4th series: The good Fridolin - Theodora - The garland of hops
by Canon CHRISTOPHE SCHMID
Alfred Mame and son, publishers, Tours, 1873.
The Good Fridolin
Footnotes: in Le bon Fridolin, three of the characters are condemned to the scaffold and
kiss an image of Christ handed to them before being executed. See here.
Fridolin was a charming young boy, with an excellent heart and a naturally cheerful mood. One day he went early to the forest to gather some dry wood. It was he who, in spite of his tender age, had the previous summer brought on his head almost all the supply of wood which was to be used to heat the cabin during the winter. Happy to be able to relieve his poor parents in their hard work, he went again this year to the neighboring forest, and set to work. He showed an indefatigable ardor in collecting all the dead branches he could find, and did not rest until he had collected a good bundle, as big as his strength allowed him to carry.
Loaded with this heavy burden, he made his way to his father's house. Leaving the dark forest, he entered a charming valley, which the sun lit up and warmed with its rays. Across the flowery lawn flowed a little stream, lined with various plants and thorny bushes. Fridolin went up to the spring, which, limpid and pure as crystal, gushed from a rock shaded by a magnificent beech tree. Some distance away he saw the first strawberries of the year; he gathered plenty of it, then sat down on the moss at the foot of the beech tree to take his modest meal, which consisted of a piece of black bread; the spring, clear and fresh, furnished him with drink, and the purple strawberries were his dessert.
But before eating he took off his cap, clasped his hands, and, raising his soul to God, said his prayer with that childlike candor so rarely found among the rich, who sit at tables covered with precious dishes and laden with twenty different dishes, without bothering to bless the author of these gifts. As for Fridolin, contentment and appetite seasoned his frugal meal. " Oh! How happy I am, he said, to be able to eat my bread here, in the shade of this beautiful tree! How good the bread seems, when one has earned it by one's work! It is you, O my God, who give me food, health and a good appetite every day; Receive my thanksgiving! How fresh and pleasant this shade is! the king himself could not make a more delicious meal. My table, it is true, is not as sumptuous as his: the rich have white tablecloths; mine is of a magnificent green, dotted with such pretty country flowers that the needle of the most skilful embroiderer could not produce such perfect ones. My dessert, he added, smiling and glancing at his strawberries, was prepared by someone whose science is much more admirable than that of the first confectioner in town: by God -even. I am not surrounded by guards; but the trees surround me with their cool shade, and you, dear little birds, perched on these branches, you regale me for free with music that is well worth another. »
While Fridolin was thus talking to himself, he saw coming out of a thick thicket, situated at the top of the hill, a goat followed by its fawn. She remained motionless for a moment, looked timidly around her, raising her ears, then descended into the valley, raising her light feet cautiously to jump over the hedges and tree trunks: the little roe deer bounded around her mother. After drinking at the spring, she began to graze on the grass, while her little one hopped around cheerfully.
At this sight, still quite new to him, young Fridolin remained motionless; he barely dared to breathe. Her heart quivered with pleasure. What pretty animals! he thought; what graceful forms and what vivacity! How glad I am to have come to the forest this morning! you can admire something new there every day.
At the same moment he heard a loud detonation, which the echo of the forest made resound like a clap of thunder. Fridolin was seized with such fear that he nearly rolled to the bottom of the mound on which he was seated; the poor child trembled in all his limbs. The noise came from a gunshot. The goat, stretched out on the ground, struggled in the convulsions of death, heaving plaintive sighs; and her child, sad beside her, seemed to share her pain.
A few moments later a pale-faced boy in a ragged jacket came out of the undergrowth;
He had a gun in his hand, and, having rushed upon the animal which he had just slaughtered, he finished killing it with the blows of his butt. “Oh! ah! this time finally you didn't miss me. Here you are, cast down and fallen into my power. »
Another ill-looking individual, whose hair was dirty and flowing, and a thick beard, also came running up, his clothes almost in tatters, and carrying a rusty rifle under his arm. This man took the goat that the young man had killed, loaded it on his shoulders, and, perceiving Fridolin, fled as fast as he could. The little boy, bolder, stopped for a moment, stared fixedly at the good Fridolin, and also fled.
Fridolin, who had not yet completely recovered from his first fright, had seen with amazement what had just happened. They are poachers, he told himself, people barbarous enough to slaughter this poor animal in front of its young, which they thus expose to starvation. It is clear that they do not have a clear conscience, since the appearance of a weak child like me makes them tremble and forces them to run away. Ah! this wicked deed will not bring them happiness.
At this moment the little roe deer came out of the brushwood behind which it had cowered when the poachers appeared. The poor little animal wandered here and there, looking for its mother and uttering plaintive cries. Fridolin gently approached the roe deer, which sank into the bush at the foot of an oak tree; the amiable child caressed him, saying: “Ah! poor little animal, how much you are to be pitied! now you no longer have a mother, and you are going to starve; for, as I see, you haven't yet got the teeth to graze on the grass. Poor child, how I pity you! »
Meanwhile the old forest ranger Maurice, who was then making his rounds in the forest, had rushed to the place from which he had heard the gunshot. From a distance he saw Fridolin on his knees behind a bush and stroking a deer; he had the curiosity to hide behind a tree to listen and observe this child.
Fridolin still continued to stroke the charming animal and to examine it with extreme pleasure. "How nice you are," he would say; how sweet you look! How he looks at me with his big black eyes! Erase the brown color of your hair contrasts nicely with the whiteness of your chest! and that little black nose! how well you are! That I would like to take you home, take care of you, bring you up, but I wouldn't dare; you don't belong to me, you belong to the game warden. I will take you to his house; as long as he doesn't kill you! no, he will not; I am going to beg him so well, that he will leave you alive; moreover, perhaps he will find a way to bring you up.
Maurice, who had slipped from tree to tree as far as behind the big oak without being seen, Maurice had heard everything; he smiled with pleasure, stroking his chin as usual. When Fridolin got up to go, carrying the little roe deer in his arms, he saw the gamekeeper in front of him, and was very frightened; but the honest Maurice said to him with a benevolent air: "Don't be afraid, my little friend, I won't hurt you." I heard everything you said to that poor animal, and I know you intend to bring it to me. Well ! if you want, I give it to you: take it home; you can raise it easily with a little cow's milk mixed with a third of water. When he is older and has teeth, he will eat grass and feed himself. The good Fridolin, transported with joy, thanked the good Maurice; then, with the fagot on his head and the deer under his arm, he left to return to the house. "Farewell, my little friend," the hunter said to him, "keep your honesty well, always remain an honest man, and you will not fail to be happy." »
Back home, Fridolin put his fagot in a corner, and hastened to find his mother to show her his little deer. His mother scolded him a lot. “Small wretch! she said to him, what did you dare to do? you caught this young deer in the forest! It's absolutely as if you stole it. If the game warden were to find out, he wouldn't let you set foot in the forest again, and in winter you would die of cold: for where can we get wood to keep us warm? Do we know if they will not put you in prison to punish you for your larceny?... And even if this theft would remain hidden from the eyes of men, do you think that the good Lord is unaware of it and that he does not don't think about punishing him later? How did you not fear doing a wicked deed before the All-Seeing One? Listen, Fridolin, I order you to take this roe deer back to the forest at once, to the very place where you caught it, so that this unfortunate animal can find its mother. In the same place, do you hear? and go quickly.
“But, my dear mother,” replied Fridolin, “listen to me a little before getting angry. Then he told him what had happened in the forest, and how it had happened that the gamekeeper had given him this beautiful roe deer.
'Well,' resumed the mother, 'it's different; but how will you feed and raise this young animal? Your little bowl of milk every morning is, with black bread and potatoes, your only food, and you still want to share it with your deer?
—Hey! why not ? replied Fridolin cheerfully. Shouldn't we willingly sacrifice part of what we have to help those in need? Must we not be merciful, even to animals! It would be barbaric to let this poor little beast starve to death. You have often told me yourself that there is no alms more meritorious in the eyes of God than that which a poor person gives to another poor person... If you allow me to keep this nice animal, what I will give him to preserve his life will also be a kind of alms, and I am sure that the good Lord will reward us for it one day. »
The pious mother smiled, and had nothing more to object. Fridolin brought up the young deer, sharing his cup of milk with him, and arranged a very warm bed of straw for him in a corner of the house, and took the greatest care of it.
In a short time the friendly animal was able to recognize the attentions of its young master; he could make out his voice, he came to meet him when he came home, finally he got used to following him everywhere, even into the forest. Fridolin need not fear that this faithful animal would desert. Often, when busy collecting firewood or picking strawberries, the deer would step aside for a few moments to browse on the grass; but as soon as Fridolin, tired of work, sat down under a tree to rest, the roe-deer immediately came back to lie down at his feet to rest too. Everyone admired the kindness of this animal; and in the beginning, when Fridolin returned home, his fagot on his head and followed by his little roe deer, which obeyed him with the intelligence and the docility of a dog, he was often accompanied to the house by a troop joyful young children who looked at them with admiration.
The son of a wealthy village proprietor came one day to see Fridolin's parents and asked to buy the young deer; but Fridolin replied that he would not give his dear animal for two hundred francs. " Bah ! said the mother, you won't always be of the same opinion. »
The father then spoke, and said to his wife: “Let our child enjoy in peace what makes all his joy. Fridolin shows us that even the poorest can still find in this world pleasures and enjoyments which do not cost him an obol, and which he prefers to all the gold of an empire. You, you love your little garden, you take pleasure in seeing your beans with their fire-colored flowers, your sunflowers so well colored in yellow and black, and your pretty rosebush; I take my greatest pleasure in caring for the two young apple trees which I planted myself in front of our door, and the thick branches of the old pear tree which shades our cottage give me particular satisfaction. Well, our Fridolin owes all his joy to his deer. He whose heart is touched at the sight of the beauties of nature, who delights in contemplating the innumerable works issued from the hand of God, and whose religious soul knows how to relate everything to the glory of the Eternal; that one, however poor he may be, will always feel rich enough,
for he will find everywhere objects which will interest him, and pure and innocent pleasures, far superior to the vain and pernicious amusements of the world. »
Nicolas and Marguerite, Fridolin's good parents, lived at the end of the village of Haselbach. Their thatched cabin looked as old as the age-old pear tree that shaded it. A thick layer of moss covered the roof, and its greenery contrasted with the greyish color of the walls. Beside the house was a small vegetable garden, which hardly occupied any more space, and surrounded by a hedge of thorns. At the sight of such a wretched cabin and such a cramped garden, the passer-by could not fail to say to himself: The inhabitants of this cottage must be very poor people.
And yet that did not prevent Nicolas from being the happiest man in the whole country. The rich farmers with whom he worked by the day to help harvest the wheat or thresh it in the barn, envied his always jovial humor, and sometimes said to him: "How is it that you are always so happy and so cheerful? , you who are poor like Job?
'You are mistaken,' replied Nicolas, 'I am not as poor as you think; I have a powerfully rich father who never lets me lack what is necessary: he is my heavenly Father. You see, he added, laughing, under the rags that cover me, I possess a treasure that I wouldn't give for a hundred thousand francs: it's a pure conscience. Besides that, I enjoy good health, thank God, and my two arms are always there to feed me every day, as well as my wife and my child: what would I be upset about? »
Marguerite could not always share her husband's constant serenity; often he was heard moaning about being poor. “How carefree you are! she said to him one evening while he was whistling a ditty as he sharpened his scythe to go and mow the grass the next day; you never think of anything.
- To nothing! replied Nicolas, laughing; For example ! that would be very bad of me. Don't you see that I am sharpening my scythe, so that it will be sharper tomorrow morning! What do you want me to think about again?
"We don't have a penny at home, and if something bad happened to us, what would become of us?"
- Ah! if we were to have money in reserve to remedy all possible evils, we would need a considerable amount of it. Do you believe that there is a single man in the world who has enough hard cash to ward off all the misfortunes that may befall him?
— Alas! you must not ignore that an epidemic fever reigns in our village: and we could very well fall ill too.
“Of course we could. But what's the use of worrying in advance? Placing sorrows and worries in your head is not a good way to feel well; on the contrary, it is detrimental to health. If, however, we should fall ill and could no longer earn our bread, well! leave it to God to provide for it; he understands it much better than you; his protection will be effective for you, while your cares are useless.
- You're always like that, you! and if we were to die, we would leave nothing at all to our poor little Fridolin.
- Nothing at all ? exclaimed Nicolas, rising and laying down his scythe: you are mistaken, my dear Marguerite; me, on the contrary, I believe that we will leave him better than a big bag of money, it is a solid Christian instruction and a good education. Is there in the world a good more precious than the fear of God, the love of work, moderation in desires and fear of sin? Do you believe that such a rich treasure is a bad inheritance? that there isn't enough to ensure Fridolin's happiness better than a great fortune? Let us apply ourselves to bringing up our child in the principles of piety and virtue, and I will not be worried about his future. Although poor, he will be, like me, cheerful and happy. A joyful heart free from sorrows, that is the best we can desire on earth; what use are the greatest riches when they are lacking? Let us put all our trust in God, my dear wife, do good and be joyful, and we will always be happy. »
The injured person.
Finally Nicolas managed to communicate to his wife his trust in God and his cheerful mood. They were happy and content in the practice of religion and virtue. Their son, formed by their example even better than by their wise lessons, breathed in their midst righteousness and piety as one breathes the air; he resembled them, and all three lived in the sweetest union.
However, a great misfortune came and plunged this amiable family into desolation. Nicolas was one day in the forest busy splitting wood; other woodcutters, not far from him, were chopping down an old oak tree. For lack of precaution, the tree fell suddenly, and precisely on the side where Nicolas was working. The woodcutters shouted to warn him, but he could not run away quickly enough; a large branch hit him and knocked him down under its weight. He received several wounds, one of which was very serious in the right arm. All the workmen rushed at once to free him; they bandaged his wounds with their cravats, and then made a stretcher, on which they carried him home.
Fridolin and his mother were greatly alarmed when they heard the cries of the crowd which had gathered in the street; but what was their terror when they saw from the window poor Nicolas brought in on a stretcher, pale as death! They descended in haste, and shed a torrent of tears. "Don't be so sorry, my friends," said the wounded man; it is God who has sent us this misfortune. Without his will no leaf is detached from the branch: he also allowed this tree to reach me by falling. Let us receive from his hand the sufferings without a murmur, and he will know how to turn them to our happiness. Everything God does is well done; this firm conviction is enough to soften what could be painful in our position. »
Fridolin ran quickly to fetch the surgeon. The latter, after examining the wound in the arm, found it very dangerous; but he hoped to cure her. However, the wound, instead of improving, took on a more and more alarming character, and one day the surgeon, raising the device, said, shaking his head, that it might be necessary to cut off the arm. Judge of the terror of mother and son! Marguerite, in consternation, immediately decided to go to a neighboring town to beg a very renowned surgeon to come and see her husband. The latter was indeed very skilful, but unfortunately also very self-interested; and as soon as he learned that he was only called for a poor day-labourer, he cared little to disturb himself and to run three leagues. He therefore limited himself to prescribing the plants which were to be applied as a compress to the wound, assuring that they would suffice for healing. Marguerite, fearing it was a vain consolation, begged him on her knees to have pity on her husband; but it was useless. Sorry and her eyes still red with tears, she went home; and, after having informed her husband of the bad success of her step, she added: “Ah! I can clearly see today that it is a great misfortune to be poor! »
But the wise Nicolas answered her: "Don't worry so much, my good Marguerite, and beware of giving more confidence to a base metal than to the living God." The doctors abandon me: well! the Lord will come to our aid; he will know how to pour a refreshing balm on my wounds and effect their healing, if such is his holy will. Don't worry, he knows our misery, and he at least won't abandon us. »
Poor Fridolin was constantly grieving; he had turned pale, and all his gaiety had disappeared; he barely looked at his roe deer which he had loved so much. He constantly prayed to God for the healing of his father.
“Lord, he said, have mercy on us; come to our aid while there is still time; deign to fulfill your promise in us, good and charitable God! for you said, Call on me in the day of your trouble, and I will deliver you from it, and you will glorify me. »
Help from Heaven.
A league from the village of Haselbach, on the other side of the forest, was the castle of the Count of Finkenstein. One day, after dinner, this lord, a great lover of hunting, went into the forest, accompanied by his wife's brother, a major in one of the regiments of the guard, and who had come to spend a few days with him. Young Frederick, son of M. de Finkenstein, had obtained the favor of taking part. Old Maurice, the gamekeeper, also accompanied them. After prowling for a long time in the forest without encountering any piece of game, Maurice, wishing at least to give his young master the pleasure of firing a gun, said to Frédéric: "Do you see this field of clover next to this copse? hazelnuts; I'll bet there's some hare hiding there. Let's see; but be careful, Monsignor, and don't miss your shot. »
After Maurice had designated the most advantageous place for Frederick, and the two other gentlemen had likewise laid themselves in ambush, he entered the copse, followed by an excellent hunting dog, and ran through it in all directions. Suddenly the dog barked, and Fridolin's charming deer sprang from the brushwood, thirty paces from Frederic. The latter takes aim at it, the shot goes off, and the deer, frightened, flees. Fortunately, the charming animal had not been hit, and Frederic followed him with a sort of vexation. He was greatly astonished to see this beast heading at full speed towards the village, nimbly crossing the narrow plank thrown over the stream from the mill, and boldly entering the first house in the place as if it were coming home.
The Count and the Major rush up and ask Frederick what he has killed. He told them that he had missed a young deer, which had fled to a cottage at the end of the village, where he had entered straight. Frédéric did not know that you could tame deer. Maurice informed him of it, and told him the story of this animal, which he had formerly given to Fridolin. The young count, wishing to see this pretty deer up close, asked permission to go to the hut. It was granted, and he ran with all the agility of his age towards the cottage, while his father, his uncle, and old Maurice followed him slowly.
When he entered the more than modest but very clean room, where the unfortunate Nicolas was lying in his bed, the young Frederic saw Fridolin, seated on a bench, busy sharing his bread with the young roe deer, who, placed in front of him, took the pieces from his master's hand; he received it all the more abundantly because, in this moment of affliction, poor Fridolin felt little appetite. Frederick had not paid much attention to the patient; he only had eyes for the friendly deer; he was delighted to see it so soft, so familiar, and to be able to caress it without the animal being startled.
In the meantime, the two lords, as well as Maurice, arrived in front of Nicolas' cabin.
Then the major said to his brother-in-law: "As this charming village belongs to you and I don't know it yet, I would really like to visit it." Go, in the meantime, find your son Frédéric in this cottage, I will not be long in joining you. »
The major went away with the hunter, and the count entered the cottage; there he saw the patient, in whom he showed great interest, inquiring with touching kindness of the cause of his sufferings. At this moment Frederick took his father aside, and whispered to him to ask if they could make up their minds to sell him the deer.
