas! Mademoiselle, to comply with your orders, they are distributing to these savages all the provisions in the castle; but there will perhaps not yet be enough for such a large number; then God knows what we will become; they look so voracious, so cruel! They are already poking around everywhere and walking about in all the apartments, sitting on the finest furniture as on their barrack benches; Finally, the house is being pillaged, and soon perhaps they will cut our throats all. The unfortunate woman, while telling this story, wrung her arms in despair, and it was not without difficulty that the orphan got her to moderate herself a little. Back with the patient, who, fortunately, was in no condition to share the common fears, Juliette made incredible efforts on her own to reassure her pupil, who, pale and trembling, was as if terrified when he looked at her unfortunate mother. "Let us pray, my dear Lucie," she said to him; it is in prayer alone that we will find the strength we need at such a time. Think of your mother! who would look after her, who would watch over her if we allowed ourselves to be defeated? Is it not up to us to protect it from all the dangers that surround it, and to die, if necessary, to defend it? »
Lucie, her head bowed, remained for a few moments as if suffocated by the tears which oppressed her; Yielding nevertheless to the advice of her friend, she fell on her knees, and prayed with all the more fervor, as at that moment the cries and the tumult which were heard in the chateau still redoubled her terror. These cries, alas! resounded also in the heart of the orphan, and spread there a mortal terror; for she had heard too much of the cruelties of the Cossacks not to fear them. , it was to save me from their approach that this tender mother took me from my native soil, and perished in the waves; and here I am defenseless in the midst of the same perils from which she wished to preserve me. . . O my God, have mercy on us! Deign to extend your powerful hand over this house, where I was gathered in my distress. If you want me to die, at least spare this unfortunate woman, this child whom I brought up in your love; also spare my faithful Marianne, and that good André so necessary to his family! »
This fervent prayer was interrupted by the baroness, whose delirium was still the same. "Those Russians will kill him," said the unfortunate girl in a barely intelligible voice. Look at his wounds, they're still bleeding, and the barbarians are binding him. Ah! run! run to his aid! They take him to their icy land. They throw him into a dreadful prison. He is going to perish, my God! And the unhappy wife fell again as if crushed on the arm of Juliette, whose soul was torn by all the pains at once. Poor Lucie, still on her knees, stifled her sobs, pressing her mother's burning hands to her lips.
While this distressing scene was passing, fresh cries were heard, and a terrible struggle broke out at the outer door of the patient's apartment. The two women who were guarding the entrance ran up, decrying: "They're there, outside the antechamber, they want to get in here." Marianne and André fight against them with the people of the castle; but they cannot stop them. They're going to break down the door. What to do ? what to become, my God?
"You must watch over your mistress here," said Juliette, placing the head of the dying woman on her bedside. I entrust it to you, with Madame de Granville.
"O heavens! what is your intention?" Where are you going, my good friend? exclaims Lucie distraught.
“I'm going to talk to these men,” replies the orphan, “I know their language; maybe they will listen to me. Dear Lucie, leave me, I implore you; I want to save your mother from their fury. In the name of God, don't follow me. Then freeing herself from her pupil's arms, she puts her back in those of the two tearful women, opens the door, which she immediately double-locks, and crosses the adjoining room, outside of which the cries are heard.
The pleading voice of Marianne, the muffled words of poor André struggling in the midst of this furious troop, resound painfully in his heart. "We kill you if not open!" shouted one of the Cossacks; you have hidden treasures here.
- Yes ! courageously replies the orphan, suddenly appearing in their eyes, yes, we have a treasure; but this one cannot satisfy your greed: it is a dying woman whom we wanted to hide from your fury. . . Will you carry terror and threat to the bed where it struggles against death? Will you defile your flags with an odious barbarism which would forever cover you with shame? Yet you cannot forget that the Emperor Alexander, on touching French soil, commanded you to respect your defenseless enemies? Do you believe, then, that he will not punish this culpable infraction of his orders? Are you no longer his soldiers, and will you brave without shuddering the punishment due to your criminal action? Ah! rather, yield, I conjure you, to the voice of one of your compatriots who implores you; May a feeling of honor call you back to yourselves. . . But already you seem to be listening to me without anger, already you seem to be touched by my tears. Thank you, a thousand times thank you for this generous movement of humanity. Now I no longer fear anything for this house where my youth was collected; now I can still boast of being a Muscovite. »
The Cossacks, in fact, were there as though fascinated under the gaze of this young girl who had just addressed them, in their own language, words as energetic as they were touching. Struck with admiration and respect for her, doubtless also fearing the punishments with which she had just threatened them, they withdrew quietly, promising her to leave the chateau, and a few minutes later they left it.
Imagine the joy that everyone felt after their departure! Those who had witnessed this scene could not tire of admiring the courage of the orphan. Marianne, with tears in her eyes, pressed her in her arms with pride, and everyone called her the liberator of all. She escaped their recognition to return to the Baroness, where Lucie was waiting for her in the most horrible anxiety.
“Reassure yourself, my beloved,” she said to him, kissing him, “we have nothing more to fear from these men; they go away, they leave the castle. Let us bless the Lord; his tutelary hand is extended over us; and she will continue to protect us from now on, I hope: let us put all our trust in her. »
At that moment the baroness opened her eyes, fixed them for a moment on her daughter, then on her young friend, whom she seemed to recognize. "What! don't you return it to my tenderness? she told him. He is in your country, and you leave him to his executioners? . . Is there then no soul open to pity? After these few words, she stopped as if exhausted by the effort she had just made, and only uttered dull and incoherent words. The doctor, who arrived, however, found a slight improvement in the pulse; but he could not answer that this improvement was sustained.
Juliette seemed exhausted from fatigue and the violent emotions she had just experienced. Already, for several days, the doctor, who took the liveliest interest in her, had begged her to take some rest; this time he saw her so pale, so dejected, that he insisted again, promising not to leave the baroness all night, if she acceded to his prayer. Marianne, who arrived, made him the same promise, and finally succeeded in dragging him away with Lucie, who, no less overwhelmed, soon fell asleep. In spite of her extreme dejection, the orphan could not imitate her until after having reflected for a long time on the means of effecting the deliverance of the colonel, to which was attached the life of his unfortunate wife. A thousand projects presented themselves successively to his mind; only one seemed to offer her some chance of success, she stopped there and ended up falling asleep, determined to put it into execution the next day when she woke up.
Armed hands are almost always generous; nothing is friendlier to misfortune than glory.
The first idea which presented itself to Juliette on opening her eyes the next morning was that of this project which had smiled on her the day before and which she had thought at first to be easy to execute; but her imagination, grown calmer by the rest of the night, then presented her with a host of difficulties which she had not perceived, and which disenchanted her with the greater part of her hopes. It doesn't matter, she said to herself, obstacles can't stop me: it's a question of saving my benefactors, I must try everything to achieve this goal. God gave me yesterday the courage to face the fury of the Cossacks, he will perhaps deign to grant me his support in this circumstance. At the same time she opened her writing desk, and began to write the following:
TO HIS MAJESTY THE EMPEROR ALEXANDER.
A young Muscovite, deprived of her parents and overwhelmed by the weight of immense misfortune, found noble hospitality in the Baron de Granville's family. His benefactor, colonel of the T regiment of dragoons, has just fallen into the power of your arms; he is a prisoner in Russia, and your Majesty can, with a single word, restore him to his dying wife, to his desolate child. It is this word that the poor Muscovite implores; deign to pronounce it, Sire, and God will bless you.
At the Château de Bert..., January 11, 1814.
The orphan had scarcely finished writing this petition when Marianne entered her room with a preoccupied air, which made her fear that the baroness was no longer ill. “Reassure yourself,” said the good widow to her, “the night was, on the contrary, quite peaceful; but I come to inform you that our brave André, who is truly animated by the greatest zeal for the safety of the chateau, has met a Russian general who could perhaps get us a backup: it would be a great happiness in the circumstances where we we find. This foreign general is accompanied by a large escort, and the decorations that shine on his chest announce that he is a distinguished soldier. His air is very respectable; he is a man of a certain age; who seems to have whitewashed under the flags. As he expresses himself fairly well in French, and as he wanted some information on the country, he addressed himself to André, who did not run away from him like the other inhabitants; he put various questions to him. The young villager answered it with ease, and then had the happy boldness to tell him what had happened here yesterday; he spoke to her of the courage you showed in the midst of the peril which threatened us all, and finally painted the situation of Madame la Baroness in terms so touching that he succeeded in inspiring him with an interest in her. "Take me to that lady," said the general; I will do my best to shelter her from new insults. He is downstairs, continued Marianne, and asks for Madame de Granville; I replied that she was unable to receive him, but that her young friend could replace her, and I came to let you know.
"It is Providence that sends it to us," exclaimed Juliette, eagerly taking the letter she had just written; let us go to him, dear Marianne, and may Heaven make me find in this man the support I was looking for! »
At the same moment she descended the stairs rapidly, accompanied by the good widow, and appeared before the stranger, whose noble air and white hair at first inspired her with confidence. Struck in his turn by the grace with which she approached him, he saluted her profoundly, and said to her in French:
"I am happy, Mademoiselle, that you have deigned to receive my visit, because I wanted to make known to the people who live in this house all the regrets that I feel for the trouble that some of our soldiers: in this they violated the express order of HM the Emperor Alexander, who wants the properties to be respected; their criminal action will be punished, I promise you.
"Monsieur le général," replied Juliette, "it is not the punishment of these soldiers that the Baronne de Granville would demand if she were in a state to appear before you; she would ask you, on the contrary, to forgive them this moment of bewilderment, which, moreover, had no other result than to cause us some fright.
"Could it be you, Mademoiselle, who had the courage to remind them of their duty, and do I have the good fortune to speak to a compatriot?"
— Yes, sir, continued the orphan, using the Russian language, and my thoughts very often still turn to that fatherland, always dear, where the purest joys surrounded my childhood. . .
"Dare I ask you, Mademoiselle, in which part of Russia you were born?"
— I was born in this deplorable city whose destruction doomed all its inhabitants to misfortune. Already then I no longer had a father, but a dear mother remained to me. Completely ruined by the fire, which in a few moments devoured everything we possessed, having no shelter to lay our heads, we left Moscow. My unfortunate mother was French; she thought to save me from the new disasters she dreaded by taking me to her country. Alas! I was condemned to come there alone; I had the dreadful misfortune to lose her on the way to the Beresina. . . »
Here Juliette was not mistress to hold back her tears. The Russian general, who had listened to her with great attention, asked her in a penetrating accent what was the name of her father; she had scarcely uttered it when he exclaimed: “What! you are the daughter of the learned Obinsky, whose virtues and talents were so justly honored in Moscow? But this title alone, Mademoiselle, gives you an incontestable right to the benevolence of our sovereign; deign to allow me to assert it, and believe that I shall consider myself truly happy if my services can be useful to you. I knew your worthy father very well, and he honored me with some esteem.
- Oh! Sir, replied the orphan, hastily, this offer is very precious to me, not to improve my lot; it is, I confess, what occupies me least at this moment; but to obtain a favor that I would prize above all. Please read this document which I had prepared for His Majesty, without yet knowing how I would send it to him, and judge of what importance your generous support will be for me, if you deign to grant it to me. Presenting her petition to the General, she spoke to him in such a touching manner of all that she owed to the Baron de Granville and his family, that she soon succeeded in exciting his interest to the highest degree.