"I will let him run in the great park of the chateau," he said, "and I assure you, dear Papa, that this little animal would give me great pleasure." »
Fridolin, having guessed at once the secret desire of the young count, approached and said: “I refused, a long time ago, a rather large sum for my deer, not wishing to get rid of it at any price; but at this moment I would gladly sell it, for the money I would get from it would be used to pay the town surgeon to come and cure my father. »
M. de Finkenstein, moved by the filial love of this good son and the painful situation of the father, gave three crowns of six francs to the young Fridolin, who, having never had such a large sum in his hands, believed himself immensely rich. The noble lord was about to retire and confine himself, for the moment, to this act of charity, the condition of the wounded man not appearing to him so alarming. However, the eighteen francs would have been but a small resource for poor Nicolas in the cruel position in which he found himself, if God, whose wisdom and goodness are admirable, had not turned his illness into happiness and his very sufferings. Also, in the present circumstances, the Almighty manifested himself in a brilliant way as the one who knows how to prepare in advance and send, at the most propitious moment, the help which man needs in his distress.
While the count, his son, and Fridolin were still conversing together, the major, coming to join them, entered the little room. He was a handsome man, of tall stature; he was obliged to take off his hat, surmounted by a plume, so as not to touch the ceiling. He sat down near the patient's bed, showed him much interest, questioned him about his position, and asked him, among other things, if he had not some relatives or friends in the village in a position to relieve him.
Nicolas replied that he was not born in this commune, and that there were no relatives.
“Where are you from? asked the major.
— I am a native of Grunval, a small town thirty leagues from here.
- Ah! you are from Grunval! This place is well known to me, and I will remember it for a long time; for an adventure has happened to me which could have had disastrous consequences for me had it not been for the prompt intervention of a certain Nicolas Werner, who saved me from imminent danger.
"That's my name," said the patient; My name is Nicholas Werner.
- How ! your name is Nicholas Werner! you are from Grunval! exclaimed the major beside himself; he took the patient by the hand and looked at him attentively without adding a single word. Finally he said to Nicolas: "Yes, it's you." Although I have only seen you once in my life, your features will never leave my memory. You are much changed! your face was then brilliant with youth and freshness; today I see you pale and burned by the sun; but those big black eyes, so gentle and so lively at the same time, are always the same, I recognize them perfectly.
“I believe, sir, that you are in the wrong person; I don't remember ever seeing you.
- Oh! yes, I am certain of it, you have seen me; and, since it seems that you have forgotten it, I am going to remind you of the place and the circumstances. Listen to me, this is an adventure of my youth.
“One day, when I was eighteen years old, I was riding through the forest near Grunval on horseback to spend the holidays with one of my friends who was studying at the same time as me. My outfit was sought after, and the suitcase tied behind me was well stocked. The sun was about to set, and I was calmly following the road through the thick forest, when suddenly a terrible voice cried out to me from the depths of the underbrush: “Stop! stopped! My horse galloped; immediately they fired at me; the bullet whistled past my ears; a moment later, a second shot made the forest resound, and the bullet entered my suitcase, where I found it; I still keep it as a memory. At the same time I heard the footsteps of the robbers who set off in pursuit, shouting at me: “Stop! stopped ! or you are dead! My horse went belly to earth, and I was sure of escaping them; unfortunately the road was bad and sloping; my horse fell and threw me under him. Having done myself no harm, I was thinking of freeing myself quickly, when at the moment when I wanted to get back into the saddle, one of the brigands, having had time to catch up with me, rushed at me, saber in hand; he was going to split my head off. At the same moment a robust young man coming out of the forest, a fagot on his head and a heavy stick in his hand, appeared on the side of the road. Seeing me in such danger, throwing down his burden, flying to my aid, and striking a vigorous blow on the brigand's arm, was for the generous young man the affair of a second. The brigand dropped his saber and fled into the brushwood, uttering terrible howls. I immediately picked up the saber that fell at my feet, and found myself in a position to defend myself against the second brigand, who had come up and attacked me vigorously. He was a man of gigantic size and a fearsome exterior; he wielded weapons even more skilfully than the fencing master who had given me lessons, and I would certainly have ended by succumbing in this unequal struggle, if the young man had not applied such terrible blows to him with his gnarled stick. on his back, which the brigand, seeing himself on the point of succumbing to, seized a favorable moment, jumped across the ditch which bordered the road, and disappeared into the thick of the forest. Well, my brother, added the major, finishing his story and addressing the count, the brave young man who was my protective angel, who saved my life, it is poor Nicolas here: say, my friend, aren't you?
'Yes, sir, it's me; I still remember that you wore then a green coat with a collar embroidered with gold, and a hat surmounted by a white plume. Even a bay-brown horse, with a white mark on its forehead, walked with difficulty, because in falling it had crowned itself at the knees. You had to lead him on a leash, and walk the rest of the way; I accompanied you. But just now I would not have been able to recognize in this martial figure the slender young man, with the delicate complexion, that you were then. »
The major, greatly moved, shook his hand, and said: "I owe you eternal gratitude, and I beg your pardon for having delayed so long in acquitting me of this sacred debt." I had inscribed your name on my tablets; but I was then only a frivolous young man. I rarely had enough money at my disposal, and I soon after embraced the military state. Since then the war, throwing me from one country to another, has made me lose sight of this adventure. But I assure you that I have thought of you a thousand times; now I congratulate myself on having found you again, and I thank God for it. »
Nicolas, who did not know that the officer was M. de Finkenstein's brother-in-law, and that he had accompanied him to the village, asked him by what chance he had been able to discover his residence.
"It's this roe deer here," replied the major, "who brought me to your house and showed us the way." This is obviously a provision of Providence; for I have reason to believe that my presence here could be of some use to you, especially in your present position. »
The major then inquired about the patient's situation, which he wanted to know in the smallest details. Having examined the wound, he who in his campaigns had so often had the opportunity to appreciate the seriousness of this kind of accident, he immediately recognized the danger of Nicolas, and said to him: "You do indeed need prompt help; otherwise you might fear gangrene. But let's not be discouraged, and above all let's not waste a moment; you once saved my life, I hope to be happy enough to render you the same service. »
The good lords.
After having thus conversed with the patient, the major rose and announced to him that he was going to return to his brother-in-law's chateau and send an express to the town at once with orders to bring the more skilful surgeon. how disinterested. “A rich reward will be promised to him for your healing,” he added. As for the drugs and other expenses that your needs and those of your family will require, I take care of them, that is my business. So take heart, my friend, everything will be fine, and soon you will be as well as I am. »
Just as he was about to retire, Marguerite arrived with her apron filled with plants which she had collected in the fields on the doctor's advice. She was sad and dejected, and was not a little surprised to find gentlemen of such high distinction near her husband. But, when she had learned what had happened and what it was proposed to do, it was impossible for her to contain herself, so great were the joy and the emotion she felt; she began to cry, fell on her knees and exclaimed: “Oh! thanks, thanks be to you, Almighty Lord, God of goodness! You send us help when we had no more resources, when everything seemed lost. Yes, in the midst of their distress, the poor and the unfortunate find in you a faithful friend. Never before have you abandoned those who put their trust in you. May the faint accents of our sincere gratitude be pleasing to you, O God of goodness, our Heavenly Father! »
Everyone was moved by seeing the sincere piety of this brave woman. Young Frederic was also charmed by all he had just seen and heard; one thing worried him, however, it was the means to be taken to lead the roe deer to the castle. This animal was already too strong to be carried under the arm to Finkenstein; and certainly it was not easy either to lead him with a rope as the butcher leads a calf. No better expedient was found than to beg Fridolin to accompany the company with the docile animal, which followed him like a dog.
The town doctor arrived the same evening; he examined the wound, blamed what the ignorant village surgeon had done, and ended by saying: “It was time; for if I had arrived half a day later, I would have been forced to have the amputation. Now I promise you that in six weeks the wound will be healed. »
From that moment the doctor, mounted on the major's horse and accompanied by one of the chateau servants, came at first every day, and later two or three times a week, to the cottage of the poor day laborer. All care was lavished on him; and, in fact, six weeks later, Fridolin, Marguerite and Nicolas went to the chateau to thank the generous officer for all they owed him. However, the good major, who then had a fine fortune, having learned from the doctor that Nicolas, despite the perfect recovery of his wound, could no longer use his arm for tiring work, gave him a pension with the promise of increasing it. later, as Nicolas and his wife got older. By acquitting the memorandum of the doctor, he seriously exhorted him to show in the future more humanity towards the poor, and not to refuse them the help of science.
As for the young deer, he was perfectly at ease in the large park of the castle. He was the delight of the young count, with whom he was soon as familiar as he had been with Fridolin. It grows and becomes more and more beautiful; the following year, it was already a superb roe deer of first strength. He had retained his savagery only for strangers, and he even showed himself nasty towards unknown people who were not accompanied by the regulars of the castle: he was especially irritated against the little peasants who sometimes slipped into the orchard. to steal fruit. If he saw one, he dashed on him, knocked him down with his horns, and thus fulfilled the functions of country policeman. But with all those he knew as inhabitants of the castle, and even with strangers who came to see him accompanied by a few people from the house, this intelligent animal was extremely gentle. When the Count and his family went, during the fine season, to take tea under the shade of a cradle, we saw this beautiful roe deer with an elegant size approach immediately and prowl around the table asking everyone for a piece. of bread.
Fridolin, who had not parted easily with his beloved animal, had received permission to come and see him and enter the chateau whenever he wished. Fridolin took advantage of this permission every Sunday after Vespers. The noble family was usually in the garden, and saw with pleasure their son and Fridolin indulging together in the games and exercises of their age. However, they observed the young stranger carefully. His intelligence, his honest manners and his always cheerful character greatly pleased the count and his wife. They regretted that this amiable child was only destined to become a simple lumberjack, because his poor father did not have the means to give him another job. These noble spouses therefore resolved to take the young Fridolin into their home to keep their son company, and to share his elementary lessons with him, except to see what could be done with him, according to his dispositions and his conduct. . “For,” they said, “there is no nobler employment of fortune than to devote a certain part of it to supporting poor children; and the finest work of charity consists in procuring for these children an education capable of making them estimable and happy. »
Fridolin was therefore received at the castle of Finkenstein, and participated in the benefit of the instruction with the young count, for which the poor child, as well as his father and his mother, testified his deep gratitude to his charitable lords. They had him dressed suitably, and under this new costume he was remarkably handsome. What was more essential, he knew how to deserve the benefits of the noble family by his attentions, his politeness, his always amiable and cheerful character, and above all by his unfailing fidelity. So he was loved and cherished by everyone.
Maurice, the old gamekeeper, congratulated himself on having been the first cause of young Fridolin's happiness. "He is an excellent child," he often said; and all who resemble him must obtain the favors of God and the affection of honest people. »
Education of Thierry.
A few leagues from the castle of Finkenstein, in the little town of Waldon, lived at that time an honest and recommendable man, named Jean Mai, a very skilful master mason, or, to speak more correctly, a good architect. Madeleine, his wife, belonged to a highly regarded bourgeois family. He enjoyed great comfort, and his house, which he had built himself on the main square, near the church, was one of the most conspicuous in the town.
The two spouses tenderly cherished their only child, a charming little boy full of kindness and liveliness, and they thought only of bringing him up well. But unfortunately the two parents took two opposite roads. The father wanted him to be a good Christian, an esteemed citizen, while the mother wanted him to become one day the happiest and most respected man in the place. "Listen, Madeleine," said her husband to her. then happiness and consideration will come of themselves. »
The father rightly thought that a wise education must begin in the first years of life, and that we must set about early to repress natural selfishness and the violent desires of childhood. Madeleine, on the contrary, thought only of the exterior, of adorning her little Thierry well; Above all, she taught him to hold himself straight, to walk with a free air and to bow gracefully, closing his eyes to his growing faults, which the father tried in vain to repress. The mother did not want to hear of such severity, she could never inflict any punishment on her child. When the little mutineer began, according to his custom, to shout, to cry, or to pretend to do so, in order to obtain something, she immediately ran to satisfy his slightest desires. Her maternal tenderness prevented her from correcting him and accustoming him to prompt obedience. She was not long in feeling the disastrous consequences of his weakness, and soon it was impossible for her to master it.
Jean Mai was unfortunately forced to always work outside the home. He had undertaken the construction of several buildings, not only in town, but also in the neighboring villages. Forced to go to his work at daybreak, he only returned home at dinner time or towards evening; sometimes he left on Monday, and did not return until Sunday. Thierry's education then rested on the care of his mother, who never ceased to spoil him. Often the father said to her: "My dear Madeleine, be more severe with this child, who is disobeying us." Follow my example; we must lend each other mutual support: if you destroy what I elevate, how can my work succeed? Although Madeleine was not lacking in wit, her tenderness blinded her to such an extent that she seemed not to notice her son's greatest faults, or left them unpunished.
Thierry was still only a very young child, and he already allowed himself to raise his hand to his mother; the latter, far from correcting him, contented himself with saying to him: "Be wiser, little villain, or I shall love you no more." One day he dared to strike his father, who wanted to take a freshly sharpened knife from his hands. This one immediately took the rod, and applied it several good blows on the fingers. The mother exclaimed: "Do little children like him know the harm they can do to others or to themselves?"
"It's precisely because they don't know him that you have to make them feel it," replied the father. Certainly, I do not approve of the mania for beating children; when remonstrances are enough, I wouldn't want to use other means; but the germs of vice must be eradicated early. »
One day Jean went into Thierry's room to take some drawings and plans of buildings, and he saw at the bottom of a cupboard two beautiful apples which were not yet ripe. He asked him from whom he had received them. “It was François, the pharmacist's son, who gave them to me,” replied the child. The father went to question François, who was absolutely unaware of this fact; and Thierry, convinced of a lie, was forced to admit at the end that having seen apples in the grass through the grilled window of a ground floor which overlooked a neighboring orchard, he had brought them to him by means of a pole, at the end of which he had fixed a large nail in the form of a hook. Madeleine was about to laugh at her son's playfulness as she admired his inventive mind; but the father said in a stern tone: "This action is the doing of a thief." And he chastised his son with a rigor he had not yet used. The mother, in tears, exclaimed: "It's well worth the trouble for two wretched apples, which are barely worth a penny, to punish this poor child so cruelly!"
— It is not for the value of the apples, answered the father, that I act like this, but because the child has not listened to the voice of his conscience, and has only consulted his gluttony. and the pleasure of his eyes. Far from obeying what is just and good, he only yielded to his desire; he violated the commandments of God, and, like the brute, he allowed himself to be carried away by an evil inclination: this is the beginning of perversity. Paradise was lost for an apple; and, if this action remained unpunished, the child would take a liking to theft, would grow bold in stealing other objects, and our Thierry would end up becoming criminal, impious: he would forget God, and would be the most unhappy of men. »
The father also tried by various other means to make the child feel the gravity of the fault of which he had been guilty. At supper time, he said to him: "A thief and a liar is not worthy to sit at table with honest people!" Thierry was therefore put on his knees in a corner of the room, and punished for his gluttony which had carried him to flight, by receiving only bread and water for food. But the mother secretly reserved for her little jewel, as she called it, meat and jams, and said to it, caressing it: “Eat, my dear little angel; do not Cry. Your father is too strict with you; but don't take it too much to heart, don't worry about it. Tomorrow he will be away from home all day, and then you can have as much fun as you want. It was thus that the blind tenderness of the mother destroyed the effect of the wise severity of the father. She even tried, from that moment, to throw a veil over all the faults of which Thierry was guilty in the absence of her husband. The child was not long in noticing this, and only became more rebellious and more intractable.
Severe as his father was, Thierry had nevertheless retained a truly filial respect for him; this respect was even more sincere than the affection he showed his mother. The latter was often astonished by it; she did not reflect that Thierry honored his father and despised her in secret, and that there can be no filial love where respect no longer exists. The father often said to her: “Dear Madeleine, your child must first learn to fear his parents; his love will develop later. It is with these principles as with the fear and love of God: The fear of God is the beginning of wisdom, love is its perfection and crown. »
So the father, to inspire his son with this salutary fear, often spoke to him of God with the deepest veneration, and sought to inspire him with those pious feelings with which his heart was filled, and in which he found his own happiness. He tried at the same time to engrave in this young soul a profound horror of sin, and taught him a host of beautiful prayers to invoke the grace of the Lord.
Unfortunately, this excellent father was too soon taken from his family. Jean Mai was charged with the reconstruction of a very deep well. He went down there one day; He had hardly been there for a few minutes when he felt a sudden chill. He returned home and lay down; but his indisposition soon assumed an alarming character. Feeling that he would not recover, he hastened to put his temporal and spiritual affairs in order, and, after having received the holy viaticum with exemplary devotion, he still wanted to take advantage of his last moments to exhort the mother to raise their child in the salutary principles of Christianity, and gave him, as much as his strength permitted, excellent advice in this respect. He also sent for his son, and recommended that he live like an honest man and a good Christian.
No sooner had this good man finished this paternal exhortation than he again felt his strength fail; with an already icy hand he still blesses his son, as well as his wife; then he died regretted by everyone. The inconsolable mother and the unfortunate orphan watered the body of this good father with their tears, and shed bitter tears on his grave.
The wrong subject.
At the loss of a beloved father, Thierry had first felt a sincere affliction; but soon he was glad to see himself freed from severe surveillance, and henceforth to be master of his actions; for he knew how to flatter his mother so adroitly that she believed his lies and granted him everything he wanted.
Thierry's father had taken care to send him to school regularly. As long as this brave man had lived, the child had distinguished himself by constant progress. He had to bring his school book every evening and recite to his father what he had learned during the day. Often, too, the father went to see the teacher to inquire about his child's conduct in class; if he received complaints, Thierry was severely punished; also the child dreaded the punishments of the house more than those of the school.
But Thierry soon realized that his mother, left alone to watch over him, let things go as he wanted. In truth, he was still reading in his little book; but, far from correcting him when he made mistakes, she only showered him with caresses and praise: she always found his notebooks admirable, even though they were neglected: everything her little Thierry did was charming. The child knew how to take great advantage of this maternal weakness; day by day he had less desire to learn. More concerned with having fun at school than with learning and making progress, he found pleasure only in disturbing the class, playing tricks on his comrades and preventing them from studying. When they punished him, he went, crying, to complain to his mother, and told her a host of lies; then the latter was irritated against the master. Madeleine was a naturally good woman and never disrespectful to anyone; but to scold or chastise her little Thierry was to tear out his entrails. In a burst of vivacity, she went to school one day, and in the presence of all the pupils overwhelmed the teacher with unjust reproaches, expressed in the most unseemly manner. At home she continued her declamations against the teacher, and turned him into ridicule: so that from that moment Thierry no longer had any respect for his master.
The local priest, having learned of the quarrels between Thierry's mother and the schoolteacher, had her called to remonstrate with her, and to explain to her the wrong she had done in thus molesting a man who had not just doing his duty.
Thereupon the priest told the mother of Thierry's many faults, and told her of his behavior at school and his bad tricks, which already denoted him as a little scoundrel. Madeleine answered him with fire: “Monsieur le curé, my son is not as wicked as you think; all the things you have just told me are only pranks, childish jokes, giddiness pardonable at his age, and of which it is not even worth talking about; for one cannot demand that a boy who is only ten years old be faultless: no one is perfect in this world.
"I know it well, Madame," resumed the priest; but each must tend to become so; a blind mother alone can excuse the vices which she should carefully repress. For the faults of children are not so slight, so insignificant as parents imagine them to be, and, to use a well-known comparison, they increase insensibly with age, like the letters which are engraved on a young bark grow as the tree develops. The vices of young Thierry are already only too pronounced. Ungrateful and rebellious, he has no respect for his schoolmaster, whom he should honor like a second father. He takes a dim view that his comrades are wiser and more educated than him; he molests and torments them in a thousand ways. It is high time, Madam, to put all this in order and to display more severity, if you do not want to make of him a villain capable one day of trampling on divine and human laws, and who, by making himself the scourge of society, will prepare the most dreadful fate for itself. »
The worthy pastor also went to school, and made Thierry, in front of all his comrades, such paternal remonstrances that all the children were touched. Thierry himself did not seem insensitive to it. But back home, her mother destroyed the effect of these sage advice. She found the priest in the wrong, saying that he was angry with her and her child, without her knowing why, and, to avenge herself in a way, she began to hurl jokes at her air and her wig which amused her. very much Terry. It was thus that she effaced the good impression which the salutary warnings had just made on the heart of her son; the latter soon ceased to respect the priest, and this imprudent mother continued to prepare her child's misfortune.
Thierry behaved no better at church than at school; he entered the holy place without the slightest recollection, and behaved there with an irreverence which scandalized everyone; far from praying, he disturbed the other children in their prayers, and paid so little attention to the sermon and the catechism, that he went out without drawing the least fruit from them: he could not have answered his mother, if, as his duty demanded it, she had asked him to account for what he had heard.
Madeleine committed many other faults in the education of her son. Whenever she went out, she always had some delicacies to offer him on her way home: so he had no appetite at mealtimes, and ordinary food was no longer to his liking. He was insinuating enough to snatch a few pennies from her every day to buy whatever he wanted. But as his entreaties were repeated too often, and Madeleine, no longer having the same resources as during her husband's lifetime, was obliged to save more money, the little bad boy began to steal from his mother. silverware or jewelry, which he sold for a third or a quarter of their value to dishonest people whom he had known how to discover. The mother's suspicions sometimes fell on strangers, sometimes on the servant. She even went so far as to shoo one away for hinting that Thierry might very well be the author of these thefts.
Notwithstanding the sage advice of her dying husband, the mother hardly watched her child any longer, and let him run where he liked. Thierry took advantage of this freedom to lead the life of a vagrant, fighting with pranksters of his own age, throwing stones at passers-by, tormenting animals, stealing fruit from the orchards, destroying the nests of birds, whose birds he killed. small with a barbarous joy, never delighting except in the society of the worst subjects, whose ignoble amusements he shared, and whose depravity he soon shared also.
His exterior was not long in feeling the effects of this corruption of morals. A pale and livid complexion replaced the fresh colors of his cheeks, his countenance took on a wild and repulsive aspect. His clothes were disheveled and filthy filthy; although his mother spared no expense to see him as well dressed as the children of the best families in the place, she could never, despite all his prayers, induce him to keep himself clean. He often came home with his clothes torn and covered in mud, his face or his hands bloody. Everyone said that Thierry was a little scoundrel, a bad subject: they only called him the mean Thierry throughout the town, and they were already predicting that he would end badly.
Madeleine, who until then had been able to win general esteem by her good qualities, her piety, her probity, her benevolence and the order that reigned in her household, then lost much of the consideration she had enjoyed. She was commonly called a bad mother, and this ancient proverb was applied to her: "We know the weather in the wind, the master by his servant, and the child by his mother." »
When Thierry had reached the age to enter an apprenticeship, his mother made him leave school, and spoke to several masters; but none wanted to receive it. Madeleine was deeply distressed by these refusals; she then began to wonder if it was not right to call her son the wicked Thierry, and she bitterly repented of not having watched him enough, and of having granted him too much freedom. She wept for her fault and proposed to be less indulgent in the future; she even spoke to him very seriously several times, but it was too late. “Oh! she often exclaimed, "one is right to say that the tree must be straightened while it is still young, and that once it has reached its height, it is impossible to make it take another direction. »
Finally she found an honest locksmith, a former friend of her husband, who, touched by the poor mother's embarrassment, consented to take Thierry on as an apprentice. This worthy man took infinite pains to repair the defects of his education and make him learn his trade well: he had great patience with him. But however benevolent the intentions of the good locksmith, Thierry still retained his deceitful and dissembling character. Accustomed from childhood to always running, he could not get used to the idea of being compelled to work, he who was cowardly and lazy to the last degree. It seemed hard to this spoiled child to eat only at mealtimes, and, not having enough money to buy delicacies as before, he thought only of how to procure them. Also what he learned best in the trade of locksmith was the art of making picks and master keys to open all the locks. He secretly made several of these instruments, which he continually carried with him.
One day when the master locksmith and his wife were invited to a wedding, and Thierry was alone at home, he resolved to try his skill at opening the locks on his bourgeoise's chest of drawers, and removed ten crowns. and a small gold chain which were enclosed therein. The next day, when the locksmith's wife opened the chest of drawers to put away her jewels and her party dresses, she noticed that the chain had disappeared; she was appalled, and told her husband confidentially. This one went up with her in the apartment, visited the lock of the piece of furniture, and recognized that she had been forced. Suspicion immediately fell on Thierry; a search was made in his room, and they found hidden in the straw mattress, not only the gold chain and the ten crowns, but also a gold watch and a silver cutlery, as well as various sweets and pastries.
At the sight of all these objects, the hunky locksmith shuddered with horror. A few days earlier he had worked in the house of a wealthy merchant, and Thierry had accompanied him there. In this same house, a watch had recently been stolen from the mantelpiece of a merchant's clerk; yet this room was exactly closed. The watch the locksmith had just seen was the same one that had just been stolen; he recognized her from the description. The silver cutlery belonged to a pharmacist to whom Thierry had been sent a week earlier to give him a report: the initial letters of this pharmacist's name were engraved on it.
The locksmith, dismayed, went down to the shop to question Thierry. The hypocrite resorted to the lies and flattery that worked so well with his mother. Bursting into tears and protesting his innocence, he claimed that envious people had hidden these objects in his mattress to deprive him, poor orphan, of the benevolence of a master and a mistress whom he cherished. Indignant at such effrontery, the locksmith flew into a rage and heaped the most deserved insults on him. At the noise of this scene, all the people of the neighborhood ran up, and, learning what it was about, they added their curses to those of this woman who was so justly irritated. The locksmith alone kept silence: he dreamed painfully of the course he was to take. For the sake of his respectable father's memory, I would just chase him away, he thought, but the rascal didn't just rob me; everyone knows he stole from other people, and even from the houses where he worked for me. If I do not deliver him to justice, my reputation will be lost, no one will want to trust me; I might as well close my shop right away, because our profession demands unfailing probity and needs public confidence. Since it is necessary, let us hand over this unworthy apprentice, who was not afraid to ruin me by dishonouring me.
After having securely locked Thierry in his room, he went to fetch the superintendent. When he returned home to this room, it was seen that the culprit, with the help of his sheets, had descended through the window, into a little little frequented lane, from which he could easily reach the countryside.
On hearing this sad news, Madeleine nearly fainted; ashamed, confused, she dared neither go out nor receive anyone. No sacrifice would have cost him to erase this deplorable affair; but, even if his son were to escape the punishment of the law, his name would still remain covered with a reproach which nothing could efface. She couldn't sleep a wink all night. The storm rumbled, the rain fell in torrents, and the unhappy mother wondered with pain where her son, so dear and so guilty, was; if he had bread, if he was under some shelter. How she reproached herself then for not having brought him up better!
The messengers she had secretly sent after him having returned without having found him, she persuaded herself that in a fit of despair he had thrown himself into the river, and the mere thought caused him a serious and long illness. After her recovery, she did not have the courage to show herself in the streets; the appearance of an honest man made her blush and tremble; it seemed to her that all eyes were fixed on her and said to her: You thought you loved your son! no, you didn't. Your weakness was not a wise and true maternal love, your weakness has ruined it; it is right that his loss should punish you for your weakness. Cry now, blush and moan; and may your example teach weak mothers like you what becomes of spoiled children and parents who spoil them. Ah! she said to herself, moaning during these long and cruel insomnia, why did I not better listen to this warning from my husband! it is well that the maternal tenderness softens the severity of the father, thus the celestial wisdom wills it; but, in order not to be fatal to the children, even the indulgence of the mother must be combined with a certain firmness.
Thierry, while fleeing, had gone to hide in the nearby forest. This forest was of considerable extent, and almost everywhere so dense that it was impassable. Thierry lost his way; he spent the whole day running hither and thither, without finding any way out. The rain was pouring down, and a violent wind, shaking the branches of the trees from time to time, wet the unfortunate man to the bone. Night was approaching, and the forest was getting darker and darker. Hunger tormented him, he was shivering with cold. He feared to perish in this forest, and shed burning tears. He repented of his bad behavior and proposed not to steal anymore; but in taking this good resolution he did not think at all of God, who forbids and punishes theft: fear and pain alone had inspired it in him.
Having finally found a path, he encountered an individual covered in rags and carrying a heavy load of birch branches. At his side he had hung, on the left a tin bottle, and on the right a game-bag which seemed well stocked; he held a gnarled stick in his hand. Thierry accosted him and asked him shyly if he could give him a piece of bread.
“Oh! ah! it's you, rascal, scoundrel! said this individual, threatening him with his stick; you come in handy for me to earn me a good reward. You did a great job there! only you are talked about in the town where I went to sell brooms. Wait, rascal; they are looking for you everywhere, and your accommodation in the dungeon is already prepared. »
Thierry, trembling with fear, fell at the feet of this man to ask for mercy; and, raising her imploring hands to him, said to him: “Ah! I beg you, have pity on me, and do not deliver me into the hands of justice. I'm starving, and I'm so tired that I can't stand on my feet. Give me a piece of bread, if you have any in your game bag, and a place to stay for the night. Ah! I beseech you on your knees, do not be cruel to me. »
This man picked him up and said to him: “Do not be afraid, my boy; what I said to you there, it was only to laugh. I don't want to hurt you, quite the contrary. He opened his satchel, and took out a piece of bread. “Here, eat; then having taken his tin bottle, he drank it first and presented it to Thierry, saying: "Drink a shot of brandy on that, it revives the heart." »
Thierry ate and drank greedily. “Now you are a little reassured; come with me if you want; you will find for supper, a piece of roast meat, good wine, an excellent fire to dry yourself off, and you will lie down like us on tender moss. »
Thierry could not understand how a man so miserably dressed could get himself roast meat and wine; he therefore ventured to ask him: "Who are you?"
“I am Josse the broom merchant, so well known throughout the country; and besides, I serve a gentleman who has rented all the hunts around. Come, you will be charmed to be among us. »
The imprudent Thierry, who, moreover, felt encouraged by the bread and the brandy he had taken, did not need long to be asked, and followed this suspicious man without reflection.
They walked, without following any marked path, through the deepest part of the wood; often they were forced to enter the middle of the underbrush, which wet them to the bone. This path became so dark that they no longer saw either branches or leaves. Thierry followed his guide step by step so as not to lose him. The damp branches struck his face; sometimes a thicket of thorns tore his hair; sometimes his head knocked against low branches and was bruised. They walked like this for an hour, and the unfortunate Thierry, unaccustomed to suffering, wept like a child. They finally arrived at the top of a steep rock, and then entered a very narrow defile. After crossing its entire length, and when they left the rocks, Thierry thought he saw the forest in flames. He saw before him a fairly wide valley; thick smoke rose behind a brush-covered rock. Age-old oaks, beeches, and bushes of various species whose foliage had already turned yellow in autumn, fir trees whose tops seemed to touch the sky, and evergreen pines shone with fires tinged with red, yellow, and Green. From all the trees flowed thousands of raindrops, each of which fell like a spark.
Thierry could not admire this magical and truly picturesque painting enough. “Here we are,” said the broom merchant. They both went to the angle of the rock, which they turned, and they found themselves in front of a great crackling fire which shot through the air in whirlwinds. Thierry saw, his arms crossed and his back leaning against the rock, a man of majestic stature: his high forehead, shaded by beautiful curly hair; his thick black mustaches and whiskers, and his hunting coat, though a little worn, gave him a distinguished air and announced in him the leader of the band. The flickering light of the fire lit up this imposing figure. A double-barreled gun was beside him, and at his feet a recently killed deer. This man threw Thierry a lively and penetrating look, but without deigning to address a single word to him.
Nearby sat another individual cooking a quarter of venison and turning the spit. A few steps away, a small barrel was lying on the grass, and an earthen pot, blackened with soot, served both as a flask and as a glass.
“There you are, Josse? said the cook to the broom merchant; what the hell kid did you hang up on us there? at least, are you quite sure of him?
- Ah! of course, I think so, said Josse, setting down his load of birch; because he has fallen out forever with the honest people of his place. But let me have a drink first, and then I'll tell you about it...” He drank in long drafts from the blackened vase, saying: “Oh! How good that feels!...' Then he took off his satchel and pulled out what was in it. “Here, here is bread, salt, cheese from Holland, and excellent smoking tobacco; I have besides a set of new cards, and, what is essential, powder and lead. I hope you are happy with your commissionaire? Then, addressing Thierry: "Come, sit down by the fire, my boy, warm yourself well and rejoice: the barrel is full, and in a moment supper will be ready."
"Good, good," said the man who was turning the spit; the cook filled their pipes and began to smoke. Josse told his comrade the story of the young man he had recruited. “Believe me, he added in conclusion, I have a good opinion of this little fellow; First of all, he's fairly awake, and I think I did well in bringing him among us to learn how to make brooms. What he has learned from the trade of locksmith will enable him to mend the batteries of our guns, and moreover, he added again with a significant look, he could be useful to us on certain occasions...” Josse looked at the man who had remained leaning against the rock, and asked him: “Well! what do you say, captain? He shrugged and didn't answer.
Josse, whose frequent libations of wine had set him talking, then addressed Thierry and said to him: "Listen, my boy, be of good courage, and you will stay with us and you will have a good place." You mustn't be frightened by the serious air of that great gentleman; although he neither smokes nor drinks, he is not mean at all; it is true that he hardly speaks; but when he speaks, he speaks well; they call him Mr. Waller; he was educated, and he comes from a family...
"What dare you talk about there?" shouted Waller to him in a thundering voice; what does he need to learn that? Josse, it's the wine that makes you talk. Shut up, otherwise...” And he glanced at his rifle.
“Oh! yes, that's true, said Josse, correcting himself: sometimes, when I've had a drink, I don't really know what I'm saying, so much so I start to babble. Listen, my little Thierry, you don't always have to take my speeches literally; you must remember that I like to joke. This other gentleman, continued Josse, who is willing to keep us company, glass in hand and pipe in mouth, is not so touchy; so I can tell you that his name is M. Schlik, and that when he came to join us, he was magnificently dressed and wore clothes resplendent with gold.
"And you, cursed talker," cried Waller gravely, "what do we call you?" So tell that young man too, if you have the heart.
- And why not? These gentlemen call me Glouglou, because of my favorite passion, which is to drink well. It is true that at first this nickname shocked me a little; but now I don't care, you get used to everything; formerly I was so rich, that I could have filled this cask with crowns; today I am only a poor seller of brooms. Anything ! cried this careless man, laying his hand on the barrel, as long as it doesn't dry up, I'm quite consoled. »
At this moment Schlik, having finished his pipe, got up, examined the roast, and, finding it quite cooked, took it apart, while Josse took a glass, which he went to fill with water at a spring not far away, and placed near Waller on an angle of the rock. Waller cut a piece of bread and venison, ate still standing, and then drank a glass of water. Then, while his companions, seated around the fire, were doing gay honor to the roast and the wine, he descended towards the stream which crossed the valley, and walked along the banks, his arms behind his back, although the rain had not stopped. ceased, and even the snow began to fall.
Josse especially drank glass after glass to the health of the new comrade; suddenly he exclaimed: “Ah! tell me frankly, how do you find yourself among us?”
Thierry, soaked to the skin, almost toasted on one side and frozen on the other, put his hand on his head, the bruises from which made him suffer horribly, and replied in a tearful voice: "Who wouldn't like not here ? nowhere on earth can one live so cheerfully. »
However, the fire around which our three drinkers were seated was beginning to die out. The rain stopped, the dark clouds dispersed, and the moon, rising above the black pines, came to spread its soft light over the frightening darkness of the forest. Waller, who until then had been walking along the edge of the stream, joined his comrades. "Aren't you finished yet?" he said to them in a loud voice: are you going to drink until midnight? Get up and get ready to leave; you, Schlik, take care to cover the deer I killed with branches. Josse will carry it tomorrow he knows where; as for the renewal of the barrel, he will not forget it. Come on, hurry up, maybe I'll join you. Then he took his rifle, plunged into the forest and disappeared.
Schlik and Josse immediately obeyed the orders of their chief, and, after having executed what he had just ordered, they set out with Thierry. Arrived in the wildest part of the forest, they had to make their way painfully through thick brush, to climb mountains, to climb rocks. Thierry, worn out with fatigue and no longer having the strength to follow his companions, began to cry. "A little more patience," Josse told him, "soon you'll see our beautiful castle." At last Thierry saw, not without shuddering, in the moonlight, an old half-collapsed tower rising amid the ruins of an ancient castle built in the times of chivalry. At this sight, Thierry was frightened, and exclaimed: “Ah! here is the old castle of the ghosts of the forest; my mother often told me about it.
'Imbecile that you are,' Josse told him, 'there are only ghosts in your head.
'No, no, I'm sure of it, my mother has often told me that in this old castle, specters with hideous faces have been seen prowling, and whose mouths vomited flames. Hey! hey! I am scared.
'No, no, you fool, don't be afraid; the ghosts they claim to have seen here were none other than us; we had to resort to this ruse to prevent the curious from visiting these ruins, and to establish ourselves there without fear of being disturbed.