“I do not conceal from you,” he said to him, “that the object of your request presents great difficulties: ordinarily prisoners are returned only by exchange, and this exchange is not about to take place during the war; however, everything is possible for him who holds power in his hand. I am going to rejoin the Emperor, whom I left only to make a reconnaissance in this country, and I promise you to speak to him in favor of the Baron de Granville. There is, moreover, an even more efficient means of serving this officer: in a few hours, His Majesty will pass a review at a very short distance from this village: do you feel the courage, asked the general with a smile, to face again the presence of those Cossacks who have caused you so much terror? I assure you that this time it will be without any sort of danger, for I can give you a safe-conduct for you and the persons whom you wish to bring with you, and I will leave two men here who will have orders to conduct you; in this way you will have nothing to fear. »
At this proposal, Juliette had turned pale: the idea of these armed men, of all this apparatus of war, which she would have to approach, and even more perhaps that of appearing, she, a poor young girl, in front of the he one of the mighty of the earth, at first made her recoil before such a project, but soon the desire to save her benefactor prevailed over her natural shyness. "Monsieur General," she said, casting on the man who so generously offered her his support a look full of gratitude, "I will follow your advice: I will go and find the Emperor Alexander, if you think he deigns to listen to the of an unfortunate woman who no longer expects any other satisfaction in this world than that of restoring happiness to the noble family which adopted her. »
This answer raised the orphan still further in the mind of her new protector. Having immediately given her the safe-conduct of which he had just spoken to her, he gave particular orders to the two men he was leaving at the chateau, and took leave of her, recommending that she be exact in finding herself at the place he indicated to her. It was a vast plain, situated two leagues from Bert. . ., where already several corps of troops awaited Alexander.
When General W*** had left the chateau, Juliette had a moment's talk with the good doctor, whose devotion to the colonel and his family she knew, and she gladly accepted the offer he made to her. made to accompany her in the process she was about to undertake. Having then passed into the room of the sick woman, whose condition had not changed, she remained for some minutes before this bed of pain, where she so ardently desired to restore hope, and prayed with all the fervor with which her soul was able, for God to bless his steps. The idea then occurred to her of taking Lucie with her, so that the sight of this child might interest the prince in favor of the prisoner; but she found her so dejected, so overwhelmed by the emotions of the night before, that she seemed to hesitate.
" Oh ! I implore you, said his pupil to him, do not fear my weakness; allow my voice to mingle with yours to ask for my father's freedom; the thought of his misfortune and of the sufferings of my poor mother will sustain my courage; Besides, won't I be with you?
- Well ! let's go, and may Heaven protect us! said Juliette, pressing the lovely child to her heart.
Both of them, leaving the baroness in the care of several devoted women, immediately got into the carriage with Marianne and the obliging doctor. André accompanied them on horseback with several servants and the two Russians whom the general had left to serve as an escort.
The road was covered with Allied troops, to whom it was several times necessary to show the safe-conduct, and who, several times also, made the two young girls shudder with their threatening air. Nevertheless, we arrived without accident in front of an abandoned farm, not far from the plain where Alexandre was to pass the review. This farm was entirely hidden by a clump of trees; the carriage stopped in this place, the two young people got out, and immediately one of the Russians who were escorting them rode off at full speed to meet the general, whom he had orders to warn. -About an hour elapsed before anything announced the arrival of the prince; this hour seemed like a century to Juliette and her companions; for, besides the anxiety of failure, each of them felt an invincible feeling of pain and dread at the sight of this mass of enemies which was there, motionless in front of them, and which would soon bring the war into the bosom. of our beautiful France, so accustomed until then to dictating laws.
At last the Emperor appeared at the extremity of the plain, followed by a numerous staff. But how to reach him? how dare cross this armed troop, the sight of which alone made one shudder? Hidden behind the clump of trees, Juliette anxiously followed all the prince's movements; her heart beat violently, and the pallor of her features announced her painful emotion. Suddenly she saw Alexandre advancing from the side where she was seated, and a cry of joy escaped her: she had recognized, in the middle of the procession, M. W**, the one who was protecting her. Then seizing the hand of her pupil: “Come, my Lucie, she said to him, come, God will watch over us! »
They had scarcely taken a few steps, followed by the doctor and Marianne, who, for nothing in the world, would not have wanted to leave them at such a moment, when they saw the brave Russian general come running up to them. . Her face was beaming with joy. “Take courage,” he said to Juliette, “the Emperor has been warned; you know, moreover, the noble qualities of his soul. In her extreme confusion, the poor child did not hear her, and when she arrived in front of Alexandre, she was so trembling that it was impossible for her to articulate a single word.
"Reassure yourself, Mademoiselle," said this prince to her kindly, "the daughter of the learned Obinski has real rights in my interest; I know that great misfortunes have struck you; please let me know what i can do to soften them. »
During this speech, delivered in a tone full of benevolence, Juliette had recovered a little, and replied:
“Since Your Majesty deigns to encourage me, I dare to implore from you a favor which will be for me the greatest of all benefits, it is the freedom of my noble benefactor, whom the fate of arms keeps prisoner in Russia. »
At the same time she presented to the Emperor the petition which contained the Colonel's name. Alexander read this writing; when he had finished it, Juliette added, presenting Lucie to him:
“Sire, here is the daughter of the Baron de Granville; deign to sympathize with her tears, save her from the misfortune of being an orphan! »
While Juliette was speaking with ever-increasing emotion, Lucie, her eyes bathed in tears and her hands clasped, awaited with a shudder the judgment that the monarch was about to pronounce. "Dry your tears, Mademoiselle," said Alexandre to her in a voice of emotion, "go and comfort your mother, Madame, I'm going to give orders so that the brave colonel can be returned to you." »
Turning then to Juliette's protector, he charged him to see that these orders were carried out as soon as possible; then, looking at the orphan, whose expressive features depicted the liveliest joy, he added:
“Mademoiselle Obinski, you only asked me for one favour, and I granted it; now I owe you an act of justice: you will henceforth enjoy a pension to which your father's services give you indisputable rights; the patent will be sent to you without delay, and you will enjoy it where it suits you to reside. Additionally, I grant backup to the house you inhabit. Then, without waiting for the orphan to express her gratitude to him, he saluted her graciously and returned to the midst of his troops. Mr. W**, whose zeal had had such happy results, was obliged to follow him; but he took care to give orders that his two proteges should be escorted back by the same escort which had brought them, and that their residence should be protected from all insult during the passage of the allied armies.
Great joys are like great sorrows, they often lack expression, and that which Juliette and her pupil experienced on returning to the chateau had penetrated so far into their souls that it was at first impossible for them to express it. manifest in ways other than tears.
"It's Providence that inspired you," exclaimed Lucie at last, kissing the orphan, "it's Providence that brought you so far to save my poor parents." . . Ah! if my heart was already entirely yours, if I already looked upon you as my sister, as my best friend, judge now what I feel for my father's liberator! »
For a few minutes the two girls held each other tightly in each other's arms, and everyone around them shared their deep emotion.
When they got near Bert. . ., night had come, and all the inhabitants who had not fled at the time of the invasion ran to meet them. The troops dispersed in the countryside having prevented these brave people from going any farther, they had remained on the road a great part of the evening, impatiently awaiting the return of the two friends whom they had not been able to see without great anxiety go. at the Russian camp.
"Allow me to tell them the good news," said the doctor, seeing them; their devotion well deserves this reward. He immediately cried out to them: "My friends, we will see our brave colonel again, he will be set free!"
"God be praised!" answered all these good peasants at the same time, it is a great consolation
in the midst of our sorrows. And all greeted the two young girls with expressions of interest that touched them deeply.
“How sweet it is to be loved like this! said Mademoiselle de Granville to her teacher; it is still to you, my excellent friend, that I owe this happiness. See, whatever good thing happens to me is always your work.
'My Lucie,' replied Juliette, squeezing the hand of the grateful child, 'in all this I have been only the feeble instrument which it has pleased God to use to manifest His goodness to you; it is to him that we must defer all our thanksgiving. »
At last they arrived at the chateau, and their first care was to hasten to the room of the baroness, who, still in the same state, did not even notice their presence. This continual insensitivity was a real torture for the two young girls, so eager to share their joy with the one they loved.
"What! with a single word we could restore her to life, and that word could not reach her heart! But isn't there any way to make him regain, for a few moments at least, the ability to hear us? they asked the doctor.
" This means is not in the power of medicine," he replied with a sigh; we will spy on the favorable moment, and I promise not to let it slip away, but still, nothing must be rushed. When our dear patient recovers his consciousness, hope must be offered to him drop by drop, so to speak; too sudden a joy would kill her. »
Subjected to this arrest, however painful it was, Juliette resumed her place at her friend's bedside, and no instance could induce her to leave. Feeling, however, the need of taking some food after such a tiring and hectic day, she consented to share Lucie's supper, which was served in the adjoining room. Having then entrusted this child to the care of Marianne, who for a long time had become a second herself, she returned to the Baroness, to spy on the moment of which the doctor had spoken, in order to offer her at least the first consolations, and to prepare her for the happiness that awaited her.
The night passed almost entirely without her being able to succeed in her design; the patient still seemed prey to the same delirium. However, towards morning, the fever which was devouring her suddenly subsided; she recognized her young friend, who was looking at her with the most tender affection, and said to her: "So you never leave me?" When I open my eyes, your charming face is still there, smiling at me like a guardian angel. . . Happy Juliet! ah! if so much devotion could cure the most dreadful misfortune,
soon mine would disappear.
"This misfortune, Madam, is perhaps much less great than you think," immediately replied the orphan; besides, whatever it is, can't God put an end to it? Offer him your affliction, your sufferings, and you will see that they will deserve you such a dear favour. The invalid fixed her eyes on her again, and said: "Do you hope, then?"
- If I hope? ah! Madame, I have no doubt that Heaven will restore you to happiness.
"Why can't I share this hope!" resumed the baroness. Then, collecting herself, she added: “Indeed, I should pray, and I cannot. . .
“Your intention is enough, my excellent friend; this God so good, so powerful, who with a single glance can change our most cruel evils into joy, does he not read to the depths of our souls? And our prayers, whatever their form, do they not always rise to him?
- Well ! pray to him then for me; for my unfortunate husband; I am going to join you from the heart, my Juliette. »
The latter immediately knelt down, and prayed with such fervor that the baroness, gazing at her, seemed to gain serenity, and said, as if speaking to herself:
“Yes, when such a pure soul invokes the Almighty, his wishes must be granted! »
At this moment the doctor, who had not left the chateau, came to examine his patient, and seemed very pleased to find her so calm.
"Look," she said to him, pointing to Juliette, "she's the one who gave me that calm. She assures me that God will have pity on me, that he will make me a beloved husband.
- Well ! Madame, surrender entirely to this sweet hope, answered the doctor; you know very well that Miss Obinski is the good angel of all of us; and when she predicts happiness to us, we must believe her. But now let us keep silence, a longer conversation would tire you; I even beg your charming nurse to go and take a few hours' rest: I am going to replace her with you, Madame; and I hope that on her return she will find you in a state satisfactory enough to continue what she has so happily begun. »
Juliette, understanding the doctor's intention, consented to retire, as he wished, and went to join Lucie, to whom she restored her tranquility by announcing to her that her mother was much better.
A sweet talk was then established between these two young girls, whose ties of affection grew closer every day. It was especially in these conversations, always so full of charm, that the governess sought to develop the intelligence and feelings of her pupil. Each circumstance, each event furnished him with a text to inculcate in him some new idea on the various points of morality which it was important for him to study; the young girl thus learned, without thinking about it, and, so to speak, while sporting, the duties which would one day be imposed on her in the world; and she accustomed herself in advance to placing her happiness in their accomplishment. Nothing, moreover, in these daily teachings smacked of method; it was always from facts taken at random that the consequences emerged; and never did Lucie, after having heard her teacher or having seen her act, suspect that she had intended to give her a lesson or to offer her a model.
When they both returned to the baroness, the latter, who had had several hours of peaceful sleep, was so well that her doctor thought it necessary to prepare her for the happy news that was to be told to her.