Soon they arrived at the edges of the ditch which surrounded the ancient fortified castle, but which now was no more than a swamp covered with rushes and reeds, through which the brigands had made a secret passage by means of stones placed from distance to distance. It was necessary to know the place and position of these stones, most of which were covered with water, so as not to fall into the swamp. After walking for some time amid rubble, brambles and thornbushes, they arrived at the foot of the old tower. Schlik disturbed a few stones, and all three entered through the opening; after which the stones were put back in their place. Finding themselves then in profound darkness, they again crossed a narrow passage of almost interminable length, and finally found themselves in their underground dwelling. Here Schlik beat the lighter and lit a torch, by the light of which Thierry could
recognize the aspect of this underground. It was a vast vaulted vault of blackish stones; huge boulders formed the walls, and the floor was paved. This vault, preserved intact in the middle of the ruins of the castle, was known only to brigands. Plenty of food, cooking utensils and a host of other objects were spread out on the pavement. Clothes of all kinds, muskets, sabers and pistols lined the walls. A heap of moss and dry leaves served as a bed for the brigands, who immediately lay down there, covered themselves with coats and fell asleep.
Thierry therefore saw himself in the midst of a band of thieves, and although their way of life did not please him too much, he nevertheless ended up getting used to it, and even finding himself well in their society. However, he always seemed very timid in Waller's presence, and he greatly feared him; for this singular man in no way resembled his companions, of whom he was the leader. He always had a serious air, spoke very little and sought only solitude. Often during the day he could be seen sitting in the middle of the ruins, in the shade of a fir tree, absorbed in reading an old book. One day Thierry had the curiosity to examine this book, which Waller had forgotten on a stone; as it was a Greek work, and as Thierry had never seen those characters, he thought it was a sorcerer's grimoire.
As night approached, Waller usually stood still, staring at the sun that was about to hide behind the mountainous forest. At such times, no one dared approach him, except Schlik, who very often sat by his side, and they spent the whole evening talking together. Thierry sometimes approached them to listen to them; but Waller, seeing him one day, sent him away, apostrophizing him roughly, and Thierry withdrew very quickly. Other times he saw him walking up and down through the ruins, for much of the night, in the moonlight, and heard him heave deep sighs. Waller never spent the night with his companions in the vast underground; he lived in a small, separate and very clean apartment, the entrance to which was so well concealed that it could not easily be discovered. He had a fairly good bed, a few chairs and a table on which we noticed a few books. It was in this house that he locked himself up when the weather was bad, and that he spent his days absolutely alone. He also often went away with Schlik, and did not return until several days later.
Thierry, seeing himself most of the time alone with Josse, became particularly attached to him; mutual trust is established between them. This man gave him a nice gun and taught him how to use it; the young rascal became a skilful marksman, and took great joy in it. Little by little Josse initiated him into the secrets of the infamous profession exercised by these brigands. He told her one day that he was not a broom seller, that he had taken this miserable profession only for form, and as a pretext for prowling in the forest and breaking into houses, in order to know the localities and to sell the game they slaughtered. “I've already discovered several places where Schlik and I will do our thing, as soon as the nights get longer. The great Mr. Waller is too proud to accompany us in these sorts of races; but nevertheless he does not remain idle either. When he is absent for several days with Schlik, it is not for the sole pleasure of taking walks; more than one brave traveler has already put the gun to his throat and asked for a purse or a life. You're a rogue who isn't stupid, and you must have noticed that already. On the first day Schlik and I are going on an excursion, get ready to be part of it: you'll be there, won't you? The wretched Thierry, already familiar with theft since his childhood, did not feel the slightest repugnance at this infamous proposal: on the contrary, he showed his satisfaction and promised to accompany them.
Indeed, a short time later, on stormy nights, when it was dark and the rain was falling in torrents, Schlik, Josse and Thierry went to loot several houses in the neighboring towns and villages, and returned to the forest, laden with the booty. , which they shared; Thierry always received a large share of it, and this wretched young man was delighted to be able to lead an idle and vagabond life, and to seize the property of others without working.
However, Thierry was not long in also experiencing all the dangers and all the horrors of the criminal career he had just embraced. The robbers' attacks were not all equally successful; for often they were surprised: shots were fired at them, the alarm was sounded, the tocsin was sounded, and it was necessary to flee quickly so as not to be taken. Once, an enormous guard dog, which had been released at the right time, threw itself on Thierry, seized him by the neck, squeezed him and shook him vigorously; he would inevitably have torn it apart if Schlik had not come along and forced the dog to let go. However Thierry was horribly mistreated; his wounds caused him to lose a lot of blood and to suffer violent pains which were not healed until a long time later; for he dared not apply to any surgeon, for fear of betraying himself.
Often also soldiers, carabinieri and gendarmes roamed the forest; the thieves put to flight did not always have time to regain their underground, and were then obliged to remain hidden in the thickest thickets for whole days, tormented by hunger and a prey to the keenest alarms. If only a bird stirred the neighboring branches, the brigands fled terrified: they often spent the night in the brushwood, lying on the damp earth. They no longer dared to cross the villages; for for a long time the description of Schlik had been spread everywhere, and even the alleged broom merchant had become suspect to the people of the country, he no longer dared to show himself in the towns to buy the necessary provisions. Very often they only had to eat bread as hard as stone. Sometimes, just as they had just sat down around a fire lit in the forest to eat some game they had taken from the spit, a detachment of gendarmes swooped down on them; it was then necessary to abandon everything, to flee on an empty stomach, still happy to escape with one's life.
It was then that Thierry said to himself: What kind of unbearable life! Oh ! how much better my lot was when I was at my bourgeois's, where I could sit down at table so quietly, where I went to bed every night in a good bed! All the work I had to do was nothing, absolutely nothing, compared to the inconveniences, alarms and anguish I have to endure here. He still had a terrible fear of prison and the scaffold. Frequently also remorse of conscience, which the most depraved men could not entirely stifle, awoke in him.
Twenty times he proposed to quit the brigands, to take flight, and to serve with some peasant. A thousand times better, he told himself, to keep swine, like the prodigal son, than to continue to lead such a miserable life. But as soon as abundance returned and he could spend a day smoking, singing and drinking at his ease with his comrades, all good resolutions vanished or were put off to another moment. The unfortunate ! he had completely forgotten his father's old adage: "The pavement of the high road that leads to hell is entirely composed of good resolutions, and oaths to correct themselves which have never been fulfilled." »
One day when the band was still without food, Josse and Thierry went to an isolated inn in the forest. Josse had for many years been one of the best practices of this cabaret, whose master, a most disreputable man, had taken charge of the concealment and sale of game and other objects coming from the plunder of this gang, from which he also provided provisions. This time again he provides her with new ones in exchange for a beautiful silver snuffbox that they had stolen some time before. In the evening, Josse and Thierry returned to the cave laden with provisions of all kinds.
“Long live the joy! Brother Schlik, exclaimed Josse, spreading among other objects the bread, the wine, the tobacco and the cards he had procured. We are going to drink, smoke and gamble again. »
At this moment Waller, as usual, was still walking alone and thoughtful between the remains of the old walls; Schlik begged him to come and sup with them; but this man, still grave and silent, only replied by a nod, and after continuing his solitary walk for a while longer, he shut himself up in his room and ate alone.
While the other three were enjoying themselves, Schlik suddenly began to say, “That's another good day where we're having a moment of pleasure; but such enjoyments may well become more and more rare. Our little provisions will soon be exhausted, and what shall we do then? Now that the silver snuff box is gone, we have nothing left to sell, and it will be hard for us to get any new loot. We are too well known in the country, there are no more resources here. There is only one way left for us, and that is to make a good move, a capital move, and to go, with the treasures that we will have conquered, to another country where no one will know us: would you not be no opinion that we were going to attempt an expedition on the castle of Finkenstein to plunder it?
"Are you thinking about it?" cried Josse; this castle is surrounded by high walls which it would be impossible to scale; the doors and grilles are so solid and so well closed that this dwelling resembles a citadel.
- I know it ; but I also know that there is no citadel so well closed that one cannot become master of it with the help of a friend who facilitates the means of entering it. And it is here that our friend Thierry can be very useful to us. Listen: here is my plan, and you will see that the execution of it will be very easy. We are in autumn. During the fine evenings, the Count and his family usually go and amuse themselves by hunting woodcocks with a net. When they return to the chateau, Thierry will be on the side of the road; there he will pretend to be ill and to experience such violent pains that it will be impossible for him to go any further that day. We will easily believe it; for the rogue really looks so shabby that one would think he had been suffering from consumption for three years. As the castle was in an isolated position, and more than half a league from the nearest village, the count took pity on him and had him taken to the castle. So, during the night, Thierry will take advantage of the moment when everyone will be plunged into the deepest sleep; he will open one of the back doors for us, and we will enter without hindrance. »
Josse had listened to his comrade with a pensive air and lowered head. This project doesn't seem to me to be badly imagined, he said at last; but I am surprised how you can make me a proposal to the execution of which you know in advance that I will find it difficult to lend myself; for you know that at one time the Counts of Finkenstein did me a lot of good. Besides, all the inhabitants of this castle are the most excellent people in the world, and I would be sorry if any harm happened to them.
- Bah! the great misfortune! These people are powerfully rich and don't care about money at all; whether they have a few thousand crowns more or less, they will not be upset, and they will have more than they need.
- It's true ; yet I must make one more observation to you: I know M. de Finkenstein; he will not allow himself to be robbed so easily; he and his old Maurice will defend themselves vigorously, and our attempt could have a very bad issue.
“Don't worry about that. Mr. Waller has planned his plan so well that not one of us will lose a single hair. You must know him, he is cautious and does not like to shed blood. He will know how to take his measurements so well that the inhabitants of the castle will not notice our expedition until they see the gold and silver birds outside the aviary. However, we must arm ourselves with our weapons, were it only to impose if need be; but even if we are without arms or our pistols are not loaded, be sure that Waller will know how to direct things so well that we will not return empty-handed.
- All in good time ! if it could be so, I wouldn't hesitate to be part of it. Besides, since Waller will be at our head, I will accompany you; because I have the most complete confidence in him. »
The vile, the contemptible Josse, having consented to participate in the execution of this criminal project, resumed all his gaiety: he flattered himself that he could give a good push in this affair, the success of which seemed to him inevitable. He had formerly been in the service of the Count of Finkenstein, and knew perfectly the localities of the castle with its long and numerous corridors; he also knew very well the apartment and the cupboards which contained the silverware, the gold, and the jewels of the count and his wife. Accordingly, he gave Thierry detailed information and instructions on the various doors he would have to open using his hooks; mainly on the front door of the garden, and on the small back door by which they had to enter the castle.
Thierry listened very attentively to these instructions, and promised with criminal joy to display all his dexterity and his know-how in the execution of this infamous project. The three brigands then drank many swigs to Waller's health and to a happy success, adding in a unanimous voice: "See you tomorrow, in the night!" »
The next day the brigands set out; making great detours and passing through the thickest thickets, they made their way to the castle of Finkenstein. Waller and Schlik were armed with sabers, and each had a pair of loaded pistols in their belts. Josse carried the bags intended to contain the products of the looting, while Thierry had provided himself with his false keys and his hooks, which he had taken when he fled from the locksmith. As night approached, they lay in ambush in the forest, a few hundred paces from the castle, waiting for the moment to act.
It was one of the most beautiful autumn evenings. A light wind brought freshness, and the sunset, veiled by a few clouds of a beautiful red, presented an admirable aspect. The count and his wife, as well as Frederic and Louise, their children, left the castle rather to enjoy the beauty of the evening than to take woodcocks. They were followed by old Maurice with his gun under his arm, and a hunting valet carrying the net. The little company went to a clearing in the forest which was set up expressly for the net hunt. At the entrance to this clearing stood two fir trees. The two hunters, by means of a cord tied to the branches of these trees, spread out the wide green net, which covered the entrance to the forest like a curtain of green gauze. Mr and Mrme de Finkenstein sat down on a grass bench under one of the trees; young Louise was in their midst. At the foot of the other fir, Frederic held the rope intended to bring down the net; the old hunter placed himself behind him to warn him of the favorable moment. Everyone was silent, and the children kept their eyes fixed on the network; but not a woodcock appeared. The sun had already set for some time; the moon, hitherto covered by light clouds, grew brighter and brighter, while the vivid colors of twilight faded imperceptibly. The net was barely visible in the gathering darkness. The children had already lost hope of catching a single bird, when suddenly two woodcocks, meeting the net in their flight, rushed into it with such force that their long beaks and necks remained caught in the mesh, and one would have said that they were going to take away the network. "Shoot," said the hunter. Frédéric pulled the rope with force, the net fell, and the two woodcocks were captured, to the cries of joy of the children.
The count and his family then took the road to the castle. The perfidious Thierry had long since lain down by the side of the road, beside a bush. His feet were bare; one, wrapped in rags, was enormous in size; it was in these rags that he had hidden his false keys and his nightingales. It was almost dark when the noble family passed by this place. Frederic saw the first person near the bush. " Who is here? he cried. Thierry struggled to his feet with the help of a stick, limped over and begged, and pretended he could barely stand.
The Count asked him where he had come from so late and what he was doing there. The perfidious Thierry heaved a plaintive sigh, grimaced as if in intolerable pain, and said in a tearful voice:
“Oh! unhappy that I am, I no longer have an asylum, neither a father nor a mother, and I see myself reduced to begging my bread. However good I want to earn my living by working, no one wants to take me into their service, because of the pain I have in my leg. I come today from Pruneville, three leagues from here, where I showed my wound to the surgeon; he applied a plaster to my leg which burns me like fire, telling me that the flesh must be cauterized. To make matters worse, having lost my way in the forest, I have been wandering since noon in the thorns and brushwood without having eaten or drunk. I had hoped to be able to arrive again this evening at Hirsfeld; but it is impossible for me to drag myself further, and I will be reduced to spending the night in the open air, dying of hunger and thirst. At these words, he pulled out his torn little handkerchief and pretended to wipe away his tears.
Mme de Finkenstein and his two children were so greatly touched by the position of this unfortunate little boy, that they begged the count to have him conducted to the castle, and to grant him hospitality until his wound was cured.
The Count, good and generous himself, was quite ready to comply with the wishes of his charitable family: however, he could not help examining Thierry with a penetrating gaze, as if he wanted to make sure if what the young beggar was telling him was really the truth.
The crafty Thierry, noticing this look, immediately pretended to untie the cord which tied the rags around his leg, to show them the dreadful state of his wound. He knew well in advance that the noble family would not consent to it. In fact, he was not allowed to.
'No, no,' cried the Countess, waving her hand to him, 'leave it! I cannot bear the sight of a wound. We believe you without that: follow us. »
The noble family continued on their way, and Thierry limped along, as if he had difficulty in following them, and all the while chuckling at their confidence. Arrived at the castle, the good lady gave him supper in the concierge's lodge, and designated the room where he was to spend the night. She also gave orders that they should go and fetch at daybreak the same surgeon who had so happily cured Fridolin's father; then she left him to go to his apartments.
Thierry went into the concierge's lodge and ate the supper he was served with delight, without forgetting to touch his leg from time to time and complain of his pain. When he had had supper, the porter conducted him through a long corridor to a vast vaulted room of brick, in which there was a very clean bed.
"Here is your bed," said the porter; you do not need light, the moonlight will serve you as a lamp. Good night sleep tight. »
Thereupon he withdrew, carrying the light, and closed the door behind him.
God protects the good.
As soon as Thierry was alone, he untied the rags which covered him from his foot, put in his pocket the false keys and the hooks which were going to be useful to him, and, having thrown himself fully dressed on his bed, he remained quiet until he thought everyone fell asleep. As soon as he saw the most complete silence reigning, he got up, gently opened the door of his room and advanced into the dark corridor. When the doorman gave him the light to take him to bed, Thierry had taken care to examine the localities carefully, and had noticed the garden gate with its iron bars and its old rusty lock that Josse had told him about. He tried to find her by following the long wall with one hand, while with the other hand he held his instruments ready.
After following the corridor with the greatest precaution, he reached the door, from which he removed the bolts noiselessly; he also succeeded in opening the lock, and paused for a moment on the threshold of the open door. A brisk, pungent autumn wind blew through the branches of the trees half stripped of their greenery, and whistled through the leaves that covered the ground. The moon was long gone, and a few scattered stars in the firmament still shone here and there through the clouds. Thierry first wanted to wait in this place for the arrival of the other brigands; but his feet were so cold, both at the entrance to the garden and on the marble flagstones of the corridor, that it was impossible for him to hold out any longer. So he left the garden door ajar, and went back to his room, taking the precaution of not closing it, in order to hear the signal for the arrival of his comrades, a faint whistle. Thierry threw himself on his bed, his head resting on his arm and trying not to fall asleep.
Suddenly he thought he heard a hurricane breaking loose; the windows rattled, and the door to his room swung open. Thierry was afraid; however, he reassured himself. It was the wind, he said to himself, which, whistling in the chimneys of the castle, produced this noise, which caused the door to tremble and opened ajar. But a moment later he heard distant footsteps in the corridor, which became more and more distinct and closer together. This is quite a singular march, he said, wiping his brow; they are not human footsteps: what the hell can that be? Soon the same footsteps were heard in the bedroom, and Thierry saw near the window a black figure wearing horns.
This figure walked towards him and stood in front of his bed. Thierry was seized with a mortal fright, and hid in the blanket. Oh! he said to himself, it is the demon who exercises his power over the wicked.
The fantastic being that the young malefactor took for the demon was nothing other than the roe deer. The gust of wind which had just made itself heard having opened the door of the garden, the roe deer, mortal enemy of the young marauders, had entered the corridor; and, guided by his sense of smell, the intelligent animal had discovered the presence in the chateau of a foreign guest, and he had come to pay him this nocturnal visit.
Thierry remained almost speechless with fright at the sight of that terrible face, those burning eyes, those threatening horns: a cold sweat was streaming from his brow, he wrapped himself completely in the blanket. The so-called demon first applied a few blows of the horns to him, which despite the protection of the blanket did him a lot of harm; not content with that, the black figure jumped up on the bed and began to dig its horns into the blanket, as if it wanted to take it off. Then Thierry, unable to bear it any longer, made an effort, threw off the blanket, jumped out of bed and dashed into the corridor; the roe deer pursued him, knocked him down, and again overwhelmed him with blows with his feet and with his horns. Thierry freed himself several times; but no sooner had he got up to run away than he was knocked down again. The deer thus chased him from corner to corner as far as the vestibule at the foot of the main staircase, where he caught him again, knocked him down and stepped on him to prevent him from getting up and going any further. Thierry, beside himself, and not knowing what to do, began to shout with all his might: “He's got me, he's grabbed me, he wants to take me away; Help ! Help ! »
These cries and this noise awoke the people of the castle. The first to appear at the top of the stairs, with a light, was old Maurice. Thierry, in despair, rushed to meet him, threw himself at his feet, kissed his knees and cried: “0 Sir! protect me, save me; I will confess everything. »
The hunter cried out in a terrible voice: “Speak! confess! But before Thierry could catch his breath, the servants rushed in from all directions. Soon afterwards also appeared the count, his wife and the two children. Thierry's lamentable cries had awakened everyone and spread the alarm in the chateau.