"I was expecting you impatiently," she said on seeing Juliette; the doctor assures me that you know things which should make me happy. Ah! speak, make haste; happiness can never come too soon. . . Have you learned anything about my unhappy husband?
"I know, madam, that high protection has been granted to him, and that his captivity will be shorter than we had feared at first."
- Who told you that ? Oh ! I implore you, do not give me false joy.
'No, no, dear mamma,' cried Lucie, pressing her mother's hand earnestly, 'papa will be returned to us; it was my good friend who asked the Emperor Alexander for her freedom. »
She then told the Baroness how Juliette had had the idea of writing to this prince, how they had both been introduced to her, the keen interest he had shown in the orphan, finally the double a favor he had granted, although she had only asked for one.
'Besides,' added the amiable child, looking at her friend, 'I am not surprised at what she has obtained: one would have had to have a very hard heart to resist her; she was so beautiful, so touching when she appeared with me before the Emperor, that all those who surrounded this prince seemed almost as moved as we were. »
Madame de Granville had listened to Lucie in a kind of ecstasy. Everything she had just told him seemed so marvelous to her that at times she thought it was the plaything of a dream. Finally, when the reality was well proven to her, she stretched out her arms to the orphan, and at first could only express her feelings through tears.
“Dear and good Juliette,” she then said to him in a broken voice, “this new benefit surpasses all the others; we will never be able to pay it.
- What are you saying, Madam? interrupted the orphan; do you forget then that I had contracted in advance towards you and M. de Granville obligations which must last as long as my life? When you took me in poor and sick, when you showered me with the most generous care, you did not know me, I was a stranger to you to whom you owed only pity; I, on the contrary, in striving to relieve your pain, have only fulfilled a sacred duty towards my benefactors. Ah! I beg you, don't speak to me any more of a gratitude that I alone must feel; deign to always love the poor child who no longer has a mother: she would be paid too much for her care! These last words increased the Baroness' emotion still further. The doctor then wanted Juliette and Lucie to leave her for a few hours, so that, during this space of time, she could not resume a topic of conversation which produced too strong an impression on her.
But, from that moment, there was nothing more to fear for her life: the best she sustained herself, and even made such rapid progress, that at the end of a week she was in full convalescence, line dispatch, brought by courier from Alexander's headquarters, further hastened his recovery. The Russian general, who had so generously taken the interests of his young compatriot to heart, informed the latter that the Emperor's orders, to set the colonel free, had been sent to Russia the day after the audience which he held. she had obtained; that it was not known to which city in the empire this senior officer had been sent, but that, the list of prisoners being in the war offices with the various places of detention assigned to them, it would be easy to find M. de Granville, and that all possible facilities would be granted to him for his return.
We understand all the joy that such assurance brought to the castle. To this letter, written in the most flattering terms for the young Muscovite, was attached the patent for a pension of three hundred rubles, one year of which was sent to her in notes from the Bank of France, as arrears. This favor from the Emperor touched Juliette deeply; but suddenly a painful thought came to disturb the sweet impressions that his soul received from it: "What use is this unexpected ease to me?" she said to herself, letting out tears; alas! I no longer have a mother to share it with him! . . For a long time she remained absorbed in this distressing idea; finally remembering that it was showing herself ungrateful to Providence not to appreciate enough the gifts she received from it, she thought of the good she could do, and her first care was to go and bring to the poor peasants, whose the invasion had further increased the misery, the portion it assigned to them.
This good deed made her calmer, but could not entirely distract her from the sad memories which had just awakened in her soul, and which the misfortune of her friends had put aside for a few moments.
When prosperity comes to us only after the loss of those we love, far from consoling us, it saddens us; the orphan felt it so well that her habitual melancholy grew more every day, however hard she tried to overcome it. In vain the baroness and her daughter showered her with care and kindness; she was touched by it; she answered it with boundless devotion; but the awful void that the loss of his mother had left in his heart could not be filled. There are affections that no other affection can replace, and filial love was carried to such a degree in Juliette that it was henceforth impossible for her to live happily.
“Do you understand all your happiness, my dear Lucie? she sometimes said to her pupil: you have a good mother! ah! it is the most beautiful present that Heaven has given us in its goodness; the further one advances in life, the more one feels the value of this celestial gift. Who can, indeed, love us as our mother loves us?
All other affections are subject to waning, his never changes. His tenderness, his solicitude cannot be equalled; she is for us both the surest guide and the most constant friend; it is in his heart that all kinds of devotion are found. It is she who seizes our first smile, and it is from her also that we receive the first caress. With what care she surrounds our cradle! how everything vanishes next to this child, who has become the dearest part of herself! How she then associates herself with her sorrows, her pleasures! how she follows him step by step in his successes and in his reverses! and what sacrifice is she not capable of to spare him even a tear? O my dear Lucie, may you always preserve this supreme good, which nothing can replace! And Juliette would then go away to hide her tears.
In these fits of sadness, it was almost always to the tomb of her venerable friend that she took refuge. There, more than elsewhere, she found resignation, because between the tomb and the sky there are harmonies that speak to the heart. Kneeling on the tombstone which covered the remains of the holy old man, it seemed to her that she could still hear the wise exhortations he had given her, and, to obey him, she sought to remove too heartrending memories from her.
Besides, she had hitherto been too submissive to the will of God for the deep grief she still retained at the loss of her mother to ever be an obstacle to the fulfillment of her duties towards the Baroness and Lucie. Ceaselessly, on the contrary, she showed them a perfect evenness of temper that both never tired of admiring.
"How do you manage, my dear friend," her pupil said to her, "to always have that gentle character that I envy you, without always being able to imitate it?"
"It all depends on the habits one forms in youth," replied Juliette; to acquire that of gentleness, one must begin by obtaining some empire over oneself. No doubt there are rebellious natures which have great difficulty in conquering themselves; but they achieve this with a firm will and relying on God, who never refuses us these kinds of graces when we ask him for them with humility and perseverance. Of all the qualities proper to our sex, gentleness, as you know, my dear Lucie, is assuredly the most indispensable, and we cannot make too many efforts to obtain it, for we are destined to live in dependence on everything. what surrounds us. If we lack this essential quality, which embellishes even ugliness, or at least makes it bearable, it is the end of our repose and of the affections which can make us happy. This is especially what my excellent mother often repeated to me: 'A gentle woman,' she told me, 'disarms violence itself; almost always she succeeds in reconciling benevolence and attachment; while the cantankerous woman inspires only estrangement and disgust, whatever the external advantages with which she is endowed. She who trusts in her beauty and neglects to acquire the true qualities of her sex, voluntarily limits the duration of her happiness, or rather she makes it forever impossible. It was to these wise observations, continued the orphan, that I had to accustom myself, from my childhood, to moderating the vivacity of my character, which very often grew irritated at the slightest contradiction. When I yielded to movements of impatience, which sometimes degenerated into anger, my mother used to treat me like a sick child, and forced me to follow a more or less strict diet, according as the attack had been more or less severe. less violent. Under the pretext that the illness I suffered from could only pass in solitude and rest, she isolated me from everyone and deprived me of my ordinary games. Imagine what my boredom was then, and how I then tried to show myself gentle and patient, in order to prove to him that the illness had disappeared! Besides, this good mother only used these means during my childhood; when her assiduous care had developed my reason, it was to her that she addressed herself to correct me for the other faults which seemed to her to be detrimental to my happiness; the desire to satisfy her, the need for her approval were no less powerful than her lessons on my mind and on my heart: to see her smile at my efforts was a reward that I aspired to above all else. There is so much sweetness, my dear Lucie, in feeling worthy of a mother's tenderness! »
These conversations between the governess and her pupil produced more marvelous effects on the latter every day, for she desperately wanted to resemble her young friend, whom she loved with a sort of passion; and, in order also to merit his friendship, she endeavored to follow his advice and follow in his footsteps.
Happiness never seems so great to us as when it comes to us in the midst of adversity.
However, the days went by at the chateau in a wait that became every moment more painful. The Baroness had entirely recovered her health, and had resumed her studies, in the hope of making herself more than ever worthy of her husband's affection. But soon serious anxiety came to mingle with all the hopes of happiness that mother and daughter had entertained. Cut off from all relations, receiving no news either from Russia or from the headquarters of the Emperor Alexander, who was then advancing on Paris, Madame de Granville began to fear that the orders of this prince had not been carried out. , or that they had arrived too late for the unfortunate Colonel. Juliette herself was often haunted by this dreadful fear, and did not always find sufficient reasons to reassure her friend, who no longer enjoyed a single moment of rest.
Two months had passed in the midst of these cruel anxieties, and everything gave reason to fear that the unfortunate wife would succumb to them, when one evening when she was sitting with Juliette and Lucie on a terrace which overlooked the avenue du château. , they heard a car stop outside the gate, and immediately saw André running up, who shouted to them: "It's him!" it's him ! it's our brave colonel! »
Lucie rushed forward like an arrow; but her mother could not imitate her: the joy which had just seized her heart was beyond her strength; she fell fainting back into Juliette's arms, and when she regained consciousness, she felt herself pressed into those of her happy husband, who lavished on her the most tender names. She had already been taken to the chateau; she could then see in the baron's noble face all the evils he had endured during his captivity.
"Poor friend," she exclaimed, seeing his frightful thinness, "did you suffer so much?"
"Speak no more to me of suffering," replied the brave soldier; are they not forgotten, since I am in the midst of everything I love? »
Then, turning to the young governess, he kissed her with an outpouring of joy impossible to describe, and said to her: "You too, dear Juliette, you will be happy!" . . I finally found a way to acquit myself to you. . . Yes, I can now restore you to happiness; but, for that, you must promise me to bear it with as much courage as you have shown in adversity. »
Juliette, astonished, thought that joy had somewhat disturbed her benefactor's ideas. He guessed her thought, and went on: “No, no, don't think my mind is wandering: I am, it is true, intoxicated with my happiness; but it would be less complete if I could not, with a single word, convey to your soul all the joy with which mine is filled. . . Hope! hope! my dear Juliet! »
At these strange words, the young girl turned pale, all her limbs stirred, and she said in a voice choked by her deep emotion: "In the name of God, Monsieur, don't give me a hope that you cannot realize." Only one thing could restore me to a happiness as perfect as yours, the life of my mother!
- Well ! be happy then, a thousand times happy! for this mother so dear, so regretted, she is alive, I assure you!
“O heavens! What do you say ? my mother !
"Yes, you thought she was swallowed up in the waves of the Beresina, but she lives, she lives to love you!"
— Complete. . . Where is she ?
- Come, come, here it is! exclaimed Marianne at this moment, suddenly opening the door of a closet where Mme. .
" My mother ! My Juliet! were at first the only words mother and daughter could articulate. By turns they embraced each other tightly, or looked at each other ecstatically.
" You live ! you have returned to me! cried the happy child, bathing with her tears the hands of this adored mother, before whom she had fallen on her knees; O my God, I am no longer an orphan! you have deigned to perform a miracle for me. . . Dear Mom !
"My beloved Juliet!" »
And both began to kiss each other again, as if they were afraid of seeing each other separated again.
All those who witnessed this scene shared their joy and deep emotion. Marianne alone could not have witnessed it: after leading Juliette into her mother's arms, she had retired to the adjoining room, from where she could be heard sobbing.
" Poor woman ! said Madame Obinski, she is crying, and I cannot console her. Alas! it is to save me, it is to return me to my child that his Antoine perished! . . »
At these words Juliette got up, ran towards Marianne, and throwing herself on her neck:
"You lived for me," she said to him; you served me as a mother. . . Ah! come, come, I implore you, share my happiness! Don't you know that my whole life will be devoted to cherishing you? »
She to whom such tender expressions were addressed had a soul too loving to be insensitive to them.