"Speak, Maurice," said the Count, addressing himself to the old hunter; tell me what happened, and who is this funny fellow who is causing trouble among us?
"Your Excellency will learn it from his own mouth," replied the hunter. Come, speak, rascal; what reason led you to this castle? what was your purpose? Be honest above all, or else you will get hurt. »
Then Thierry confessed in tears that he had allowed himself to be persuaded by poachers to pass himself off as a cripple and a beggar, in order to be received during the night at the castle, and to open the garden door for them, something to which he refused. 'had consented only forced by their threats; but that instead of the poachers, the devil had come to mistreat him with his horns and wanted to take him away.
The good Fridolin, who was next to M. de Finkenstein, and who held a candle in his hand, looked more closely at the wretched Thierry, and exclaimed: “Hey! I recognize you; it was you who once in the forest killed a poor kid with a shotgun blast under the eyes of its young. Yes, yes, it's you! Didn't you believe then that the young deer would one day avenge his mother, that he would hand you over to justice and perhaps to the scaffold? But God wanted it this way: God is a patient judge, but just and severe. »
Thierry looked at Fridolin with astonished eyes, and did not understand what he meant. Then old Maurice told him that the little roe deer whose mother he had formerly sacrificed with so much barbarity in the forest of Haselbach, had been brought up in the castle, had become a magnificent animal, and that this was the devil whose mother he had received beatings.
“Is there on earth a being more stupid, more imbecile than me! cried Thierry, slapping his hand on the forehead. I thought I was the most cunning boy of my age, and now I take a deer for the devil. A mindless animal may have deceived me grossly enough to force me to uncover a plot that was so well planned! Oh ! it is pitiful; there is enough to tear your hair out in shame and spite. »
The servants burst out laughing at the singular mistake of the young rascal; but the Count found in it the subject of a good lesson, and said with a serious air: “The fright of this young malefactor comes, it is true, from an error; but a great truth is hidden under this error: it is his conscience which makes him see the devil under the figure of this innocent animal. An honest and virtuous boy would never have thought that the demon wanted to take him to hell. »
Mme de Finkenstein then ordered the servants to close the garden gate to protect themselves from the attempts of the thieves. Maurice was of the opinion that this door should be left open, while all the servants of the chateau, well armed, should lay in ambush, thus surprising the whole band and purging the country of them.
But the noble countess opposed it.
“Certainly the robbers will not come unless they are well armed, and they might, in their desperate defense, kill or wound some of our people; which would drive me to despair.
"You are right, Francoise," replied her husband; we still have other means of seizing them. The young accomplice being in our power, the others will not be able to escape us, we will force him to show us their lair. »
The garden gate was immediately closed; but the old hunter grumbled, “I cannot let those infamous poachers get away like this; if I could at least send them a handful of pellets in the legs, it would benefit them. He fetched two double-barreled guns, loaded them, and posted himself at a window opposite the garden gate. He waited in vain, the brigands did not appear. At the hour indicated they had come, under cover of the darkness, and had approached the wall which surrounded the garden; but having heard Thierry's cries, they thought he was being castigated. At the same time they saw light in several rooms, and people going up from one floor to another with torches. They then understood that their plot had been discovered, and hastened to return to the forest. Their very fright was such that they forgot the bags they had thought they had filled with gold and silver: they were found the next day at the foot of the garden wall.
Scarcely day had dawned when the judge was seen to arrive, whom M. de Finkenstein had sent for; he was accompanied by his clerk and two gendarmes provided with handcuffs and ropes intended to bind the young malefactor. They took him out of his prison, and led him into a room where the judge wanted to proceed to a first interrogation in the presence of the Count of Finkenstein.
Thierry, brought before the judge, had recourse to his usual tricks and lies. He related that he had been deceived and led away by brigands, took good care not to make known his true origin, and offered to guide the public force towards the retreat of the brigands, if they wished to spare him.
The judge did not believe the impostures imagined by Thierry; but he addressed no threat to him, and left him to flatter himself that he would succeed in imposing on justice.
The attack directed against the castle of Finkenstein had caused a great stir in the country, and all the gendarmes and country guards of the district were immediately seen to unite, to whom were joined a great number of armed peasants. The judge put himself at their head, and immediately directed this troop towards the ruins of the old fortified castle. Thierry, garrotted and tied to a cart, indicated the course to follow; he pointed out the points by which the brigands could escape, and good guard was kept there. At last they penetrated into the interior of the underground, and there they found the three brigands asleep in consequence of the fatigues which they had experienced in their expedition the day before. They were surprised and seized without being able to defend themselves, and Waller himself, seeing himself surrounded by so many assailants, nobly saluted the judge and presented his hands to be bound, without uttering a single word. The other two were furious and vomited abuse at Thierry; they were no less chained and thrown on the cart with Thierry and all the objects found in the underground.
The brigands were first interrogated very frequently, and, according to their answers, information was taken from the different tribunals in whose jurisdiction they had sojourned more or less long. The malefactors spent more than a year in prison, and by dint of research we came to know their whole life and all their infamies. When the investigation was terminated, the first judges addressed the acts to the supreme court of the country, and the judgment was awaited.
Story and end of the three criminals.
Waller came from a respectable and very distinguished family, and had taken this name only to hide the one he really bore. His father was a civil servant of a superior order, a magistrate of integrity and enjoying general esteem. Waller, whose baptismal name was Charles, showed from his childhood the happiest dispositions; he was remarkably handsome. His parents neglected nothing to give him an excellent education; and as soon as he reached the age of eighteen they sent him to the university to complete his studies. There he was noticed first by the culture of his mind, the variety of his talents and the amenity of his character. But he had the unfortunate defect of being irritable and easily carried away. His family, dazzled by his brilliant qualities, had too much neglected the divine instructions of religion, which would have softened this irascible character, by inculcating in him salutary principles of humility and charity; he was cruelly punished for this fault to which he had abandoned his heart.
One day when he was out walking with some young students, one of his friends, a young lord who had hitherto professed a very special esteem for Waller, allowed himself, carried away by the gaiety of the meal, a few jokes that the Waller's pride could not bear. A very lively quarrel ensued. Unfortunately the young gentlemen were then in the habit of carrying the sword; the two friends, having become adversaries, went to a nearby little wood, and Waller had the misfortune to kill his antagonist.
Waller, bloody sword in hand, seized with horror and terror, stood there motionless as a statue, and as pale as the friend he had just immolated. All his fellow students urged him to flee immediately, and he left without knowing where he was going. After wandering for several days in the woods in despair and in the midst of the greatest dangers, he happened to meet an old childhood friend, the son of a workman, whose residence was close to that of Waller's father. This young man told him that, being a soldier, he had madly lost at play the money which belonged to the regiment, and which had been entrusted to him. To escape the punishment that threatened him, Valentin (that was the name of Waller's old acquaintance) had deserted, had become a poacher and had taken the name of Schlik. In the desperate position in which he found himself, Waller did not hesitate to adopt the same kind of life.
He therefore threw himself into the thickest of the woods with Schlik, and they lived on the produce of their hunt. But this resource could not suffice for all their needs; they therefore took the desperate course of robbing the travellers, and it was they who had attacked Madame's brother.me of Finkenstein, whom Fridolin's father had saved.
Some time later, Schlik met Josse, who joined the two friends. It was necessary for them to go and sell the game they slaughtered; but they despised him on account of his drunkenness and gross vices, and Waller never showed himself familiar with him.
This Josse had been one of the richest farmers in the canton of Hirsfeld; he had a wife full of qualities and virtues, charming children; but pride and laziness, the pleasure of going to shine at parties, and the negligence he brought in the direction of his affairs, had begun his ruin. Having once forgotten the duties of a good father of a family and of a faithful Christian, he had abandoned himself to all vices; gambling and drunkenness had finished ruining him; and his pride not permitting him to bear the shame of the misery into which he had plunged himself, he had fled, and by degrees had fallen to the state of a brigand. Along with Schlik, he plundered isolated farms, and attacked defenseless travellers. Waller directed these attempts, in which, however, he rarely took part, unless the help of his arm was necessary to rescue his companions from some danger.
One day Schlik met a young man in the forest, a tanner's boy, busy collecting oak bark. They greeted each other; and, after having begun the conversation, they were not long in recognizing each other. Children from the same town, they had gone to school together. Schlik could not restrain his tears when he learned from the tanner, called Rist, that his mother, still alive, was constantly grieving over her desertion, and that this grief would lead her to the grave. Waller's family was no less to be pitied. The unfortunate duel had raised against her a crowd of powerful people, and unjust enough to bring their anger to bear on the parents of the culprit. The father had hardly survived the sad news, and the mother had followed him closely. The brother, a young man full of talent, politeness and the best qualities, was still only a simple lawyer; the obstinacy and the influence of the enemy house closed to him the career of the public employments. Fortunately the third marriage publication of his eldest sister had already been made when the fatal quarrel was learned; the marriage was therefore celebrated; but the wedding day was like a day of mourning. The other sister lived with her brother, whose household she took care of, and could hardly hope to marry properly.
Having guessed at first glance that Schlik was a poacher, the young tanner wanted to question him in turn. Schlik easily confessed his ugly job. "Leave him, believe me," continued the tanner: from poaching to theft and from theft to murder there is only one step, and that step is slippery. »
Instead of answering him, Schlik moved away moaning, and hastened to tell Waller everything that had just been said to him. Waller was heartbroken; he wept over the death of his dear parents, over the sad position of his brother and sisters. “Alas! he exclaimed, "all these misfortunes are my work, and I would have spared my family them if I had known how to control my passions!..." Until then he had hoped that his duel would be forgotten and that he could return to his homeland; forced to renounce this sweet illusion, he resolved to go to America. For that he needed a lot of money: such was the motive which determined him to his enterprise on the castle of Finkenstein. "There," he said, "I will find the sum I need, and in America I will make a great fortune which will enable me to repay this sum." He arranged things this way: God arranged them quite differently, and this enterprise was the end of the crimes of this band of criminals.
On the day when the judgment was to be pronounced, the president, accompanied by his clerk, went to the dark and ancient hall of justice, where the twelve judges, respectable old men, were already waiting assembled. There was a huge crowd of spectators. Waller was introduced first by the gendarmes. As soon as he was seen to enter and present himself with that noble ease which was usual for him, the sensation was general, and a solemn silence reigned in the hall. Although the kind of life he had led for several years, as well as his long stay in the prison, must have greatly altered the expression of his face, it was still seen that he must have been a very handsome man. The sentence was pronounced, and Waller condemned to the death penalty. This unfortunate man listened to his sentence with calm and firmness; when the reading was finished, he asked to speak, and said: “Mr. President, the judgment you have just read is deserved; I expected it and I humbly submit to it. After having failed in all my duties towards God and towards society, it is right that I expiate my crimes by death. I abandon my head without murmuring to the sword of the law, in order to satisfy thereby the rights of humanity, which I have trampled underfoot, and the justice of God, which I have offended.
“Gentlemen,” he continued, “you know my life, you knew how to procure my certificates from the university; you have found there satisfactory testimonies of my studies and my morals, if I except my unfortunate penchant for quarrels. Yes, I dare to flatter myself, all my previous conduct has been irreproachable. Perhaps I would be today, like you, a justly honored magistrate if my detestable outburst, which my religious feelings should have mastered, had not caused my downfall. Yes, it is anger that has been the source of all my misfortunes. I can assure you that since the fatal moment when I sacrificed my friend I have not enjoyed a single moment of rest. The blood shed by my hand presented itself before my eyes when I got up, and still pursued me when I went to bed. How many nights have I seen pass by in dreadful insomnia! how many tears have I bathed my bed!... The wine, which had inflamed my fiery character, became to me from that moment an object of horror; I promised myself never to drink it again, and I kept my word, although this resolution was no longer of any importance. I made, moreover, with myself the solemn commitment not to shed any more human blood in my life. Alas! I horribly violated that oath.
"Mr. President, I beg you to send the expression of my repentance to the noble family of Finkenstein, whose tranquility has been so cruelly disturbed by my criminal project: tell them that my intention was not to shed a single drop blood in the castle, and please believe that this is the truth.
"There remains another prayer for me to address to you, and to which I attach great importance: please, therefore, I implore you, do not reject it. You know that the name Waller that I bear is an assumed name. Ah! thank you! do not reveal my real name, so as not to stigmatize forever the family which I have dishonored.
“Finally, Mr. President, deign to send me a clergyman to receive my confession. Unfortunately, I have not attended the divine office for a long time, nor frequented the sacraments; hence my callousness in the crimes which had banished me from the community of the faithful. After having lived for a long time as a scoundrel and a pagan, may I at least have the consolation of dying as a Christian.
"Yes, I urge you to do so," said the judge, promising to grant him all his requests and presenting his hand to him. Waller, with his large black eyes filled with tears, cast a look of emotion upon this venerable man, rested on his heart and pressed lovingly the hand offered to him, then promptly turned away; and while all present burst into tears, he was led back to prison to prepare there to enter eternity.
Schlik had passed the time of his captivity in mournful affliction. The little heavily grilled window of his dark dungeon overlooked the church.
Every time he heard the sound of the bells, his heart leapt with deep emotion. He distinctly heard the sound of the organ, and even the pious chanting of the faithful reached him. But he was too grieved to add his voice to it; he prayed in the silence of recollection, and prostrated himself in spirit in the midst of the holy temple, not without shedding tears of contrition. The cemetery which surrounded the church, with its tombs and funerary crosses, awoke in his soul the most serious reflections. Each time he saw a funeral, the idea of his approaching death froze him with dread. Ah! he said to himself one day when he saw the body of a mother buried whose children uttered painful moans around the grave, ah! What tears will my poor mother shed when she learns of my death on the scaffold! He intended to write to her, when he himself received a letter from this virtuous woman.
Valentin thus learned that there had been an amnesty for deserters, and that his mother had succeeded in erasing all trace of the fault that the game had caused him to commit, by reimbursing the sum he had subtracted. Thus he would still have been permitted to live peacefully and happily, if he had not himself put the climax to his misfortune by abandoning himself to despair and throwing himself into the greatest disorders. After reading this letter, Schlik shed a torrent of tears and cursed the game a thousand times, which had led him to the misfortune in which he found himself.
His mother's letter ended with exhortations full of wisdom and piety which urged him to seek in religion the strength and the consolations necessary to end with a good death a life which had been so guilty. Schlik resolved to take advantage of this good advice; and when the respectable parish priest of Hirsfeld presented himself in his prison, he made his confession with such humility and accompanied it with so many tears, that the pious ecclesiastic was deeply touched, and lavished on him all the consolations of his sacred ministry.
Schlik then began to read with pious contemplation the prayers in a book which the priest had left him for this purpose. No sooner had he finished than the door opened, and he saw the jailer enter, who told him that Waller wished to speak to him. Schlik followed the jailer into his friend's room: the latter was on his knees and praying. “Schlick! exclaimed Waller, rushing towards him; and both threw themselves into each other's arms with such force, that the walls resounded with the noise of their chains; for a long time they mingled their tears. Finally Waller said to him: “Dear friend, I have learned that you have been converted and that you have sincerely returned to God; I did the same. Everything is fine now. Having lived as sinners, we must at least die repentant, it is the only thing left for us to do. I have trained you for many crimes; without your attachment to me, you would not have become so unhappy. Forgive me, dear friend, oh! forgive me, you the only friend who remained faithful to me in my misfortune. Both wept; they sat down side by side, and conversed in pious thoughts until the moment when Schlik was escorted back to his room. "Farewell, my friend," said Waller to him, kissing him again, "now we are in a condition to die full of confidence in the merits of Jesus Christ and in the religion of our fathers." Our separation will be short; tomorrow, at nine o'clock, death will separate us to reunite us at the same instant and for eternity. Farewell ! farewell ! May the God of mercy be with you! »
Josse did not show himself to be more hardened than his companions. The visit of his wife and children, who came to find him in his prison, touched him deeply; he humbly begged their forgiveness for the torments he had caused them to experience. His unfortunate wife and children threw themselves into his arms, and for a long time mingled their tears with his. Relieved by this interview, strengthened by the speeches of his wife, whom he found full of resignation to the orders of divine providence, Josse sincerely humbled himself at the feet of the minister of the altars, and from that moment he was a different man; he no longer lived except to think of making himself worthy of reuniting with his family in another life.
Thus prepared for death, the three criminals saw the day of execution arrive rather with hope in heavenly mercy than with fear of punishment. From the morning of this fatal day, the crowd pressed in tumultuous waves on the meadow which was to be the scene of the bloody punishment of the culprits. A large number of inhabitants also gathered in the church, and begged the sovereign judge to grant a holy death to the condemned. Many tears flowed in the holy place, while outside the church was heard the funereal ringing of the big bell, the noise of the crowd and the rolling of the drums. The three culprits walked with resignation to the torture; they addressed to the spectators some salutary councils, and, after having publicly confessed their faults, and having embraced the image of Christ presented to them by the venerable priest, they delivered their heads to the executioner. [so will Pranzini!]
Repentance of Thierry.
A few weeks before the sentencing of his three accomplices, Thierry had fallen ill in his cell. The prison doctor gave him a room a little less dreadful; they took off his chains; a fairly good bed replaced the straw which had hitherto served him as a bedding, and the care his illness required was provided. The priest and the doctor often came to see him. Nevertheless most of the time he was alone; neither sun nor moonlight illumined his dark prison. All he could see through the black iron bars was the greyish wall of a house in ruins, which, by its extreme proximity to the window of the dungeon, seemed destined to block the view outside. Thierry was therefore very bored in his prison; the time seemed unbearably long to him, and he passed very sad moments.
He did not know what fate awaited him: whether he would be condemned to capital punishment, or whether he would be spared his life. This complete uncertainty was not one of his least torments; he wavered ceaselessly between fear and hope, between life and death.
The day when the judgment of the criminals was pronounced, Thierry noticed an unusual movement around his prison. Ordinarily the silence of the tombs reigned in the ancient and dark edifice; but that day he heard the sound of the footsteps of a multitude of men, of doors opening and closing with a crash, the clanking of weapons, and the clanking of chains. When Robert, the jailer's servant, came to bring him the soup, Thierry asked him what all the noise meant and what was happening again. " What is happening ? answered this somber man, whom the habit of his foundations had rendered hard and insensitive; you wanna know what's going on? Well ! today we're going to pronounce the death warrant on your three comrades, and next Friday we'll cut off their heads. It's a pity that you fell ill so inappropriately; without that you would have figured in this dance, and we would have finished all at once with you other bad subjects, instead of which we will be obliged to begin the task again for a rascal such as you. To hell with the hassle you give us! He left, and slammed the door shut behind him.