"Forgive me these tears which disturb such a happy moment for you," she replied, kissing Juliette; I couldn't hold them back; but already I feel that your affection makes them less bitter. »
Then, advancing towards Madame Obinski, who held out her arms to him, she said to him through her tears: "I bless Heaven, since my Antoine was able to save you!" »
The colonel's family in turn wanted to express their joy to the mother and the daughter. Happy with her friend's happiness as well as her own, Lucie pressed her to her heart, saying: “Formerly I hardly dared caress my mother in front of you, because I found you too much to be pitied for having lost yours; but now that we will each have one, or rather each two, we will be equally happy, and I will no longer be embarrassed. »
This word, which painted so well the heart of the amiable girl, deeply touched Juliette, who already seemed overwhelmed under the weight of so much happiness. However, after the first emotions had calmed down a little, when she was able to look at her mother more attentively, she was appalled at the ravages that misfortune had wrought in her whole person. Madame Obinski was no more than a shadow of herself, she was barely thirty-eight when the most dreadful event had separated her from her daughter; then her noble face was still of remarkable beauty, and now each of her features bore the imprint of long suffering. She was so thin and weak that at any moment you would have thought she was going to faint. The more Juliette considered this sad change, the more her anxiety grew.
"Don't be alarmed, dear child," said this tender mother, who divined all that passed in her soul; the happiness that I enjoy near you will soon have made disappear these traces of misfortune which afflict you. Are you forgetting that the Lord has done a miracle for us? Ah! his goodness did not bring us together to separate us now. . . No, no, Juliette, don't worry, he will let me live to cherish you; already I feel better; your sight would remind me, I believe, of the gates of the tomb! »
The Baron, who had long been accustomed to attending to Madame Obinski, then offered to take some food, and led her to the table where supper had been served. Juliette, noticing his delicate attentions and his solicitude for her mother, was moved to tears. With what sweet emotion also she saw that dear mother seated at the same table where her memory had so often troubled her, and where now everyone disputed the happiness of serving her!
"All that's missing here," said the brave colonel in a tender voice, "is the venerable friend of my youth." . . Alas! here below there is no perfect bliss.
"His soul is in heaven," replied Juliette, "that is our consolation." He had predicted happy days for me, and then I no longer believed in happiness; but an entirely heavenly inspiration showed him the future. »
As she said these words, she pressed her mother's hand with ardor, who, wholly taken with the pleasure of contemplating her, could find no expression that could convey her feelings. To see your daughter again after having believed herself separated from her forever, to find her more beautiful, more accomplished even than at the time of their separation, to find her above all honored and cherished by the most respectable people, when abandonment and misfortune seemed to threaten his youth; Oh ! this is one of those immense joys that only the heart of a mother can understand, because it is unlike any other joy!
Madame Obinski was so ecstatic, so imbued with hers, that it was impossible for her to respond to the full interest that everyone showed to know how she had been rescued from death. Vainly also the baroness and Lucie,” questioned M. de Granville.
'I have forgotten everything,' he replied, hugging both of them in his arms; the story of my captivity has nothing interesting besides my meeting with our worthy friend: she herself will take it upon herself to tell you about this almost miraculous meeting; but, for today, it is necessary. give him thanks. »
Thus evading anything that could bring back painful memories, he himself also surprised himself asking a thousand questions, to which no one was in a condition to answer in a clear and precise manner; and the whole evening passed in the midst of sentences begun and not finished, in the midst of that trouble, finally, which almost always brings about great joys as well as great sorrows.
When Juliette and her mother found themselves alone, their first care was to fall on their knees to thank the Lord for having restored them to each other. Oh ! How sweet this thanksgiving was for both! They felt so vividly what this God of goodness had done for them, and it had been so long since their voices had united to pay him homage! They then wanted to indulge in mutual outpourings; but their emotion prevented them; Besides, Madame Obinski had the greatest need of rest; her daughter urged her to do so. Having had a bed put up right next to hers, she spent a large part of the night contemplating this mother so tender, whom she had cried so much, and who now was there, beside her, enjoying a peaceful sleep. , and still appearing to smile at him.
"Now there's no more sadness, no more boredom," said the happy girl to herself; my heart, henceforth, will no longer experience that dreadful emptiness which disenchanted me even with the greatest beauties of nature; everything is going to come alive for me, a new life appears to me; every day, every moment, I will see my mother, I will work for her happiness! »
Soft tears then escaped from her eyes, and she longed for the next day to hear again the accents of maternal tenderness.
At last day broke, and Madame Obinski, on waking, felt herself pressed into the arms of her Juliette.
“O my beloved! how happy you make me! she cried, giving him a caress for a caress; how good is your soul! how I bless God for having preserved you so worthy of my love!
- Dear Mom ! yes, God supported with his paternal hand the child whom you had formed; he even deigned to grant her some comfort, so that when she found you again she could return your
fully independent life. See, she continued, bringing a little box containing her savings, the certificate of her pension, and the contract for the twelve thousand francs which M. de Bonnier had left her; see, henceforth you will lack nothing; in its goodness, Providence has provided for everything. Before this lucky moment, I attached very little value to these gifts; now they complete my happiness, since my mother will enjoy them! »
Assuredly there was nothing but naturalness in Juliette's action; but all mothers will understand how much Mrs. Obinski must have been touched by it: the good that comes to us through our children bears a stamp of its own; not only does it please us because of its usefulness, but it gives our soul an indescribable well-being, since it is a testimony of that filial love of which our happiness in this world is chiefly composed.
The eagerness which the excellent girl had displayed in reassuring her mother as to their future was to give rise to mutual outpourings, when the Baroness and Lucie came to interrupt them by bringing them the new tribute of their affection. Soon the colonel asked permission to enter also: it was granted him on the spot; and, after having cordially embraced Juliette and her mother, he said to her: “We have sought in vain, Madame, during our interminable journey, what was the good angel who had put an end to my captivity, and consequently yours; well ! render new thanksgiving to God: it is to your worthy child that we are indebted for this immense benefit! Good and dear Juliette, he continued, looking at the young girl with a tender air, you thought you were working only for the one who had already contracted the greatest obligations towards you, and in saving him from misfortune you found the sweetest reward for your care. Heaven be a thousand times blessed! Monsieur de Granville then told his daughter to tell Madame Obinski what she had just told him about Juliette's approach to the Emperor Alexander. Lucie didn't need to be asked: talking about her friend was always a new need for her heart; and she displayed such perfect grace in tracing to the happy mother all the details that could interest her, that the latter kissed her tenderly to thank her for the pleasure she had caused her.
The Baroness and Juliette then expressed to Madame Obinski their desire to know what means Providence had used to save her from death and then reunite her with M. de Granville. Understanding their curiosity on the subject, she was preparing to satisfy it, when the good doctor, who had taken so much part in the family's grief, asked to offer her his congratulations. He was followed by all the inhabitants of the village, who also asked to see the brave colonel. It was therefore necessary to postpone this story, so impatiently awaited, after lunch. M. and Mme de Granville went downstairs with Lucie, and during this time Juliette dressed her mother, not without sighing more than once on noticing again all the ravages that had been wrought in her person. Both were about to rejoin the family when Marianne, running towards them, said to them: “Come, come, you are expected by all the good peasants; they ask to see the mother of the young Muscovite; they want to welcome him too. These words, which taught Madame Obinski how much her daughter was loved, made her tremble with pleasure. She descended, leaning on the arm of her Juliette, and was welcomed with tokens of respect which touched her deeply: “Ah! Madam, how happy you are! said these simple and naive people to him; what a great girl you have there! how good and charitable she is! Oh ! She well deserved the happiness of finding you! Judge what Mrs. Obinski felt while listening to such speeches! It is so sweet for a mother to hear her child praised!
Resignation precedes hope, as dusk appears before dawn.
When the inhabitants of Bert. . ., who had been pleased to pay homage to the virtues of the young Muscovite, had left the chateau, the family reunited with the good doctor around the lunch table. M. de Granville then went out to pay his respects to the grave of the venerable friend whom he regretted; Madame Obinski, then yielding to everyone's eagerness to find out what had happened to her since her separation from her daughter, began her story in these terms:
"You have not forgotten, my Juliet, that fatal moment when I saw, in the pale light of the moon, the courageous Marianne rushing with you on the Beresina bridge. Distraught, I staggered in your tracks, led by the good Antoine, who vainly tried to drive away the crowd with which this fatal bridge was encumbered. We were advancing only with difficulty in the midst of this compact mass, which, forwards and backwards, rushed at us, when suddenly the horrible creak which was heard opened an abyss under our feet. We were rushed there. . . Antoine, the generous Antoine, had not left my hand. Fighting with intrepid courage against the death that threatened us, he supported me above the waves; and already we were close to reaching the edge of the river, when an enormous ice cube pushed us far from the shore. In this violent shock, Antoine had received a wound which tore a long moan from him. Soon his strength was exhausted, and it was my turn to support him: I had fortunately seized one of the fragments of the bridge which was floating above the water; but this debris escaped me, and I was about to perish when one of those heroic men who devoted themselves in that moment full of horror to save some victims, took me by my clothes and brought me back to the beach which I had just left. Alas! my unfortunate companion had disappeared. . . I was
transported dying before the fire of a bivouac, where I was given some help; my eyes opened again for a moment; I pronounced your dear name, my Juliet; and immediately I fell back into a deep annihilation; when I came to, the bivouac was deserted. . .
It is only by thinking of the power of this God of goodness who reserved for me the happiness which I enjoy, that I can understand how I did not then succumb to the horrible pain which seized my soul, for, for a few moments, the feeling of my ills awoke there entirely. My broken body, exhausted with weakness, could no longer move; I felt in all my limbs intolerable sufferings, which did not yet approach the lacerations of my heart. This dreadful anguish was beyond my strength; I faint again; I don't know how long I remained in this state. On regaining the use of my senses, I saw near me wounded French soldiers. One of them handed me a gourd out of pity, in which was a little wine. I gathered all my strength to swallow a few drops, which saved my life. A look at my benefactor told me that he himself was dying. I wanted him
return his canteen. "Keep it," he told me; I no longer need it, and I bless Heaven for it. To be a prisoner of the Russians! No, no, it's better to die. As he finished those words, he let his head fall back to the floor, and my weak voice called out to him in vain. . .
All the other wounded uttered moans and cries which only added to the horror of my situation. Some of them, less ill than the others, had revived the bivouac fire; they spoke of a combat which had just taken place,1 deploring the misfortune of having fallen alive into the power of the Russians. Their speeches filled me with such terror for myself that I had not the strength to ask them a single question. Soon, alas! I could not doubt my horrible fate: Cossacks came to take away the French wounded to place them in sledges; they took me away with them, in spite of my prayers and my groans; and I was taken to Boriz. . ., prey to a devouring fever which did not leave me, for a few moments, until after about a month. When the delirium ceased and I was able to fix my gaze on the objects around me, I saw myself in the middle of a kind of dungeon, where a narrow window, closed by a grating, barely allowed a few rays of light to penetrate.
My ideas were at first so confused that I looked mechanically around me; little by little the chaos in which I seemed to be plunged dissipated: the past appeared to me, the image of my Juliette appeared before me; and all the pains of my soul revived.