Thierry was so frightened by what he had just learned that he was shaking all over. Every sound of a man's footsteps froze him with terror; every door he heard open or close made him shiver; he feared at every moment that someone would also come to announce his death sentence. On the day of the execution of his comrades, when the prolonged sound of the great belfry bell struck his ears, he felt a kind of agony; yet the excess of terror gave him strength; he got up and dressed: sometimes he ran to the door to listen; sometimes he approached his barred window to listen again. However, the noise kept increasing. The hum of the tumultuous crowd that thronged on all sides, the rolling of drums and numerous carriages, the march of soldiers, the clanking of weapons, the footsteps of horses resounded in the long corridors and even in his room. His legs failed him, he was forced to sit up on his bed; he was still trembling in all his limbs, when suddenly the door opened with a crash, and the terrible Robert appeared, followed by another valet of the jailer. "Follow us," he cried hoarsely. These words redoubled Thierry's terror. Not knowing the legal forms, he imagined that they were going to take him to the scaffold and execute him immediately. However, this was not the case; but one of the provisions of his judgment, which had not yet been notified to him, ordered that he should be required to be present at the execution of the three other culprits.
“In the name of Heaven! he cried, crying, what are you going to do with me?
"You'll see that later," replied Robert.
These two men, having seized him by the arm, led him, or rather dragged him, through long corridors, into another part of this vast edifice, and led him into one of the rooms on the highest story. Several people were already placed at the windows to watch the procession pass. "Here is the wicked Thierry, the fourth of these brigands," cried Robert. Everyone turned around to consider him for a few moments, then everyone resumed their place. The two guards led Thierry to a window that had been reserved for him. The brilliance of the day, the beauty of the firmament, the greenery of the meadows and forests, all marvels the sight of which had been denied him for so long, astonished and dazzled him. The magnificent spectacle of resurgent nature made a deep impression on his soul, and wrung sighs from him; but soon his eyes fell on the immense crowd which had gathered round the scaffold. He saw Waller, Schlik and Josse arrive, marching to execution. He saw the sword shining on the head of the first of these three culprits; he saw his blood spurt out, his head fall!... “Jesus! he exclaimed; and he closed his eyes so as not to see the execution of the other two. They brought him back half dead to his dungeon.
Since that day Thierry showed himself completely discouraged and dejected. Night and day, he constantly thought he had before his eyes the formidable sword, and under this sword flowed the blood of his companions; he feared the same fate, he lamented and despaired. But he was far from making amends inwardly. His heart had not that fear of God and that sincere love for Jesus Christ which disposes the sinner to repentance. His only desire was to escape death, the scaffold; and, having learned one day from the jailer's wife, who sometimes came to see him to care for him during his illness, that they would not inflict capital punishment on him, and that they would confine themselves to confining him for a few years in a house of correction, he felt his heart relieved of an overwhelming weight: he became again what he had once been, light and wicked, and thought only of seeking the best means of escaping from prison and of forging plans on what he would do next.
In the interval when all this was going on, the Count of Finkenstein had placed Fridolin with the general guard of the district of Hirsfeld, to instruct himself there in the administration of the forest. The General Guard's wife was a most charitable lady; having learned of Thierry's illness, she sent him from time to time some dishes suited to his condition. One day Fridolin brought him a roast chicken. Although he pitied the culprit, the joy of participating in a good deed gave his face an expression of contentment in which one could notice a mixture of compassion. The wicked Thierry could only see in it an insulting gaiety, an indecent raillery; besides, Fridolin's beautiful green uniform cruelly hurt the eyes of this jealous man; he said to him in a tone of bitterness and covetousness: “I am unhappy, and you triumph!... You knew how to slip in and succeed in the castle of Finkenstein by means of your accursed roe deer which caused my ruin; this ugly animal alone is the author of all my ills. Until now fortune has been against me; but I hope to become happier afterwards; my mother will buy my deliverance with a sum of money, and will still leave me enough crowns to spend the rest of my life in comfort: I will not need like you to become a servant and to be the very - humble valet of others. »
Yet Thierry ate the chicken greedily, without thanking Fridolin for his trouble; and the latter withdrew greatly distressed, on seeing that Thierry had lost none of his habitual wickedness and coarseness.
However, Thierry's illness grew worse from day to day and became very dangerous. The parish priest of Hirsfeld went to see him often and spent long hours by his bed, trying to inspire him with Christian sentiments. He urged him to have recourse with confidence to the mercy of God, and not to make useless for his soul the precious blood which our divine Redeemer shed for the remission of our sins, to repent of his faults and to convert sincerely, a condition without which he would be eternally lost. But Thierry did not pay much attention to the words of the charitable priest. Sometimes he did show some signs of repentance; he even assured the priest one day that he was very sorry not to have followed his father's advice, and to have so often deceived his mother with lies.
“Good, my friend,” said the cure; I am charmed to see you at last in this disposition: may it be the dawn of your salvation! But tell me, Thierry, why do you regret not having listened to your parents' warnings?
- Hey! Why ? if I had followed them, I would have learned well at school; I would have learned a good state, I would have a fine locksmith's shop, and consequently I would have become one of the most respected bourgeois of our place. Instead of that I have already spent more than a year in this accursed prison; Here I am sick, alone, stripped of everything; and even if I came out of it cured, it would be to be locked up again in a prison! »
It was thus that, always sensual, he thought only of the things of this world, and his heart was still far from opening to these religious feelings of faith and confidence in the goodness of God and in the love and the merits of Jesus Christ, sentiments which alone legitimize repentance in the eyes of the Lord and assure the forgiveness of sins.
One evening the priest had just left him, deeply distressed to find him still insensitive to his pastoral exhortations. The turnkey accosted the venerable ecclesiastic, and asked him several questions about Thierry; the latter, who was very curious, had approached the door to listen to what the priest would answer. "Well, monsieur le cure," said Robert, "what do you think of this young villain's illness?" Will he not decamp soon for the other world? I'm starting to get tired of the hassle he gives us.
"My friend," replied the ecclesiastic, "don't be so insensitive: the unfortunate man has only a few days left to live, his fever is extremely malignant." Have a little more patience.
- Patience, replied Robert, yes-da! who would be capable of having as much patience as you, monsieur le curé, with a fellow as obstinate and as hardened as he? You are too good, and I believe that all your troubles will be wasted: the rascal is spoiled to the marrow of his bones. Do you think he can still do penance? for my part, I very much doubt it.
— Alas! my friend, resumed the priest, his heart unfortunately resembles the stony ground
on which falls the seed of the divine word; it is as if each grain were immediately taken away by the birds; so far my pains have produced no fruit; this unfortunate person worries me deeply, and I fear that he will not die in good feelings.
-Well! exclaimed Robert, "in your place I wouldn't give myself so much work; if this rogue wants to go for a walk in hell, let him go, that's up to him; we have nothing to gain or lose. Since he doesn't ask for better, let him settle down, let him talk, and have a good trip.
"Don't talk like that," replied the cure; this young man, corrupt as he is, nevertheless has an immortal soul, and the soul of a Christian is too precious in the eyes of the Lord not to attempt every means of saving it. If this were only a temporary misfortune, we could remain cold; but to think that this soul will be eternally unhappy, oh! it's too painful an idea. Have pity on him.
“In fact,” continued Robert, “if the meager bones of this brigand were to burn only a thousand years in hell, I would wish him well; but also when I think that he would not leave this place of torment for all eternity, it freezes my blood in my veins, and I would almost pity him, however depraved he may be. »
Thierry had heard this interview with a violent beating of the heart. The harsh words of the insensitive turnkey had made a greater impression on him than the gentle and benevolent speeches of the good priest. So there is no longer any remedy, he said to himself, I must die! And am I therefore really in danger of falling within a few days into the abyss of hell? A single year spent in prison has already seemed so long to me! how much more dreadful it would be to spend a thousand in the fires of hell, and that is what the pitiless Robert wishes me! However, despite his harshness, the thought of eternal fire made him shiver, and he dares not wish that I should be eternally condemned to it! Oh ! yes, to be struck with eternal reprobation is the most terrifying destiny one can imagine...
Yet, continued Thierry, this priest is a very worthy man! What benevolence he has for me! what touching interest he has in me! So far I have not listened to his exhortations; I thought he spoke to me of God only because it was the custom and because his functions required him to do so. But now I recognize that he really takes pity on me and wants me well. No interest guides him; and yet how much trouble he has already taken for me! Ah! really, he is an excellent, a very respectable man, while I am an ingrate, a wicked one, yes, a very wicked one!...
Thereupon Thierry shed bitter tears, took the resolution to return to himself and to convert, and, for this purpose, to abandon himself without reserve to the direction of the respectable priest.
When the priest, at Thierry's request, entered his prison very early the next morning, he perceived at first glance that a notable change had taken place in his heart; for the patient hastened to greet him with respect and to say to him: "My dear monsieur le cure, teach me, I beg you, what I must do to obtain forgiveness for my sins and die of a holy death! Have the kindness to repeat to me again what you have already repeated to me so many times; I am now disposed to listen to you attentively and to follow your advice. »
The priest, filled with holy joy at the sight of these happy dispositions, sat down beside Thierry's bed, and addressed to him a touching exhortation on the sacrament of penance. Thierry, continually keeping his eyes fixed on him, seemed to devour his every word. It was then for the first time that the worthy pastor could speak from the bottom of his soul, because he saw that his words were collected. Thierry repented sincerely, and made an act of contrition with the most touching fervour. The next day, the priest heard the confession that Thierry made to him with an open heart and not without shedding many tears. From that moment the young sinner found an inexpressible happiness in hearing of Jesus Christ, who had come into the world to save sinners; and, each time the priest rose to retire, Thierry seized and kissed the hand of the virtuous minister of God (which he had never done before), thanked him with tears in his eyes, and begged him to return. Soon. “Oh! What happiness for poor humanity, he said, that there are ecclesiastics instituted to restore calm and pour celestial consolations into the soul of the sinner, and make him reborn in hope! Without them a culprit such as myself could not fail to indulge in the most dreadful despair. »
Thierry and his mother.
Since the disappearance of her son, Thierry's unhappy mother had not enjoyed a single moment of calm; but when she received the news that he had been arrested with the three other brigands and thrown into the dungeons of Hirsfeld, she was frozen with terror, and her maternal heart felt an inexpressible pain. She immediately took the road to Hirsfeld, went and threw herself at the feet of the judge who was instructing the case, and said to him, with joined hands: "I will sacrifice all my fortune, I will sell my house, and I will go and beg my bread, if you want to save my son, my unfortunate Thierry, only you can. Oh! I beg you, in grace, do not refuse me. »
But the honest magistrate answered him: “I can do nothing here but do my duty; the laws are there, and I have to obey them. I pity you and your son; but when the parents do not fulfill their duties and do not correct their children, the judicial authority is obliged to intervene and send to prison that perverted youth who prepare dangerous men for society, or to punish in some way still more terrible are the disorders and crimes they have already committed. He who spares the rod when his children deserve to be corrected, hands them over to the sword of justice. So spoke the judge. Then the desolate mother asked her permission to see her son; but the magistrate declared that this permission could not be granted to him until after the judicial inquiry had been terminated. So she resumed, weeping, the road to Waldon without having had the consolation of kissing her son, and was on the point of succumbing to the pain and pangs of heart which overwhelmed her.
Thierry felt a strong desire to see his mother again before he died: he had learned that she had come to Hirsfeld in time to console him, and that he had been refused permission to enter the prison. However, he was very sorry not to have heard from her since, and he complained to the priest that his mother had thus abandoned him in his long illness. "It's true," he added, "that I hardly deserve her to take care of me, I have caused her so much grief!" but as she has always been so kind to me, I cannot believe that she wants to abandon me in my misfortune and reject me irrevocably. »
The priest replied: “My dear Thierry, your mother maintains the same dispositions towards you. She is animated by the same feelings of benevolence and tenderness; but your position has affected her so deeply that she has fallen dangerously ill, and for several months she has not been able to get out of bed. He has been told that you are ill too; she then said, "We will never see each other again in this world, my son and I." God grant us the grace that we find ourselves happy in the other! »
But one day when Thierry, lying on his bed, was thinking of her with pain, the door of the dungeon suddenly opened and his mother entered. He had difficulty in recognizing her, she had grown so old; she was pale and thin, and you could see from her red, tired eyes that she must have shed a lot of tears a long time ago. At the sight of the pale and emaciated face of her son, the unhappy Madeleine lamented, raised her hands above her head, and fell back as if petrified. “Oh! my poor child! my poor Terry! she cried in horror. She could say no more; her sobs choked her. Thierry rose, held out a weak hand to her, and exclaimed: "0 my mother!" my dear mother ! how ! you come to see me again! So you haven't forgotten your poor Thierry? How good you are! you are always a tender mother! Ah! I have caused you much grief, I have made you shed many tears, and I have bleached your hair before its time. Forgive me, forgive me! If you knew how much I repent of my bad behavior, you would certainly forgive me!..."
Madeleine, already exhausted by the fatigues of the journey, which she had undertaken in spite of her state of weakness, could not resist these violent emotions; she almost fainted, and was forced to sit on a chair near her son's bed. He took her hand, pressed it to his lips, and his livid cheeks were covered with tears. " My mother! he exclaimed in a heartrending tone, say, can you still forgive me?
“My dear son,” replied the mother, casting a sorrowful look at him, “I am much more guilty than you; I should have been more reasonable, more severe towards you, and not yielded to your
less desire for children; my too great indulgence caused your loss, it is on me that falls all the fault.
'No, no,' Thierry went on, 'it's me alone who's guilty; you did not know all my wickedness; you don't know how many times I betrayed your trust with my lies, my deceptions and my hypocrisy. I was deceitful, concealed, and that is what caused my downfall. But believe me, I now hate all my past conduct; night and day, I implore God and my Redeemer, I ask them for grace and mercy. Oh ! I have been cruelly punished for my disobedience and ingratitude; I have brought upon myself the most horrible sufferings: for in this prison, as formerly in the forest, I have suffered much. I have led a very unhappy existence, filling your life with pain and bitterness. But I hope that God will have mercy on us, and that a better fate is reserved for us in heaven. M. le curé explained all this to me in a very touching manner. I would like you to hear it; for it would be impossible for me to tell you that as well as he. »
He fell back on his bed, overwhelmed with emotion and exhaustion, heaved deep sighs and closed his eyes.
The doctor entered a moment later; having felt the invalid's pulse, he shrugged his shoulders, ordered that the vial containing the potion of the day before be filled once more, and left. Madeleine followed him. "Do you think, Doctor," she asked him, "that my poor Thierry can recover?" »
The doctor shook his head.
"This unfortunate child," said the mother, "was obliged, during his apprenticeship at the locksmith, to get up too early in the morning, to endure the excessive heat of the forge, and to devote himself to painful work: it is without doubt that which, from a young age, deposited in his bosom the germ of this disease which today makes him suffer so cruelly. »
The doctor shook his head again, and replied, "Idleness is more harmful to health than work."
"And then," resumed the mother, "the pains and misery he suffered so long in this dreadful forest, the humidity and the cold to which he was exposed there, completed the ruin of his health."
"The fatigues and bad weather of the seasons, when they are not carried to excess, harden the body," replied the doctor; but these fatigues are not the main cause of his present state. »
A few moments after the doctor had left, Fridolin came in carrying a small, very clean pewter soup tureen, surmounted by a shiny and polished lid; the collar of his fine green coat was adorned with silver embroidery. "O my dear Thierry," he said in a friendly tone, "I've come to bring you some excellent broth, which I hope will do you a lot of good." Thierry, whose soul was no longer charged with hatred or envy, took the broth and cordially thanked the good Fridolin.
Madeleine gazed at this virtuous and amiable young man, whose freshness and good looks contrasted so strikingly with the pale, sunken cheeks of her son; she sighed and couldn't hold back her tears. Thierry noticed this, and said to him, when Fridolin had gone out:
“I guess the reason which, at this moment, makes your tears flow, my dear mother! You think that if your Thierry had been virtuous and wise, if he had led an innocent and pure life, he would be as healthy and as fresh as Fridolin.
"Yes, my son, you are right, you have guessed correctly," replied the mother; and it is an eternal truth that all the delights and all the pleasures of the earth are nothing compared to a pure soul. »
Thierry's mother begged the judge to grant her son a more airy and comfortable room, and to allow him herself to stay with the unfortunate young man to look after him. She obtained this grace without difficulty. The worthy priest came to see them every day. Madeleine told him of the grief she had felt on learning that Thierry had associated himself with brigands; how many tears she had shed over the fate of this lost child; how many prayers she had day and night addressed to God to beg him to preserve her child from eternal punishments. "It is indeed the case," replied the pastor, "to repeat here what a bishop said one day to the mother of Saint Augustine, when this great saint was still only a sinner: It is not possible that a child for whom so many tears have been shed, so many prayers raised to heaven, may be lost forever. These words are still true today. A son redeemed by so many tears and prayers can be considered saved. Your prayers, it is true, could not rescue him from temporal death; but they will have powerfully contributed to make him obtain the grace of a sincere repentance, and consequently to deliver him from eternal tortures. »
However, Thierry's illness made more progress day by day, and his strength diminished perceptibly; her mother no longer left her bedside. Sitting day and night by his side, she read to him piously, lavished consolations on him, cheered him up, arranged his bed, gave him something to drink and wiped away, weeping, the sweat of death which covered the body of her dear patient. One day her son said to her: “0 my mother, how kind you are! What tender care you lavish on me! May the Lord reward you worthily! »
The mother answered sobbing: “Alas! Why did I not have the same zeal to watch over your education in your childhood! I would not now be obliged to treat you in prison. How will it be possible for me to repair today what I neglected then? God please forgive me for my wrongs and negligence, and grant you a holy death! May my misfortunes enlighten parents on their duties, and teach them to watch more over their children and bring them up better! May the example of my unfortunate son serve as a lesson in the same way to children who have left or would be tempted to leave the path of virtue, and make them return to the path of their duties!
"May God grant your wishes!" answered Thierry; and a few moments later he expired.
His mother barely survived him a year: the burning sorrows with which his heart had been overwhelmed for so long had shortened his days. As she had no close relatives left, she bequeathed her entire fortune to the orphans' hospices of her native town: least contribute to other children not experiencing the same misfortune. »
Happiness of Fridolin.