My God ! it is you who, in this moment of painful anguish, came to console me, for to my complaints was joined a fervent prayer which your kindness deigned to accept. An inner voice seemed to say to me: Your daughter is saved! I believed in that voice, and I took heart again: O Mary! queen of angels! I entrusted my child to you from its cradle, I cried; deign today to protect his abandoned youth! support her in affliction, keep her away from all perils, ask your divine Son to give me back this child so dear to me one day! »
After this invocation, I replayed in my memory the moment when my Juliette, led by Marianne, rushed with her onto the deck. It seemed to me that the huge crowd that rushed there
at the same time as me, and who pushed me back with Antoine, had not been able to prevent them from reaching the other bank, because my hesitation had given them a little head start on us; this thought completed my reassurance, and I was then able, looking back on myself, to examine more carefully the place where I was locked up. Inspection, alas! was soon made of it: it was, I repeat, a wretched retreat into which the rays of the sun had never penetrated.
A poor bedstead covered with a mattress on which I was stretched out, a bench placed close by, and a jug of water alone composed the furnishings of this revolting place. I had no doubt that I was a prisoner there, for, having risen to look at the door, I saw an enormous lock locked with three turns. Falling back on my pallet, I burst into tears. A short time later I heard my prison open: a woman of gigantic size and a repulsive face appeared before me.
“So you are awake at last,” she said to me in the Russian language; my faith! I thought you were asleep forever, for it's been a month since your eyes opened like they do now. Come on, have you come to your senses, and will you stop looking at me like that? »
These words and the tone of harshness that accompanied them made me shudder, they taught me into what inhuman hands I had fallen.
" Have mercy on me ! said I to this woman; tell me where I am.
- Where you are ? she went on with a hideous smile; hey! but, apparently in prison; don't you see it?
- Alas! I feared him. But why am I a prisoner? I did no harm.
"And these Frenchmen among whom you were found, do you count that for nothing?" All are of the same nation, that is easy to understand; so you must be treated as an enemy.
"That would be a great injustice!" I exclaimed, although born a Frenchwoman, I had lived in Moscow for twenty years, my husband was Russian, and authority could have no interest in keeping me a prisoner; she has no right.
- Hey! does it not therefore have that of the strongest? resumed my jailer with a kind of embarrassment.
"But you are a woman," I insisted; you will have pity on a poor mother separated from her child! you will help me to make known the truth.
- Pity ! pity ! she murmured; no doubt I will have pity. . . Haven't I taken care of you for the month you've been here? I didn't want to have
your death to reproach me. And now I'm willing to give you food, you won't lack anything; here, take this. »
Then opening a basket which she had placed on the ground, she took out a small jug, poured hot milk into a bowl, put a little bread in it, and made me swallow a few spoonfuls of this mixture. Then I wanted to try again to interest her in my fate, but she said abruptly:
"Let's finish! we don't talk so much here, do you hear? Here's what to drink if you're thirsty; I leave you this leftover soaked bread, you will eat it if you are hungry. Tonight I'll come back to bring you something else, on condition that you stop making me hear all those jeremiads that I don't like. »
When she left, a sudden idea came to me: when leaving Moscow, I had girded my body, under my clothes, with a wide belt of skin, covered in waxed taffeta, and in which I had enclosed , besides papers which could be useful to me, a rather large sum in gold, resulting from the sale of my diamonds; that was what made up our small fortune. I only gave you a small portion, my Juliet, so that the weight of this gold would not bother you during this trip. Judge of my shock, or rather of my despair, when I realized that this belt had been taken away from me! It did not seem to me that it had been taken from me before my imprisonment, and my suspicions could only fall on my jailer. I then saw to what degree of misfortune I was going to be reduced; for if this woman, who appeared to have nothing of her sex, had indeed been guilty of such larceny, she had necessarily a great interest in preventing my claims from reaching authority, and this was made of my freedom, maybe even of my life.
This overwhelming thought wrung bitter tears from me; I was still bathed in it when my jailer came back to me. Feeling the need not to show her all the horror she inspired in me, I forced myself to repress my feelings, and I received the food that her hand presented to me. My dungeon was then lit by a lamp which she had brought with her, and I was able to examine her bony face even more attentively, in which alternately hardness and a kind of confusion were portrayed, which she could not always manage to surrender. mistress. Wanting to force him to talk to me, I asked his name. They call me Soniska, she replied.
'Soniska,' I continued, 'don't you want me to die, since you give me the means to support my miserable existence?'
'Whether you live or die, I don't care, I only want one thing, and that is not to contribute to your death by letting you lack the necessities.
“I am obliged to you for this intention, and I wish to reward you for it, Soniska; please give me a belt that I had on me when I was brought to this place; it contains enough gold to afford me the means of recognizing your attentions, and I will do so with pleasure. »
At this request his trouble increased sensibly; but, almost immediately regaining control of herself, she gave me one of those looks which I could not see without shuddering, and said to me in a voice concentrated with anger:
" What is this? a belt, gold? do I know what you are talking about? So your head is still beating the countryside; you are apparently going quite mad, and would make me pass for a thief. But beware! if you repeat these nonsense again, my patience will soon be exhausted, and so!. . . »
Here she made a gesture which filled me with horror, for I regarded it as a death threat. She saw the effect she had produced, and withdrew immediately, leaving me in a profound darkness, which added still more to all the terrors which had seized my soul. The idea that I was entirely at the mercy of such a perverse being, the idea of not seeing my Juliet again and of dying in that dreadful dungeon without knowing what her fate was, threw me all night into a state of amazement impossible to describe. The fever, to which I had already nearly succumbed, revived more violently than ever, and I still spent a considerable time in alternations of acute suffering and annihilation which, at least, tore me from the feeling of my misfortune.
Who would believe it? During all this time, which I was then able to estimate at more than three months, I was cared for by Soniska with the same assiduity, the same perseverance as during the first period of my illness. Obviously this woman wanted me dead; I was for her a subject of pain and worry; but she wanted my end to come naturally, so as not to have two crimes to reproach herself for.
Against all his predictions, I resisted so many evils; and she saw me return to health with as much astonishment as sadness. From that moment his abruptness and harshness increased still further. I won't try to paint for you all that I suffered, all the tortures that tore my soul thinking of my daughter; my current happiness is too great for me to be able to retrace such painful memories, I have forgiven everything, moreover. Suffer then that I spare you these sad details, and that I arrive at my happy deliverance, which the very author of my misery prepared.
I had been languishing for a year in this place of pain, without having enjoyed a single day of the beneficent light of the sun, without having seen any living being other than my jailer, when I perceived a notable weakening in the health of this woman. Every day I saw her paler, more sunken; and his abruptness took on a still darker hue; yet the few words she addressed to me were much less harsh, less revolting than before; and the food she brought me was infinitely better. She also provided me with finer and more regular linen; in a word, my sad life improved, for from then on Soniska's attentions and cares often amounted to delicacy for me; often also I surprised a tear under her lowered eyelid, when she saw mine flow: but if I tried to speak to her, if I dared to protest against my unjust detention, she imposed silence on me by her terrible gaze, and immediately fled. so as not to hear my complaints.
However, the strength of this unfortunate woman was always decreasing: although she did not complain, I saw her wasting away, and I then had mortal anxiety for myself, for fear of falling into worse hands than hers. , if she suddenly succumbed. I was determined to venture a few questions with her on this subject, when one day, after having waited for her for several hours in the most painful anxiety, I saw enter my prison a girl of about twenty-four years old, loaded with the basket in which Soniska usually brought me my food. I uttered an exclamation of joy at the sight of this girl, for her face depicted kindness, and she seemed so deeply touched as she looked at me, the words she addressed to me were so full of sweetness and interest, that I burst into tears. Deprived until then, in the depths of a dark dungeon, of all human consolation, I had endured all kinds of misery and suffering, without having heard a single word that expressed pity come out of the mouth of my jailer. Judge of my joy, of my deep emotion, when I saw the compassionate young girl lean towards me, shake my hands affectionately, and I heard her say to me:
“Weep no more, Madam, God will help you.
"So he has compassion for my ills at last," I cried, "since he sends you to comfort me." Tell me who you are; where is Sonika? do you come here by his order?
"Yes," she replied. Soniska is my aunt; I live with her, as well as my brother, who is a teller in the house. My poor aunt has been very ill since yesterday; unable to come, she sent me.
"Did you know I was here?"
'Yes, but I couldn't help it then; I was not allowed to come, and very often I was sad thinking of you. . . Ah! I don't have a heart made for a prison: always seeing unhappy people; and then you, it was even worse, I pitied you more than the others.
- Good girl ! how, indeed, can you dwell in this place of desolation?
- What do you want ? my uncle is a janitor at Boriz prison. . . ; my brother and I were poor orphans, we had to accept the asylum they wanted to give us. But farewell, Madame, farewell; I cannot stay any longer. Tonight, when my uncle is in bed, I will come back; I need to talk to you.
- What! are you leaving me already? ah! stay a while longer.
"That's impossible, they wouldn't let me come any more, and all would be lost." Take heart; see you tonight ! »
When she left, a vague hope crept into my heart: Soniska ill, this girl who seemed to take such a tender interest in my fate, the promise she had made to me to come back, the mystery she was to on her visit, everything led me to believe that she wanted to attempt my deliverance. The thought threw me into an agitation impossible to describe, and I anxiously counted the hours until his return.
The excellent girl was punctual at the rendezvous, for the evening was not far advanced when she arrived. After various questions that I addressed to her, and to which she answered with ingenuity, I convinced myself that the Russian authorities were in no way complicit in the severities that were being exercised over me: the theft Soniska had instigation of her husband, was the only reason that would have led them to keep me prisoner.
" My God ! said the good and simple creature to whom my questions were addressed, I had warned them that they were going to get into trouble; when you do wrong, that's always what happens. Now here is my aunt who is going to die, despairing of her bad deed, without being able to entirely repair it. Ah! Madam, do not hate the poor woman, although she has caused all your troubles; I assure you that your patience and your gentleness had attached her very much to you. When she saw you praying, it went straight to her soul, and repentance entered it more and more. Now that she is afraid of the judgments of God, she would like to see you get out of here, because my uncle is not good; but she is afraid that you will complain to the Governor; otherwise, since you're not into controlling prisoners, she might let you go. . .
- Oh! let this fear not stop her, cried I, trembling with joy: if Soniska consents to release me, I undertake never to reveal to the governor, nor to any inhabitant of Russia, the theft of which she guilty and the mistreatment she subjected me to.
Tell her that a Christian never fails in her promise, even when this promise is made to an enemy; and that, far from remembering her conduct, I will pray to the Lord that she may find grace before him. »
At these words the young girl burst into tears, and said to me:
" Oh! I believe you, Madame, when one fears God, one cannot lie, and one knows how to forgive. I will report your words to my aunt; I hope to decide it. Wait for me. My uncle is sleeping, he's had a lot to drink tonight, and we'll have time. . . Then, sitting down again, she added: “Bah! I can now tell you everything; listen: a Frenchman, a prisoner of war, has been in this house for some time; he seems very good, very respectable. Yesterday the governor sent for him; he had orders to set him free. We're going to drive him back to France in a good car, which one of our friends is to provide. This is a great opportunity. Tomorrow, at four o'clock in the morning, this car will pick up the Frenchman; my uncle, who signed the discharge in advance, will not be up then, and my brother will replace him. As the day will not yet come, we can get you into the car without you being seen by the sentries. The driver himself will pretend not to see you, and you will be free!
"But the prisoner," I said to him, "will he also agree to take charge of an unknown woman?"
"Don't worry," replied Soniska's niece; I thought of everything! already my brother and I agree with him. We didn't tell him all about it, because one must always hide, as much as possible, the faults of one's family; but we have interested him in you by telling him that you are a very unhappy poor French lady, who wishes to return to her native country; and he promised to take you. »
Hearing these words, which proved to me that my deliverance was possible, I threw myself on the neck of my liberator.
“Tell me your name, I cried, so that it will be etched in my memory forever.
"My name is also Soniska," she replied; and, in favor of what I do for you, don't curse that name, please!