Fridolin made rapid progress in the study of forestry knowledge under the direction of General Guard Hirsfeld. His parents having accustomed him to work from his childhood, he deployed an indefatigable activity. Almost every day he accompanied his master into the forest, and was not long in learning to distinguish trees, shrubs and plants, to know their most common properties. He formed a collection of flowers and plants which he first dried to then place them in notebooks between two sheets of paper, and keep them, writing down their names; he thus succeeded in collecting a very pretty herbarium. He watched each of the butterflies, beetles, and insects that inhabit forests and attach themselves to trees; he mainly studied the species that could harm the different plants.
He applied himself to perfecting his writing, and made remarkable progress in arithmetic and geometry: he learned first to draw and then to paint; then he practiced copying the branches, flowers and leaves of trees and plants, and in his hours of recreation he amused himself coloring them from life and with remarkable talent. M. de Finkenstein possessed in his library a large number of excellent works on all aspects of forest economy; and he took pleasure in lending them to the intelligent and studious Fridolin, who often passed part of the night in reading them, extracting from them the most important articles, and even copying engravings from them.
He had rare knowledge for his age; but he did not take advantage of it: he was the most modest young man one could see. His piety and hardworking habits preserved him from the dangers to which youth is often exposed. Some seducing traps were set for him, it is true, and he never lacked opportunities to follow the torrent of the world; but he knew how to keep himself pure and wise, by resisting the attractions of vice. He was a model of virtue, gentleness, morality and kindness. While the other young people of the town passed their time in the cafes, drinking, playing cards or billiards, or singing licentious songs, Fridolin, seated in his study and busy reading or writing, found in his scientific labors a charm a thousand times sweeter than all vain amusements. The General Guard, whose age and infirmities no longer permitted him to devote himself to his functions as formerly, could rely in complete confidence on young Fridolin; he was very fond of him and nicknamed him his right arm, his staff of old age; his wife, who had no children, cherished Fridolin like a son.
When M. de Finkenstein sent his son Frederick to the university, he wanted Fridolin to accompany him. The wise father was persuaded that this virtuous and modest young man, whom moreover the young baron had taken a liking to, would exercise a certain empire over the latter, who was of a lively and petulant character; that he would be able to preserve it from the deviations to which youth is subject. At the same time, he wanted to give the young forester the opportunity to take a course in botany and to study in depth all the branches of forest science. Fridolin profited greatly from the lessons of his learned professors: he followed their courses with regularity, listened to them attentively, took notes with care, and often said to himself: It is a great culpability to neglect the opportunity to instruct oneself. : youth is the season of sowing, later will come that of harvest, and whoever has not sown will reap nothing.
The young Baron Frederic, having gloriously finished his studies at the university, obtained from his father permission to travel for some time in the different countries of Europe. Fridolin still accompanied him as a private hunter; but he was rather her friend than her servant. He warned him of many dangers, and the young count willingly yielded to his representations.
One evening it happened that Frederick, finding himself in a large company of young nobles, had an argument with one of them, on the subject of a thing very insignificant in itself; however, he was careful not to use hurtful expressions for his antagonist. But the latter only became more insolent, said more and more vulgarities to him, and ended up insulting him and challenging him to a duel, leaving him the choice of weapons. Several of the young people in the society claimed that the honor of Count Frederick of Finkenstein demanded that he accept the challenge, otherwise he would be considered a coward. Frederick was on the point of replying to the cartel, when Fridolin, seated behind him, exclaimed aloud: "Monseigneur, think of Waller's fate!" »
Frederic, surprised, could not utter a single word. After a moment of reflection, he said to him: "You are right, let us go to bed, the night brings counsel, and tomorrow we will see if our honor is truly interested in my fighting." For all the world I would not want to commit the same imprudence as the unfortunate Waller, and expose myself to becoming as unhappy as he.
"And who is this Waller?" asked the young men; what imprudence has he committed? how did he make himself unhappy?
"Tell his story to these gentlemen," said Frederic to Fridolin; I can't do it right now, I'm too restless. »
Fridolin told the story of Waller, and he put into his story such warmth and such lively emotion that everyone listened to him with interest; many of these bewildered youths were so touched that tears glistened in their eyes. There was no one in society who did not feel sorry for the fate of this unfortunate Waller, whose brilliant qualities had given such bright hopes in his youth.
The young baron, who had offended and challenged Frederic, was so deeply moved on hearing this story that he immediately sprang from his place and ran to embrace Frederic, apologizing to him in the presence of the whole company, which applauded his step. Frederic, on his return home, threw himself into Fridolin's arms, kissed him, and said to him: “I thank you, my friend, for the service you have rendered me; without you I would perhaps no longer exist, or at least I would be very unhappy. You have been my guardian angel, and you have saved me and my good parents from great sorrow; I will have you an eternal gratitude. »
Frederic ended his travels happily, and returned to his father's castle, enriched with varied knowledge, educated in the customs of the world, and having escaped the contagion of the vices which are too often contracted there. The happiness that the Earl and his wife felt on seeing their son so educated, so wise and so well trained was indescribable. The parents of the good Fridolin were not less happy enclosing in their arms their beloved son, always virtuous, amiable and brilliant in health; they shed tears of joy.
Frederick could not sufficiently praise to his parents the zeal and devotion with which Fridolin had behaved towards him during his travels; he also told them of the imminent danger from which he had been able to protect him on that fatal evening when he was about to accept a cartel. M. de Finkenstein was charmed by such fine conduct, as well as by the certificates which Fridolin had obtained from the professors of the university. He was engaged to stay at the chateau, but not as a servant; he became the private secretary and the intimate adviser of the noble count in all that concerned the forests and the seigneurial domains.
About a year after Fridolin's return, the old guard-general of the district of Hirsfeld died; the Count of Finkenstein summoned Fridolin, and presented him with a diploma bearing his appointment to this advantageous position. Fridolin, skimming through this paper, hardly dared to believe his eyes. "My excellent and worthy lord," he said with emotion, "I know how to appreciate the honorable mark of confidence which you are good enough to grant me, and I will try to make myself worthy of it." »
Fridolin immediately ran to Haselbach to tell his parents of the happiness that had just befall him. The two old men shed tears of joy. They would have thought themselves very lucky that Fridolin, who was at first only a servant at the chateau, had succeeded in obtaining the wages of the lesser forester; but that he was general guard was much more than they would ever have dared to hope. They gave thanks to God, and named their good Fridolin the consolation and the crown of their old age. Fridolin begged them to leave their poor hut and to come and live with him in the beautiful and spacious house of the deceased General Guard, to take charge of his household. He wanted to give them all his salary and be only their boarder. They yielded to his wishes, moved to this beautiful and comfortable dwelling, where they passed peaceful days, living in the sweetest harmony, and never ceasing to say: "Can there be people under the sun happier than us? ! »
Fridolin was not long in feeling the necessity of choosing a companion who could assist his aged mother in the cares of the household. His choice fell on Elisabeth, daughter of the unfortunate Josse. His parents could only applaud this project of their son, which agreed with their secret desire. “Elisabeth is a good girl,” said Nicolas; it is the pearl of our young people, a model of gentleness and virtue. There are people in whose eyes the tragic end of her father is a dishonor for her: it is a prejudice and an injustice; faults are personal. It was her excellent mother who brought her up; she is pious, wise and modest, she will be a good wife, a good mother, and I hope that you will be, with the grace of God, very happy through her. »
The Count of Finkenstein and his wife also greatly approved of this union, because they knew all the good qualities which distinguished Elizabeth. It was not then difficult for Fridolin to obtain the assent of the one he preferred and that of his mother.
The wedding celebration took place in the ancient and beautiful church of Hirsfeld. The venerable priest delivered a touching speech on the advantages of a good and pious education. The wedding, attended by M. de Finkenstein with all his family, took place in the seigniorial castle. Old Maurice, whose hair had turned as white as snow, foresters and hunters from all over the country had gone there in their finest festive clothes. M. de Finkenstein carried the health of the newlyweds, which was greeted with thunderous applause and cheers.
At the end of the feast, the gifts which it is customary to offer to young couples were brought. M. de Finkenstein presented Fridolin with a magnificent hunting knife trimmed with gilt silver. On the guard, a skilful sculptor had represented a child playing under an oak tree with a young deer, while a guard observed this scene without being seen.
Fridolin, surprised and charmed, exclaimed as soon as he saw this pretty work: “Ah! here is the young deer who presided over my whole destiny!
"That is true," said M. de Finkenstein to all those who crowded to consider this brilliant gift: it was this young deer who first introduced me to Fridolin and his family, it was he who delivered us. of great danger, and without it we would not all be here in joy. But this young deer is only a means which the holy providence of God has made use of for our happiness. This is why I had engraved at the bottom of this little masterpiece, which recalls Fridolin, his deer and my old Maurice, these simple words: Everything God does is well done. »
END OF GOOD FRIDOLIN
Religion alone can offer us true consolation.
Theodora, the widow of a poor fisherman, furnished an isolated hut in a forest, not far from the banks of the Danube. Her husband had recently died, in the prime of life. She had no consolation and hope except in her only son, named Auguste, a pretty little boy of five. Above all, she applied herself to bringing him up in the practice of religion and virtue, and made a point of working tirelessly in order to keep his paternal cottage for him with the right to be able to exercise one day the profession of fisherman. The poor widow had to give up fishing for the moment; and all the utensils her husband had left her, neatly stored away since his death, waited until her son was old enough to use them. We saw the nets hanging from the wall, and the overturned batelet, lying near the hut; and these objects reminded the poor widow how happy she had been with her husband and how lonely she was now.
As she excelled in making nets, she derived her main means of subsistence from this industry. Maternal love supported her in her painful labors, which she habitually prolonged well into the night; and little Auguste had been asleep for a long time, while his good mother was still awake to earn the means to bring him up.
But also this amiable child thought only of pleasing his mother and making her happy. Every new circumstance which reminded her of her late husband, caused this excellent woman to shed fresh tears, and then the poor little fellow hastened to console her as best he could. A few days after the death of her husband, Theodora received a visit from one of her brothers, who was a fisherman in a neighboring village, and who came to bring her a superb carp; looking at this beautiful fish, she could not hold back her tears. “Alas! she said, I no longer hoped to see such a fish enter my cabin.
- Do not Cry ! dear mamma, resumed Auguste immediately; go, when I grow up, I'll catch a lot of fish for you, me, and very beautiful ones, very beautiful ones. »
Schuyler replied with a tender smile: “Yes, Auguste, I hope you will one day be the consolation of my old age. Apply yourself to becoming as virtuous and honest a man as your father, and then I will be the happiest of mothers. »
One fine autumn day, Theodora, having risen early in the morning, had set to work on an enormous net which she intended to finish during the day; for his part, Auguste went into the woods to pick up beechnuts (fruit of the beech tree), which his mother made into oil for inexpensive lighting during her long winter evenings. Little Auguste was very happy when he could bring his mother his full little basket. So also his mother, to encourage him and accustom him early to an active life, did not fail to praise his zeal and skill. That day, around noon, fatigue and hunger made themselves felt by the child; his mother, hearing the village bell ring the Angelus, called him to dinner; he came running. The frugal meal, consisting of a milk soup, was laid out on the table, in the shade of a fine tree, opposite the cabin, in a clearing lined with green grass.
When they had dined, the mother said to Auguste: "Now sleep a little under this tree, I'm going to continue my work, and I'll come and wake you up when necessary." Come, sleep well,” she added, turning once more; and she returned to the hut with the bowl and the plates. A little later she returned, and saw Auguste asleep on the green lawn; her pretty little curly head was resting on one of her arms, with the other arm he was encircling her basket. He smiled as he slept, and the mobile foliage of the old beech tree occasionally allowed rays of bright light to reach him, which made the tender vermilion of his cheeks still more vivid.
Returning to her work, Theodora hastened to finish it. When one works with zeal, time passes quickly: two hours had passed like an instant. The good mother then wanted to wake up her dear child; but on arriving under the old beech tree, she found him no longer there. “Oh! she said, this good little one has already left with his basket to start his harvest again. She applauded this commendable ardour, while regretting that he had not come to say goodbye to her. She was far from suspecting his misfortune. So she returned to her cabin, spread the net on the grass, found something here and there still to catch, and several hours passed thus without her feeling any uneasiness; but finally, not seeing her child return, she was surprised at first and soon became alarmed. She undertook to look for him in all the forest, which was about a league long and half a league wide: useless fatigue, she found him nowhere. As she walked she called to him with all her might: "Auguste, Auguste!" the echo alone answered his cries.
When she had searched and called, she felt the greatest anxiety. " Good Lord ! she said to herself with the despairing accent of a mother who divines the loss of her darling child, would he have disobeyed me? would he have gone to the edge of the river? At this terrible thought, a mortal chill froze his heart; then, suddenly revived, she ran towards the Danube; but the sand on the shore did not offer the traces which she eagerly sought and which she trembled to find there. From there she went to the village; but neither her brother nor anyone had seen her child. They immediately resolved to look for him all over the country: some went to search the forest down to the smallest bushes, others spread out in the surroundings, others began to explore the banks of the river. However, night came, and nothing was found.
“If he has fallen into the Danube,” said a fisherman, “the flow of the water will carry the body over there on the sandbank, near that big willow. »
The unhappy mother shuddered on hearing these words; she returned to her hut in extreme desolation; she spent the whole night there alone with her pain, and not ceasing to cry. At dawn, she ran to the edge of the river to find at least the body of her dear child. For a long time she returned there every morning and every evening, asking everyone she met if they had seen her son; but no one had ever seen him, and poor Theodora kept moaning and crying. Fishermen who went to their daily occupation at daybreak, as also those who returned from it in the evening, were sure to meet her going up and down along the shore, sobbing and lifting her hands to heaven; and everyone's heart was moved with pity and filled with sadness.
A rather long space of time passed thus: the corpse did not reappear, and the unhappy mother could not obtain the slightest clue as to the fate of her child. His pain was boundless and without possible consolation. “Alas! she exclaimed, was it necessary to lose in such a short time such a good husband and a child so tenderly loved! Ah! it's too many misfortunes at once!... Without the thought that God has permitted it, I would despair. More often than not she reproached herself most bitterly. “Oh! I should have, she cried in her solitary hut, yes, I should have watched better! O you who still have the happiness of being mothers, she would say to the women of the village who came to console her, may my misfortune teach you how to look after your children better; Don't lose sight of them for a minute. Ah! if the goodness of Heaven would give me back mine!...” And the sobs broke her voice, and torrents of tears flooded her face, which she hid in her hands.
Théodora, undermined by pain, became extremely pale and was visibly wasting away. When at the end of a few weeks she came to church one Sunday dressed in her mourning dress, the assistants said to one another: “This poor unfortunate will soon follow her husband and her child. »
The village priest, a venerable old man, who took a sincere part in all the misfortunes of his parishioners, as well as in their joys, had already visited her several times in her hut to offer her consolation. But when he saw her that day in church, her face so pale, her features so altered by grief, struck him in a painful way: he had her called home after the divine office. As she entered, the good old man, perhaps writing a death certificate in the parish register, was seated at his desk. He greeted her affably, and said to her: "Sit down a moment, good Theodora, presently I will be with you." In the meantime, she began to look at a small painting, round in shape and surrounded by a golden frame.
"It seems," said the priest to him, rising and putting down his pen, "it seems that you like this little picture very much."
— Alas! yes, answered Theodora, and yet I cannot help crying as I look at him.
"Do you know what it represents?" said the priest to him.
- Oh ! yes, said Theodora, it is the Blessed Virgin.
But never before have I seen this mother in pain, mourning the death of her tenderly loved son, so well painted as in this painting.
- Well ! said the priest, you see there the finest example and the most consoling for you. Consider well this holy image: this sword which pierces the heart of Mary is an emblem of the deep sorrow which, according to the prophecy of the holy old man Simeon, was to penetrate the heart of this holy mother on seeing her divine son tied to the cross, when she witnessed his agony, his death, this heartrending cry which shook heaven and earth. But behold also how she lifts up to heaven her eyes filled with tears and her clasped hands, thereby testifying to her piety, her submission, her trust in God. The brilliant aureole which surrounds her head indicates the felicity which she enjoys in heaven, and which she has deserved by her patience in misfortune and by her resignation to the divine will.
“Good Theodora,” he continued, “you have suffered two great losses: your husband and your child! A two-edged sword has also pierced your heart. But, like Mary, raise your gaze to heaven; like her, resign yourself to the divine will, put all your trust in God; pray, so that from heaven he sends you consolation and strength. As you know, Mary stood at the foot of the cross where her son had just been sacrificed. This religious faith, this joy with which she cried out, when the angel appeared to her: Behold the handmaid of the Lord, let it be to me according to your word; this faith, always unshakeable, always unalterable, always the same, still filled his heart in the midst of his deep affliction, and prevented him from succumbing to it. Thus, my dear daughter, the firm belief that all that God does and that all that he allows contributes to the final good of those who love him; this conviction alone, I say, can and must sustain you, and prevent you from succumbing to your pains. Never forget that there is an end to which all our evils must end, and that they cannot be compared to the immense mass of glory which will one day be their reward. It is in suffering that virtue is tested and perfected; they pass quickly, and give way to eternal bliss. It was through suffering that Christ himself had to enter into his glory; Mary followed him on this painful path, and we have no other to get to heaven. »
Theodora listened with respect and tenderness to the words of her pastor, and while he spoke, her eyes remained fixed on the picture of the Blessed Virgin. “Well, monsieur le cure,” she said, “I promise to follow your advice; I will strive to imitate the example given to me by the divine mother of Jesus; I want to pray, believe, hope, and finally say like her: Lord, may your will be done!
"Very well, my daughter," said the priest; I am charmed with your good resolution, and I will pray the Lord to strengthen you in it by his grace, for of ourselves we can do nothing; we must ask God for this grace, who alone can create in us the will and the strength to execute. »
Then, as nothing cost the worthy pastor when it was a question of consoling an afflicted heart, he detached the precious picture from the wall, and gave it to Theodora. “Take this holy image, take it with you, I give it to you. Hang it in your room, and when you feel your sorrows on the verge of souring your heart too much, and the dark thoughts of despair will again come to besiege your soul, look at Our Lady of Sorrows, making a fervent prayer; it will give you courage and strength. With the help of the grace of God, your wound will be healed imperceptibly, and... think well that the crown which awaits us in heaven will be all the more beautiful as our sufferings here below will have been greater. »
Theodora punctually followed the good priest's exhortation, and her pain subsided a little. However, each time she passed the tree at the foot of which she had seen her dear Auguste sleeping for the last time, it seemed to her that a dagger had entered her heart. More than once she knelt on the grass where the child had fallen asleep, and bathed the earth with her tears. As she later reproached herself for these scenes of despair, she had the idea, to prevent their return, of digging a niche in the trunk of this tree and placing the consoling picture there. "The sight of this tree," she said, "always renews my sorrows: well, the sight of this holy image will renew my strength and my resignation." It will be a monument dedicated by my tenderness to the memory of my dear Auguste. »
She spoke of her project to the worthy parish priest, who praised him and approved of the idea. So she dug a small round niche in the trunk of the beech tree in which she placed her painting.