- Ah! I will bless him, on the contrary, until my last day, I resumed, good Soniska! May Heaven reward you for such noble devotion to an unfortunate woman who was unknown to you!
— All Christians are brothers; they must all help each other,” she replied; and, tearing herself from my arms, she came out of my dungeon cautiously.
As soon as she was gone, I fell to my knees, and remained for some time as if suffocated by the excess of my joy. It was then by sobs that I expressed to God all the feelings of my soul; it would have been impossible for me to translate them otherwise.
When Soniska returned, she found me in the same posture.
'Here,' she said to me, making me swallow a little milk, 'we need to gain strength; then, helping me to take off the clothes which covered me and which were in tatters, she put on other very clean ones, added to them a fur-lined pelisse, and said to me with a charming smile: 'These are my garments; you'll remember me wearing them, won't you?
“Good Soniska! you strip yourself of everything to clothe me, and I have nothing, nothing to show you my gratitude.
"I am only doing my duty," replied the worthy creature. What can I not with this return to you all that belongs to you!. . . But come now, she added; and, if you really want to show me that you are satisfied with me, do not refuse to see my poor aunt; she herself wants to hear her forgiveness come out of your mouth before appearing before God. Come, then, and be good to her, I conjure you!
- Oh! lead me, I answered her: it will be with all my heart that I will repeat this pardon to her, and that I will thank her for what she is doing for me at this moment. »
Leaning on the arm of the good Soniska, I then left my prison. It was the first time I had crossed its threshold since I had entered it, and if my liberator had not supported me, I would have had difficulty traversing the dark vault which separated me from the patient's dwelling. The young girl had warned me to speak very quietly so that her uncle, who was lying in an adjoining room, could not hear us. Finally, I came to the unhappy woman, and was struck by the change that had taken place in her in such a short space of time. All the signs of death were already strewn over his features; his haggard eyes fixed on mine with painful anguish. I approached, shuddering: but I saw her cry, and my tears also flowed.
“Soniska,” I said to her in a low voice, “all is forgiven; do not grieve any longer; every day I will pray to God for you.
"Yes, but will this God whom I have so offended forgive me?"
“We must hope so; you know well that the tears of repentance are never sterile before his mercy. Have recourse to the consolations of our holy religion, and peace will return to your soul, do not doubt it.
- Well ! I will believe you, she replied; yes, I will repair as much as possible for me the evil that I have done; today even a priest will hear the confession of my faults; but above all, you must set yourself free. Here,” she added, handing me a little bag, “there are a few rubles in there; that's all I can give you. I have attached the papers that were locked up with your gold, which my husband took, and which he does not want to part with. Alas! had it not been for this accursed gold, which I showed him, he would not have forced me to keep you prisoner. Now, when he knows that I have opened the doors to you, he will fly into a rage; but I no longer fear him: when death approaches, what is the wrath of a man compared to that of God? »
I hesitated to accept the money she presented to me; thinking, however, of my utter destitution, I allowed young Soniska to put it in my pocket. At that moment, the sound of a car was heard, and my heart jumped. The dying woman took my hand: "You promised to remain silent about my crime in front of authority, and to pray for me," she said to me in a faint voice, "I count on your promise."
"It is sacred," I replied; don't worry about it. »
The young girl then threw herself on my neck, and soon after handed me over to her brother, who came to fetch me. A profound darkness surrounded us, for the honest teller had taken the precaution of pushing the lights aside while leading me; and I was placed by him in the carriage without anyone being able to see me.
According to the instructions given to me by my liberator, I remained huddled up in the back of this carriage, my head hidden in my fur coat, which was of a very dark color; and when my traveling companion arrived, he could only judge that I was near him by the involuntary movement of my limbs, which were in the most violent agitation.
We did not exchange a single word as long as we were in sight of the sentries, but when we had passed through the prison door, I sat back on the bench and tried, despite my shock, to articulate a few words to to thank the one who had not hesitated to render such an eminent service to an unknown person. He answered me with all the grace, all the goodness you know from him, for you have already guessed that this generous traveling companion was none other than M. de Granville. He had just rescued me from a dreadful captivity, and I was going to be forced to implore his support again to help me find you, my Juliet. If, as I dared to hope, Heaven had preserved you for my love, it was not in Russia that you had to be sought, for I had no doubt that the Durval couple, and especially the good Marianne, would not have engaged you to follow them to France. It was therefore where all my wishes tended; but it was necessary that a compassionate being should help me to cross the immense space which still separated me from this country; finally, it was necessary to be able to count on a generosity, a devotion that I dared not expect from a person who was entirely unknown to me; and this thought made me terribly uneasy.
When daylight came, when I could see the baron's noble face, I felt most of my fears vanish. My dejected air doubtless touched him, for, after having examined me for a moment, he said to me with that accent of the soul which depicts so well all the sensitivity with which he is endowed: “Poor lady! have your troubles exceeded mine? Ah! speak ! speak ! we are compatriots, and I have experienced too much misfortune not to know how to sympathize with it. »
These words aroused all my confidence; I entered into the details of the events which had decided me to leave Russia; but I had scarcely spoken of the burning of Moscow and named my Juliet, than a lively exclamation escaped him: 'What! you are Mrs. Obinski! he exclaimed, seizing my hand.
"No doubt," I exclaimed in my turn; where do you know my name from? My daughter, would my Juliette be known to you? Did God have mercy on my tears? did he save her?
- Yes ! he replied; but, I implore you, moderate your emotion; do not make me repent of not having been master of mine by recognizing you. . . I should not have told you so abruptly of the existence of this dear girl. »
I was, in fact, in a state which made M. de Granville fear that I might lose consciousness; but the tears which oppressed me finally escaped, and I then acquired the entire certainty of my happiness; I learned that the generous man who had just snatched me from captivity had previously been the savior of my Juliet, that it was at his house, in his own house, that I was going to find her, ever more worthy of my love. To tell you what my impressions were while listening to it, would be impossible for me: there are feelings that one cannot paint as one experiences them. M. de Granville, almost as moved as I, made me tell the rest of my story, and we thought together of the means we could use so that I was not disturbed during the long journey we had to travel; I had, in fact, no other papers than those which Soniska had given me; and these papers not being able to replace a passport, we were not without concern on this subject. M. de Granville nevertheless hoped that the protection which the Russian government had just granted him in such an unforeseen manner might, if need be, extend to me; but no one took any notice of my person. It was enough for the colonel to exhibit the Emperor's order, which had been handed to him on his departure, for all the obstacles to disappear and for everyone to show an eagerness to serve him. This order was for us like a talisman which nothing could resist, and M. de Granville sought in vain how he could be the object of such marvelous protection.
"In truth, I think I'm dreaming, he said to me: once plunged into the most dreadful destitution, exposed to all the rigors of the harshest captivity, having no hope of seeing my family again, and constantly dreading the dreadful Siberia, I am suddenly not only freed from my chains, but rescued, honored by all those Gods whom in my despair I cursed as my most cruel enemies. . . Truly this deliverance and our meeting are miraculous: it is the work of God himself! »
Constantly occupied with the happiness that awaited us here, we made a thousand plans for the moment of our arrival, and our wishes devoured the space. Finally we touched the ground of our France, of this always cherished land which I had not seen for twenty years. Alas! foreign soldiers had invaded it, and our hearts sank: I saw tears moisten the eyelids of my noble traveling companion; but I spoke to him of his Adèle, of his Lucie, whose dear names he had taught me; and soon the joy which they awakened in his soul erased this painful impression.
I will not try to paint for you what I felt when I arrived at the gate of this castle, which contained my life, my happiness, in a word, all the kinds of happiness that Heaven reserved for me: the memory alone still makes it beat my heart, and I can only say again that I am the most fortunate of mothers. »
As she finished these words, Madame Obinski threw herself into the arms of her Juliette, who was still bathed in the tears that this story had made her shed. The Baroness, Lucie and the doctor, who had not been able to hear it without being so deeply touched by it, testified in their turn to the mother of their young friend how much they were involved in the ills she had suffered.
“Oh! said Lucia; the depiction of such adversities, borne with such heroic constancy, must certainly inspire courage in those who, like me, allow themselves to be beaten down at the slightest trial. From now on, when I feel my heart failing in the face of some pain, I will think of all those that Mrs. Obinski endured in her dreadful dungeon, and I will try to be more courageous and more resigned. »
When happiness agrees to settle somewhere here below, it is always far from the din of the world and within family affections that it stops.
After all the outpourings which the happy reunion of the colonel with his family and of Madame Obinski with her Juliet would naturally bring about, the latter thought of creating for her dear mother a gentle and peaceful existence which would entirely assure her independence. Doubtless the thought of leaving the pupil whom she had formed could not arise in her heart: she loved Lucie too tenderly; she had, moreover, contracted towards Monsieur and Madame de Granville obligations too sacred not to seek to recognize them by the continuation of her care for their child. However, after having thought about it, it seemed to him possible to reconcile all the duties imposed on him by nature and gratitude, by fixing the residence of his mother near enough to the castle so that she could enjoy at the same time the happiness of seeing her. continuously, and to be next to her adopted daughter.
Properties in Bert. . . were then at such a modest price that the twelve thousand francs left to him by M. de Bonnier could provide, and even more, for the purchase of a dwelling in the neighborhood of his friends. The pension which she received from the munificence of the Emperor Alexander would also suffice for a modest and retired life, such as Madame Obinski might wish, and would still leave her the possibility of exercising her inclination to beneficence.
It was in the secrecy of her heart that Juliette formed this project, for she wanted her execution to be a surprise for her mother; and until then she had not dared to communicate it to her friends, lest they should see in this resolution a vain pride or a kind of ingratitude.
However, Mrs. Obinski's health demanded a great calm, which she could not always enjoy at the chateau, where visits had for some time been increasing in a tiring manner. Long moral sufferings ordinarily give the soul the need for recollection, and Juliette's mother, more than any other, often felt this imperious need, which is never more felt than when it cannot be satisfied. More and more imbued with the happiness she enjoyed with her child, the excellent mother never tasted it so well as when she could not give herself up without distraction to the outpourings of her tenderness; and it was not without great effort that she lent herself to anything that took her away from the sole object of her thoughts. But one of the first fruits of a good education is to teach us to modify the inner movements which can cause some displeasure to those around us, and to know how to sacrifice ourselves for their satisfaction! Thus, the baroness, who liked to enjoy the presence of Madame Obinski, even when there were people at the castle, could never have suspected that the obligation which her friendship imposed on her was diametrically opposed to her tastes, and that was to subject him to the most painful constraint. What Madame de Granville had not understood, Juliette, with her girlish tenderness, guessed without difficulty, and her most ardent desire was soon to execute the plan she had conceived.
For that it was necessary to approach the question with the colonel, and it was only with trembling that she decided on it. As she had feared, the first effect of her confidence was to afflict this respectable friend; but when she had thoroughly explained all her reasons to him, when she had convinced him that nothing in this new situation would prevent him from devoting himself, as she had done hitherto, to Lucie's education, he yielded to her wishes and promised to assist her with all her power.
Shortly after, a charming little property, surrounded by a delicious garden, adjoining the park of the chateau, having come to vacate, M. de Granville secretly acquired it in the name of Mme. from the nearest town all the objects necessary for its furnishing.
Juliette, the happy Juliette presided with indescribable joy over the arrangement of each object.
She smiled in advance at the well-being and rest that her mother would enjoy in this peaceful retirement, and her heart paid a new tribute of gratitude to the generous man who had placed her in a position to offer to this beloved mother an asylum according to his tastes. The portrait of the venerable parish priest, which his brush had faithfully reproduced from memory, was placed in the most visible room of the house; and she said, contemplating this image of her benefactor: “Ah! if he had lived, if I had been able to present my mother to him,
where is the happiness that mine would not have surpassed? When everything was prepared, when she was quite sure that nothing was lacking in her plans, and that she had made the baroness understand the necessity of this change, she engaged her mother and Marianne one morning, whom she had not nor initiated into her secret, to take a walk with her in the park. It was Mrs. Obinski's favorite place, and the idea of exploring this enchanting place with her daughter easily convinced her to give in to her desire.
Never had Juliette been so cheerful as at this moment. One would have said that, the veil of oblivion extending over all the evils she had suffered, she had suddenly returned to the happiest time of her early youth, when she loved to frolic beside her mother. , and where each of his sensations was an enjoyment. Happy with her joy, Madame Obinski gazed at her with a sweet delight, which was shared by the excellent friend who was at her side. “My God, how good we are here! said the good mother, casting glances around her in which happiness was depicted.
'We'd be even better off there,' Juliette went on gaily, 'if we had lunch there. But come this way, dear mother; I think there will be some kind soul there who will want to welcome us. At the same time she entered a freshly sanded path, at the end of which was a small door. Having opened it, she introduced her two companions into a delicious garden, where the air was fragrant with the sweetest perfumes, and in the middle of which one could see a dwelling of small size, but which seemed to announce ease and cleanliness. . Charming groves, beautiful green lawns framed with flowers, a rich kitchen garden and a beautiful orchard gave this house the most agreeable and pleasant aspect. Juliette wanted her mother and her friend to look around. A newly painted gate, opening on the main street of the village, closed the side opposite that by which they had entered; Near this gate could be seen a little house, which seemed to be the concierge's residence. When they approached, a big dog began to bark with all his might; but almost immediately he calmed down, and ran towards Juliette, expressing his joy by leaps and caresses which she had difficulty in moderating. Marianne then recognized Christine's dog, for she had her share of his joyous demonstrations. "You see," said Juliette, who was very amused by her astonished air, "you see that we are here in a country of acquaintances." This little house is now the home of Christine and old Marguerite. The whole family entered the service of the new owner; they are being given up this little house, where they will be better off than in their ruined cabin, and a very fine field which is part of this property. In exchange, André and his mother will take care of the garden, where they will find a large part of their subsistence; in this way they will henceforth be free from need, because the work that André will have here will not prevent him from continuing the one he is responsible for at the castle. »
Madame Obinski, already knowing this family, took, like Marianne, a keen interest in the happy change that had come about in her position. Soon André and Christine came towards her in festive clothes. "Welcome a thousand times, Madam," said the latter to the mother of her young benefactress. All hearts here are devoted to Juliette, who saved us all from misery; and we would be very happy now if you would also love us a little.
"That won't be difficult," replied Madame Obinski, looking at the good peasant with a tender air; all those who love my daughter are sure to share in my affection. At the same time she entered the little house, where old Marguerite was waiting for her in her big armchair.
" My God ! what a beautiful day! cried the blind man, why can't my eyes open, even for a moment? Then, seizing the hand held out to him by Juliette's mother: "Bless you a thousand times, you who have made her so good, so compassionate!" she added; now I shall die happy, since she is happy!
"Come, good Marguerite," interrupted the young girl, "let's not think of dying, when God makes us live so joyfully." Many days like this are still in store for you, I hope. Then turning to Christine: "We would like to have lunch," she said to him; but first I would like to show my mother and our friend the interior of this house. Would it be possible to get in there?
"So easy," replied the villager, smiling; André will take you there while I prepare everything you need.
"But, my daughter, if this house is inhabited," said Madame Obinski, "would it perhaps be an indiscretion to present ourselves there?"
- Bah ! resumed André, the landlady doesn't live there yet; besides, she is so good, so welcoming! At the same time he took a key, and, preceding the company, he advanced with them towards the pretty manor.
On entering, Juliette, ever more cheerful, more playful, exclaimed: "It's a pity that I'm not a fairy, otherwise I'd wave my wand, and our lunch would find us here." She had hardly uttered these words when a door opened in front of her; and one saw in the middle of a charming dining-room, shaded by a beautiful trellis with its green foliage, a table covered with pastries of all kinds, exquisite creams and magnificent fruits, the sight of which alone excited the appetite.
“Hey! but, if you are not a fairy, you have at least some magician at your disposal, said the mother, much astonished.
"I'm beginning to believe that it is so," replied Juliette, laughing; because this rustic banquet seems to be intended for us. However, I see from the number of covers that other guests are to attend with us, and my amiable magician should urge them to come without delay. »
At the same moment the door opened, and the Granville family came to embrace Mme. thanked them for teaming up with his daughter to give her a pleasant surprise.
We lunched cheerfully, served by André and his mother, who showed as much zeal as intelligence; after the meal we went into a small living room furnished with taste, and which offered a delicious view. “What a charming retreat! exclaimed Madame Obinski, still unaware that this dwelling was intended for her; how sweet and peaceful life must flow here! one breathes a calm there which rests the soul agreeably.
"However, I find this place a little lonely," said the Baroness in turn.
_ This is precisely what gives it the most charm in my eyes, resumed Juliette's mother. If we could live here in the midst of all our affections, it would be, in my opinion, a real Elysée.
"If this Elysée belonged to you, you would no doubt allow your friends to come sometimes to learn from you how to live happily in
"You can't doubt it, because I only understand happiness in the midst of those I love."
- Well ! dear mother, said Juliette then, urge those you love to come each day to embellish this retreat that pleases you with their presence.
"What are you saying, my daughter?" I don't follow you.
“I say,” resumed the happy child, “this little house is yours; that these tender friends deigned to lend themselves to my desire to buy it and to see you established there with my beloved Marianne; that finally, forgetting themselves, they allow my Lucie to come and live with us in this house, as long as my care is useful to her. »
At these words, Madame Obinski's eyes filled with tears. She held out her hand to her daughter, then looking at Monsieur and Madame de Granville with the greatest sensitivity: "In truth," she said to them, "I am overwhelmed under the weight of my happiness!" O my good, my excellent friends! How can I express my gratitude to you?
'This feeling,' replied the baron, 'is so thoroughly confused between us today that henceforth it would be impossible to say which must feel the greater part of it; so, believe me, my worthy friend, let us think henceforth only of cherishing one another, without concerning ourselves on which side the obligation lies. We have, moreover, my Adele and I, no other merit in this circumstance than to have consented to the desire shown by our dear Juliette to fix here
your residence, while we hoped to keep you always with her at the castle: but finally, if this new arrangement pleases you more, we must see above all your satisfaction. This habitation is too close to ours, communications between us will be too easy for you not to agree to lighten our privation by accompanying our two dear daughters to our house every day; in this way the separation will be less noticeable to us.
—Ah! I will only need to consult my heart for that,” answered Madame Obinski affectionately, holding out her hand to the colonel.
He then urged him to finish visiting his little estate. Everywhere the care of friendship and filial tenderness were noticeable down to the smallest details; so the happy mother could not tire of expressing her gratitude and lively satisfaction. Marianne, no less amazed, no less moved, exhaled her feelings as she furtively pressed the hand of Juliette, who had called her her beloved, and who whispered to her: "This is your house, do you hear?" everything is yours as it is ours. I don't want you to work anymore; henceforth you will be served as my second mother.
"I accept this title," replied the excellent woman; for I deserve it by my tenderness; but, I conjure you, allow me to serve you always; this is my life, my happiness, for me, I don't want any other. »
A few days later, Madame Obinski, Juliette, Lucie and Marianne came to settle in the little estate, and from that moment the use of each hour of the day was regulated so well that there was not a single one that was filled with something useful or pleasant. The Baroness came assiduously to take part in the lessons her daughter was receiving, and found that time passed so rapidly that she had become almost as frugal as her two friends.
M. de Granville, having retired, devoted himself entirely to agriculture. Led by him, resources multiplied in Bert's village. . ., and he could finally hope to see an improvement in the lot of these good peasants, who regarded him as a father. Juliette and Lucie also contributed to this improvement by continuing to devote a few moments each day to visiting the poor. Constantly watching over their various needs, they gave them religious instructions and the most charitable care when sickness happened to surprise them. They managed, moreover, with the help of an annual expense which M. de Granville reserved for himself, to found schools, where the children of both sexes were kept and instructed, while their parents went to their daily work. In this way, everything went on, everything was regularized in the village; for virtue, like a magnet, attracts everything to itself. We knew that, to deserve the protection and the interest of the two young friends, it was necessary to follow the path they had traced, and each threw themselves into it without difficulty, happy to follow such models. Oh ! how then they felt the sweetness one tastes in doing good! How sweet and pure were all their pleasures!
The end of each day was the most precious moment for the two families: we met happily; every action of the day was seen with complete confidence; new projects were formed for the morrow in which charity always had something to do with it, and life passed peacefully by, without a single bad thought, of those thoughts which the world and its sad passions give birth to, came to disturb the sweetness of this harmony.
Often the melodious song of the two young girls was heard; often also the voice of the baroness blended with their accents, and these concerts were such a delicious pleasure for M. de Granville and Mme. Obinski that they forgot all the ills they had suffered and shook hands like good friends arrived at the port, after having experienced the same storms.
It was in the midst of these pure pleasures, which many people have within their reach without knowing how to enjoy them, that the inhabitants of the castle of Bert. . . learned of the events of 1815. We know that, shortly after, the allies invaded France for the second time, and that terror spread again in the countryside as in the capital.
Long before these events, Juliette had announced to General de W" that she had had the good fortune to find her mother again, and this noble stranger, who was the first cause of it, had responded to this token of gratitude by offering again to his young protegee his services, if they could be useful to him. One usually attaches oneself to the happy ones one has made, and M. de W*** had too much generosity in his feelings ever to forget the inhabitants of Bert... Also, when the allied troops returned to French territory, he sent to the castle, which was not far from the frontiers, a new backup; in this way, the two families, who met at that time under the same roof , were preserved from any kind of exaction.
When the Emperor Alexander had returned to Paris, the Russian general, ever more zealous for the interests of the mother and the daughter, wrote them an urgent letter asking them to come and greet this monarch. "I spoke to him about you," he told them, "and he immediately expressed a desire to witness your happiness." You cannot now dispense with bringing him the homage of your gratitude. »
This letter excited in Juliette's soul more sadness than pleasure; for, whatever were her feelings of gratitude for the Emperor of Russia, she could not dream, without a kind of fear, of leaving her charming retreat, and of appearing in the midst of this world in which she had remained until then. almost entirely foreign.
A new circumstance further increased his reluctance to be absent from Bert. . . : Lucie had just completed her eighteenth year: she was then the most accomplished young person in the province, as much by her dazzling beauty as by her talents, the charm of her character, and all the virtues that her young teacher had germinated in his soul, Already many times his hand had been sought by various opulent families, and always his refusals had driven away the aspirants. However, there had just presented himself one who seemed destined to prevail over his rivals, for he united all the votes by his personal qualities, the nobility of his character, and the distinguished name he bore. The proprieties of fortune, moreover, left nothing to be desired; Above all these considerations, the Comte de C*** promised never to separate Lucie from her parents and from the dear friend to whom she owed all her virtues. This promise so important to the happiness of Bert's little colony. . . obtained for the Comte de C*** the preference he desired, and the marriage was settled.
It was this very interesting circumstance which doubled Juliette's repugnance for the trip to Paris. To be away from her Lucie, from her beloved sister, at such a moment, seemed to her a painful sacrifice from which she would have liked to be able to escape. Lucie, for her part, at the first news of this trip, had shed tears; but the friends, meeting in council, judged that there was no way of avoiding it. It was therefore necessary to settle for a separation which they promised to shorten as much as possible. However, the marriage was postponed until the mother and daughter returned, and the two, followed by Marianne, took the road to Paris.
Modesty is to virtue what a veil is to beauty: it brings out its brilliance.
The two young people had promised to write to each other every day. They religiously kept this promise, and we believe we should extract from this correspondence, which portrayed their mutual affection, a letter from the young governess to her pupil.
"Paris, July 20, 1815.
"You are bored away from me, dear Lucie," she said to him; ah! I am half, I assure you, in all your sentiments; it even seems to me that the turbulent life, of which this immense city offers me the picture, increases my sadness even more. How much better is our peaceful retirement than this agitation which continually tears you from yourself! In our woods, in our fields, we feel alive, whereas here existence passes and rushes like water from a torrent that escapes our gaze.
“No, I can't imagine how people can enjoy themselves in the midst of so much noise and various sensations. However, there are people who think they are happy there! . . These balls, these shows, all these pleasures where they run, what can they offer them, if not the shadow of what they are looking for? In truth, one would say that they only want to feed on illusions, and one is forced to pity them, thinking of the sad realities that will appear to them when the prestige will have disappeared.
“Praise God for having freed us from this need for restlessness, from these dangerous tastes which keep us away from true happiness. We are still very young, no doubt, and the seductions of the world are often very attractive at our age; but we have tasted too pure a happiness in the midst of retirement and family affections to seek it elsewhere.
“O my Lucy! How many happy days we spent in our dear solitude, and with what sweet satisfaction did you not fill my heart, when I saw you multiply your
efforts to arrive at the practice of all the virtues which today embellish your soul! Let me tell you that never did a teacher begin an education with more fear, and never found success easier and more real: the instinct for good was in you; I had only to develop it there.
“Thanks to the docility with which you lent yourself to my care, you now possess the education and the talents that a reasonable woman could wish to acquire, and you will be able to perfect them still further, if you continue to devote, every day, a few hours to study. You know that this habit is an inexhaustible source of enjoyment in all situations; may it transform isolation and solitude, which are the terror of futile minds, into delights. Your readings up to now have been a useful relaxation, because we have carefully avoided imaginative works, which are only fit to disgust with the realities of life, to enervate the heart and to nourish it with chimeras. The productions of genius which present a sound morality are the only ones which please you, and these, in fact, can only sustain you in the love of truth and further heighten in your eyes the sublimity of virtue.
“Thanks also to distant walks and rural work with which we interspersed our studies, you have found this flourishing health, so necessary for the exercise of all our intellectual faculties, and which makes us enjoy more fully the goods which are within our reach.
“Finally, you have thoroughly studied your Christian duties, and you are blissful in accomplishing them. This is above all what gives me joy; if I had failed you in this respect, my whole life would have been troubled.
“However, my dear Lucie, there is a pitfall that I have sometimes pointed out to you, and against which we must always be on our guard: that pitfall is vanity. It is said that in the world a crowd of idle or corrupt men are only occupied in spying on this defect in our sex in order to make weapons against it, and we are forced to admit that many women lend themselves only too well to supplying them. Some, attaching value only to their external advantages, and forgetting that nothing is so short as the reign of beauty, get drunk on the incense that is lavished on them, and thus prepare themselves to bitter disappointments, often even eternal regrets. The others, apparently more reasonable, disdain such praise, and show themselves eager only for the admiration which their talents or their wit arouses. These two sorts of vanities seem to me equally fatal, for they expose themselves to the same attacks, and consequently to the same dangers. I am, moreover, quite convinced that you will always be able to protect yourself from the first, it only takes a little reason to find it absurd; but perhaps the second would frighten me for you, if I did not know how docile you are to the advice of friendship. I have noticed that your expansive and tender soul often makes you crave the approval of all around you, that you are sensitive to praise, that you even attach a very high value to those of strangers. I am not saying that this is not very natural: the votes we obtain are an encouragement to do even better; but the noble emulation they arouse in us must not degenerate into vanity; nothing is so close to a defect as a quality the use of which one does not know how to regulate, and it is above all to that of which we are speaking that one must know how to set just limits.
“Beware also of trying to take the dice of conversation in the circles where you will be obliged to appear. In general, men reproach our sex for talking too much, and especially for talking inconsiderately. In this respect, I believe that there are many among them who could address the same reproach; nevertheless this is not a reason to adopt a defect which could make us ridiculous in the eyes of sensible people. To know how to speak and to be silent about it is to know how to make good use of the intelligence that Heaven has given us; but to speak in order to shine, to speak in order to occupy oneself, is to spend in ruinous futilities the treasures of this same intelligence, it is to expose oneself to all the dangers which vanity entails.
"In the interior of the family, on the contrary, when we are surrounded only by friends, we can indulge without fear in those sweet chats, where our thoughts escape, so to speak without our knowledge, and in which the expression of our most intimate feelings is discovered, because then our words, far from being misinterpreted, have charm for those who cherish us. It is also in the midst of them that we must make use of all the talents we have acquired, if they can contribute to offering them some pleasant distractions. There alone we enjoy with complete security the suffrages they obtain: when it is friendship that praises, vanity is silent, and the heart alone receives the praise.
“Woman, my Lucie, has a great task in this world: she must, forgetting herself, devote to the happiness of those around her all the faculties, all the means with which nature has endowed her. , without which his mission on earth is only imperfectly fulfilled. This happiness of which I speak, you have given it hitherto to your family; henceforth you will owe a large part of it to the husband who is destined for you, or rather you will have to devote yourself exclusively to making him happy, and to multiplying enjoyments around him, if you want him to bless his bonds.
“Many inconsiderate young girls think they have done everything when they agree to change their name, and do not suspect what this community of existence that they accept commits them to. Marriage, however, seems to me a serious state, into which too much reflection cannot be made. To rely on one's youth, on one's external charms, to find lasting happiness there, is a great mistake. I have always heard my mother say that it is only by the qualities of the soul that a woman can captivate the affection and esteem of her husband.
You will obtain these sentiments from yours, for you possess all that is necessary to give them birth, and it will be enough for you, to preserve them, to follow the inspirations that God will place in your heart.
“But farewell, farewell, my very dear Lucie All occupied with you, I forgot that it is tomorrow that my mother and I will be presented to the Emperor Alexander, and that our zealous protector will come to announce the time designated by the prince. If you knew how moved I am thinking of this crowd of courtiers that we will have to cross to reach him! It seems to me that the first time I had more courage; it was because then I was animated by a thought which absorbed all the others. Today that I no longer have the same motive, all my shyness has returned. But in the end one must obey; and then, when I have fulfilled this duty, am I not sure of going to join you? Ah! may we never be separated again, my Lucy! Tell your good parents how happy their Juliette will be to see them again! »
The day after this letter was written, Madame Obinski and her daughter were in fact conducted by the Russian general before the Emperor Alexander, and they received from this monarch a welcome so flattering, so full of kindness, that Juliette felt her trouble.
"So I find you happy?" said the prince to her, seeing her enter: but you have bought happiness by many pains.
"They are all forgotten, Sire, since Your Majesty has given my mother back to me," replied Juliette.
"How did I help give it back to you?" asked Alexander with the most marked expression of interest.
"By breaking the irons of my benefactor, Sire: it was the Baron de Granville who found this dear mother, and who brought her back into my arms."
"Indeed," resumed the Emperor, "I now remember that M. de W**, who has a quite paternal interest in you, told me of this circumstance." “Then, turning to Mrs. Obinski, whose extreme thinness still attested to the long sufferings, he wanted to learn from her mouth the events which had separated her from her daughter, and what had kept her in Russia after this separation.
Juliet's mother, by telling this story succinctly, avoided letting the emperor suspect the horrible treatment to which he had been subjected by his criminal guards in the prison of Boriz. . . ; she had promised the secret to the dying Soniska, and this secret she kept from those who could punish; on the other hand, she depicted with such true eloquence the torments she had endured away from her daughter, she expressed so well the joy of having found her again, that the Emperor listened to her with ever increasing benevolence.
“I understand, Madame,” he said to her afterwards, “all that you have suffered, and all the happiness that you must enjoy today; but this happiness, which you both so well deserve, must not be mingled with anxiety. Didn't M. de W*** tell me that the fire in Moscow took away everything you owned?
“Yes, Sire, I lost everything in that great disaster; but Your Majesty has saved me from misfortune by condescending to grant my daughter a pension which she uses only to meet my needs. »
Here the Emperor looked at Juliet with a satisfied air, and said, "That's good, very good." Then, addressing Madame Obinski again, he added: "You will, Madame, make an approximate statement of your losses in Moscow." The inhabitants of this unfortunate town, who have suffered the most, have already received indemnities; I want you to receive some too. Your husband was moreover one of our most distinguished scholars, I must repair the misfortunes which struck his widow and his daughter, by assuring them an independent existence. »
At these words, Juliette and her mother wanted to express their gratitude.
'Don't thank me,' resumed the monarch, with that charming grace which gave so much value to his testimonies of kindness, 'don't thank me; you see clearly that in this it is I who am the happiest. »
Then, greeting them affectionately, he passed into another room where the crowd was waiting for him. Madame Obinski and Juliette then left, their hearts full of such strong emotion that they burst into tears as they got into the carriage of Monsieur de W***, who had not left them.
“It is to you, Monsieur,” said Madame Obinski to him, “that we owe all the benefits with which His Majesty bestows upon us; nothing can ever acquit such generous care.
"You are not mistaken, Madam," replied the brave soldier, "you owe the benefits of our sovereign only to his justice and to the lively interest that Mademoiselle your daughter was able to inspire in him when she appeared before him for the first time."
"But you alone, sir," interrupted Juliette, "had provoked this generous disposition in my favour." Without you, my benefactor would perhaps never have seen his homeland again, and I would never have found my mother.
- Well ! replied M. de W***, "since you want to take me into account for the little I have done, promise me to treat me henceforth as a friend, who will always be devoted to you, and prove your affection to me by not speaking more gratefully. »
Then occupying himself with the interests he had taken to heart with so much zeal, he wanted, on returning to Mme. Fortunately, the titles were among the papers Soniska had returned to him. This statement amounted to a sum of about three hundred thousand francs, and was handed over the same evening to the Emperor Alexander, who immediately ordered that half of this sum be paid to the widow of the learned Obinski, as an indemnity for its losses, and also in payment for the lands which it had abandoned to the city of Moscow. The prince specified, moreover, that Juliette would continue to enjoy the pension which he had previously granted her.
Such a benefit surpassed the hopes that the mother and daughter had been able to conceive, and they returned a thousand thanks to God for all the blessings with which he deigned to bestow upon them after so many trials. Both of them had learned too much, in the midst of misfortune, to be satisfied with little, to attach a great value to the fortune which was returned to them: but this fortune, which exceeded their ambition, was going to put them in a position to to extend the help which they liked to offer to the unfortunate, and it was for both of them a new source of felicity.
A few days later they took leave of the generous friend who had so zealously protected them. Madame Obinski, on leaving him, begged him to send a very pretty present from her to Soniska's nephew and niece, for whom she remained deeply grateful; and the obliging general promised to be their support henceforth.
Finally our travelers took the road to Bert. . ., where they were eagerly awaited. Seeing her friends again, Juliette's heart quivered with joy, for this brief absence had made her feel still more how dear they were to her, and how much she was loved by them. “Don't leave us again,” said the Baroness to her with a lively outpouring of tenderness, “you know very well that the happiness we enjoy is your work, and that without you it would be incomplete. »
Lucie's wedding took place the next day, in the midst of a numerous and brilliant assembly, which could not weary of admiring the two young friends. Both, equally beautiful and virtuous, were deeply moved and conveyed their emotion to the souls of all those present. Leaving the altar, Lucie threw herself into her parents' arms; then, passing into those of her governess, she said to her: "Always be my sister, my friend, my model, and I shall be sure of my happiness." »