From that moment, when passing in front of the old beech tree she felt her heart sink, she looked at the beautiful image, joined her hands, and exclaimed: "Blessed Virgin Mary, intercede for me, condescend to obtain for me the grace of to be able to say also: I am the servant of the. Lord, may his will be done in me! Then she prayed inwardly, and soon her heart was relieved.
What became of the lost child.
While poor Theodora was mourning her dear Augustus, whom she believed to be dead, this child, who was then a little over five years old, had traveled a distance of more than a hundred leagues, and had arrived in Vienna, capital of the empire. from Germany. It was fresh and ruddy; he lived in a fine house which resembled the palace of a prince; he wore elegant and rich clothes like those of noble children; and, what was infinitely better, he was brought up there with the greatest care, and received lessons from the best teachers. Such a strange change in his fate had taken place in the simplest way, and here is how.
After an hour's sleep under the old beech tree, little Auguste had woken up, rubbed his eyes, picked up his basket, and immediately set about picking beechnuts. His basket was already almost half full when, finding no more beeches, and still searching, he arrived at the end of the forest on the side of the river. There he saw a large ship moored to the shore; the sailors had landed at this place to await a few travelers who were to embark there. The passengers forming several families, some of whom were rich and others poor, had taken advantage of this halt to go ashore and take a little exercise, while their children had fun picking up on the edge of the water. small pebbles of various colors. These children saw Auguste, ran to him, and wanted to know what he was carrying in his basket. They found the little brown beech fruits very pretty, which they did not yet know.
“Here are some singular fruits,” said Antonie, a very pretty little brunette, a little younger than Auguste, and elegantly dressed. “They are, I believe, chestnuts; but I have never seen ones so small and pointed like these: they must be very rare. The ones we eat at dad's house are round and bigger.
- Oh ! no, they are not such rare and curious fruits as you think, replied Auguste; neither are they chestnuts, which I know well, they are beechnuts; we find it everywhere in the woods, and it can be eaten: do you want some?
— Yes, yes, cried all the children, give, give! And Auguste handed out some to all the children, who thanked him with cries of joy. Auguste had never seen such a large gathering of children before, and all these children were delighted with his generosity and his kind manners. Auguste had an excellent heart; he was happy with the pleasure he gave them; and, having only rarely seen a child from the village, the crowd of little comrades among whom he unexpectedly found himself, their movement, their joy, exerted on him an unknown influence, a kind of enthusiasm, a kind of delirium. . Without thinking of anything more, he joined the merry band, and the little travelers, in turn, shared with him what they had best at the moment: pears, plums and cakes.
Until then, Auguste had only seen fishing boats; the appearance of a large boat was new to him, and he showed a great desire to examine it more closely. This floating house, much larger than her mother's cottage, seemed marvelous to her. The little travelers led him onto the boat; Antonie took him by the hand and ushered him into the lounge intended for passengers of distinction. “Oh! exclaimed Auguste, delighted with the superb furnishings he saw there, "there is in this floating house a room much more beautiful than my mother's!" Antonie and her new friends then showed her their dolls and playthings. Auguste, all, busy contemplating such pretty things, completely new to him, did not dream of withdrawing, and the boat, setting sail without Auguste noticing it, majestically descended the river.
None of the passengers had paid attention to Auguste. The first travelers believed that this child belonged to the newcomers, and these thought that it belonged to the others. It was only towards evening that Augustus, having started to cry and asked to return to his mother, was recognized that a foreign child was in the boat. The surprise was extreme and general: some sensitive souls lamented the misfortune of mother and child; others only laughed and made fun of the poor little one. By defending it, by rallying it, we came to quarrels; discord even spread to the crew, and the sailors, arguing with their skipper, pretended to want to throw into the water this child, who belonged to no one and troubled the whole ship.
However, the owner, a man of enormous corpulence and a severe and hard exterior, approached poor Auguste, and began to question him to find out where he was from and to whom he belonged.
“Tell me, child, from which town or village are you?
"I don't come from any town or village," replied Auguste.
"That's odd," said the boatman.
Oh ! yes, I live in my mother's house! it is right in the middle of the forest, not far from the village.
- Ah! Good ! resumed the boss, here is something already: well! what is this village called?
"The village?..." said Auguste; the village is called... the village. Mom doesn't call it anything else; at noon, when the bell rings, she says: The Angelus is being rung in the village; or else: Come, we will go together to the village baker.
"But at least tell me what your parents' names are," replied the impatient boss.
— My father is dead, answered Auguste, and mother's name is Theodora, the widow of the fisherman.
"But your surname, what is it?" »
The little one opened his eyes wide, he understood nothing of this question; finally he replied: "Mom doesn't have a family name, we don't give one at home, and she often told me that we should never give people a nickname, that it was an insult." »
The boss saw that he couldn't hope for any information from a child who didn't even know what a surname was. He was very embarrassed, not knowing what to do with this child, who could give no indication of having him taken back to his mother. He got angry and exclaimed: "I wish the cuckoo clock had taken you anywhere other than to my boat!" Auguste, his eyes still full of tears, answered in the best faith in the world, and without any malice: "No, sir, it was not the cuckoo clock that led me here, because I have never seen it yet. seen, but in the spring I often heard him sing. »
Everyone laughed except the boss, who was in a very bad mood.
We were then crossing a country filled with forests and almost deserted; the nearest dwellings were still a long way off. Finally, after sunset, we saw in the distance the steeple of a village; the boatman wanted to disembark the child so that he could be returned to his mother; but M. Val, Antonie's father, opposed it.
M. Val, a rich merchant, took with him several cases of money and jewels, and, like most of the other passengers, fled to hide his person and his fortune from the enemy; for then a bloody war was devastating Germany.
“I pity the poor mother with all my heart,” said M. Val, “but we cannot stop; a delay of a few hours would perhaps make us fall into the hands of the enemy. Let's go! »
Mr. Val, very anxious for his fortune, even paid the boatmen to take advantage of the moonlight and walk all night.
Shortly after, we still saw, not far from the shore, but on the other side of the river, another very considerable village. The boss wanted to come down to make his statement to the magistrates, and beg them to take charge of the child. " No ! No ! cried Mr. Val; listen well, listen then...: don't you hear the cannon rumble? the enemy is approaching, we have not a moment to lose. Ahead ! ahead! The boss, who feared that in the end the child would remain in his care, fiercely opposed Mr. Val's wishes, and a violent argument nearly resulted. Mme Val settled the matter. 'My friend,' she whispered to her husband, 'let's keep this nice child; we will do a good deed and end this quarrel. - My friends! exclaimed M. Val at once, I will take charge of this child; but, in the name of Heaven, let us advance quickly; we don't have a single moment to lose!... let's move quickly! »
This statement reassured the master of the boat, and all the travelers complimented this estimable family on the good work they had just done.
They arrived fortunately in Vienna, where M. Val bought a large and fine house and resumed the course of his commercial affairs. He had his only daughter, Antonie, instructed by excellent masters, and allowed Auguste to take part in these lessons. Despite his extreme ignorance, the little boy showed great intelligence from the first days, and made such progress that everyone was surprised. At the same time he was so modest, so docile, so complacent and so amiable, that M. Val and his wife soon loved him as if he had been their own child. The seeds of piety and virtue which the good Theodora had formerly sown in her heart produced fruits a hundredfold, and Augustus became day by day more accomplished.
As he had a great aptitude for commerce, M. Val employed him usefully in his counting-house. Responsible for large enterprises and supplies for the army, M. Val made an immense fortune, and, to reward Auguste for his services and his probity, he gave him in marriage his only daughter, Antonie, who had become an accomplished young lady. : it was virtue and innocence united with graces and beauty. After the end of the war, the Emperor, considering the important services which these honest merchants, MM. Val and his son-in-law, had returned to him, conferred on them the nobility, with the liter of barons of Valbourg.
Antonie's parents died a few years after the conclusion of peace, taking away the consolation of seeing their daughter well established and perfectly happy.
Augustus, then renouncing business, bought the beautiful land of Neukirch in Bavaria. He immediately gave all the necessary orders for the prompt repair of the castle, which was very beautiful, but very dilapidated by the ravages of war. Then he went to get his wife and two children.
When Antonie arrived with her husband in their new domain, she found everywhere there traces of the misery and the evils that the war dragged in its wake. Several houses in the village were reduced to rubble, others were in danger of ruin, and vast areas of land had remained uncultivated because they had no means of sowing them.
Auguste and his wife, touched by this distressing spectacle, came to the aid of the unfortunate inhabitants. He provided the wood to rebuild the houses, advanced the cost of reconstruction, also bought cattle and grain for sowing, and distributed everything free of charge. The poor villagers could not praise enough the generous beneficence of their new lord. When they came in solemn deputation to thank him, he answered them frankly: “From a poor little lost child that I was, God has made me a great lord; he showered me with honors and blessings: was it not now my duty to share these blessings with my unhappy neighbours? Ah! my friends, believe me, there is no greater happiness on earth than being able to dry tears and make people happy. »
The child, found.
While little Augustus, by his good behavior and intelligence, had become a rich and noble lord, and now, in his estate of Neukirch, he was making such noble use of his immense fortune, his mother, the good Theodora, had experienced many difficulties and led a very poor life, but always Christian and resigned to the will of Heaven.
Shortly after Augustus' disappearance, the country she lived in became the theater of war, and the enemy troops came one day to seize the forest. Theodora abandoned her isolated hut and took refuge in the neighboring village with one of her brothers. But she could not remain quiet for long; this village was also invaded by the enemy, and, following a bitter fight, almost entirely reduced to ashes; most of the inhabitants dispersed. Theodora's brother, being ruined, saw himself obliged, in order to subsist, to put himself in service with a fisherman in another place.
Theodora then left the country, and found refuge with her sister, established fifteen leagues away.
Although her sister was already in charge of a large family, Theodora was very well received there, and she knew how to make herself useful in this new position by sharing the care of the education of the children. The two sisters lived in the greatest harmony, and helped each other to make more bearable the evils and losses which the ravages of war had caused them.
Twenty years passed thus, and, peace having finally come to restore tranquility to the country, business and relations were gradually re-established. About this last time, the two sisters, resolved not to separate again, received a letter from their brother, which announced to them that since the peace he had returned to the native country, that he had rebuilt his little burnt house, but that on In the meantime, having lost his wife, and his two daughters having married and established themselves far from him, he now found himself alone and without support at an age when infirmities, sad companions of old age, would soon reach him. . He therefore wanted his sister Theodora to come and join him to stay with him and take care of his household. She thus returned to her native land, and came to live with her brother.
A few days after her return to the village, her first desire was to visit the ruins of the cabin where she had spent such sweet years with her late husband, and above all to find the tree where she had placed the beautiful image of the Blessed Virgin, whom she had not had time to carry off in her hasty flight.
But, great God! what changes she found! The path leading to his cabin had disappeared under tall grass and thick brush. Bushes and shrubs were replaced by tall trees whose branches stretched into the distance, and the beautiful trees Theodora sought out like old friends existed only in her memory. There was no remnant of his puny cabin; she couldn't even recognize exactly where it was. This part of the wood had become an almost impenetrable thicket. However Theodora persisted for a long time, but in vain, in seeking the tree under which she had once shed so many tears. Plunging into the thorny underbrush, she successively examined all the beeches. Even if the holy image were no longer there, she told herself, the notch left empty will still make me recognize the tree in whose trunk I had placed it. Finally, tired of searching in vain, she gave up, weeping with regret.
"Good woman," said an old man to whom she had just related the subject of her troubles, "your tree no doubt no longer exists." In the forest, the old trees give way to young offshoots, just as in the village a new generation comes to replace the previous one. You experience today in this forest the same surprise that I had when, after fifteen years of absence, I returned to the village. Those who were still children when we fled before the enemy on our return were men; the fathers of families whom I had known in the prime of life are no more than feeble old men or are already resting in the grave. This is how everything passes quickly on earth, and men even more quickly than trees. We have no stable abode here below; let us therefore strive to live well, in order to arrive at the one which has been prepared for us in heaven. »
The old man walked away, and Theodora lost all hope of finding her beech.
Let us return to Auguste de Valbourg. He lived several leagues from the village where Theodora lived; but this village, like the forest, belonged to the domain which he had acquired. One day he went to this forest, with the intention of distributing to the peasants their supply of wood for the winter. As this forest had been much neglected, and as there were many half-dead trees, he had deemed it necessary to preside over the cutting himself, so that it might be done in the most advantageous manner. He also wanted to make sure for himself if each indigent received exactly his share. He had therefore gathered together all the fathers of families, and had come to give such a tree to such a peasant, and such a tree to such another. Theodora's brother, unable to come himself, had sent his sister in his place. As luck would have it, the tree against which the lord stood belonged to this brother. When her name was called, Theodora immediately introduced herself. “Monseigneur will forgive,” she said, “if he did not come himself; he is ill, he cannot get out of bed; but I am his sister, and he has charged me to represent him. M. de Valbourg was very far from thinking that this poor old woman was his mother; she, on her side, suspected as little as this good lord, whom she saw shining in health, dressed in a coat of fine cloth, and wearing on his finger a ring studded with diamonds, could be her son. Without knowing her, M. de Valbourg took pity on her and gave her the tree.
The forester ventured a few observations. “What does he say, this magnificent beech tree? what a pity ! Poplars and birches are quite sufficient for the poor. Beech wood should be reserved for Monsignor and the people of his household: one must not be so prodigal of good wood, there is already not too much of it. M. de Valbourg looked at the forester with a severe air, and said: "It is not charitable to give to the poor only what is worst and what one disdains for oneself. . I want this tree delivered to the sister of the poor patient; and I mean, moreover, that the tree be cut down, the wood tied up and brought before their door: all at my expense. Lumberjacks, come here, get down to work right away; may this brave woman be served before me. »
After this order he left quickly to escape the thanks of Theodora, who, full of joy, returned to the village, impatient to announce to her brother this benefit of their new lord.
It was already twenty-six years since the mother and the son had seen each other for the last time in this same forest, when they met there thus without recognizing each other; and they were going to separate again, and certainly for ever, if Providence had not ordered otherwise.
According to the order received, two woodcutters immediately began to cut down the designated tree: it fell with a frightful noise; the woodcutters, who had moved away, approached to saw and split it. " Miracle ! they cried suddenly; miracle ! come and see, all of you run and look!...” The trunk of the tree had split, and a piece of the bark, having come off, had allowed the woodcutters to see the image of the Blessed Virgin that Theodora had searched for so long in vain. The colors of this charming picture had retained all their freshness and vivacity, and the little gilt frame, which shone in the sun, looked like a dazzling halo. The woodcutters were young, they knew nothing of this ancient history of the painting. "Really," they said, "that gets over us!" How is this beautiful image of the Blessed Virgin found in the interior of this tree? We are sure that there was no opening in the bark: it was intact and covered with moss: this is inconceivable!
"And yet easy to explain," resumed M. de Valbourg; "some pious man will have made an excavation in the trunk of this tree and will have placed this image there." Then, and after a long time, as happens with trees of this species, the bark will have closed and rejoined, and it will have, in this way, covered the picture. »
But suddenly M. de Valbourg changes color: the hand in which he held the picture trembles violently. "Yes," he cried, "that is a miracle!" And he is forced to sit down on a tree trunk; for he no longer had the strength to sustain himself. Continuing to examine the picture, he had turned it over, and on the reverse he had read these words:
“In the year of grace one thousand eight hundred and nineteen, on the tenth of October, I saw for the last time, under this tree, my only son, named Auguste, aged five years three months. May God watch over him wherever he may be, and may he deign to console me, as he once consoled Mary at the foot of the cross, me, his afflicted mother,
“Theodora Sommer. »
A thought as quick as lightning struck M. de Valbourg's mind. “That lost child was me; the names, the year, the day, all agree to prove it: it was my mother who had placed this image in the old beech. »
He had not yet recovered from this first emotion when his mother had already come running. This good woman was waiting for one of her neighbors with whom she wanted to return to the village, when suddenly the news of the discovery of a Madonna enclosed in the interior of a tree trunk, flying from mouth to mouth , came up to her. She hastened to retrace her steps. “Oh! my good lord, she cried, this picture belongs to me; I beg you, give it back to me. See, my name is still on it; the late priest, whom I had requested, wrote it in his own hand, and at my request he included the other explanations. Alas! she added, weeping and looking at the beech tree which had just been cut down, "here it is, then, that tree in the shade of which my Auguste slept for the last time with a sleep so sweet and so peaceful, before he was delighted at my tenderness! How many times since my return have I passed in front of this tree without recognizing it.
“O my Augustus! my child ! I can still see the place where I saw you for the last time! But you, alas! you... I will never see you again in this life. I seem to see and touch his grave...
"O my God, I have not even had the sad happiness of being able to weep over the body of my son, as I am weeping at this moment over the debris of this much desired tree..." A deluge of tears prevented him to continue.
M. de Valbourg, still agitated by the emotion he had felt on discovering his mother's name on the back of the painting, was transported with a joy mingled with compassion when he recognized her herself in the poor old . His heart, on the verge of failing, could no longer contain the feelings which filled it; he was about to throw himself into the good woman's arms and exclaim: "0 my mother!" here is my mother, you are my mother, and I am your son! but a sudden reflection restrained him, a joy so lively and so unexpected could be fatal to him; he therefore had the care to prepare her by degrees for the excess of happiness. Taking her affectionately by the hand, he spoke to her of the son she so dearly missed, showed her the possibility of finding him, then announced that he knew him, promised to bring him to her, and seeing her ready to learn everything, and being unable to do himself any longer violence: "It is I," he cried, "it is I who am your Augustus!...
"You, Monseigneur?... it's you!" exclaimed the good mother in her turn, falling into her son's arms; and the shock which suspended all his faculties did not allow him to add a single word.
The mother and son, equally moved, held each other for a long time embraced in a delicious ecstasy, and all the spectators of this touching scene were moved to tears.
"My good, my excellent mother," said M. de Valbourg at last, "God has granted the ardent wishes which you formed for my happiness, and which you had caused to be written on this board." Yes, God has been everywhere with me, and everywhere he has filled me with his blessings. But he also granted the wishes that you formed for yourself; he consoled you, as he consoled Mary; he has restored your son to you, recalling him, so to speak, from the dead, and brought him back alive to you. It is under this tree that he had separated us, and it is still near this tree that he has just reunited us. He kept this picture intact under the bark of the old beech; he kept it there as if in reserve until the day when we were to see each other again, so that it might help us to recognize each other. By thus revealing himself to our eyes, he has shown us that he directs all the events of our lives in the manner most suitable to our happiness.
'Yes,' resumed Theodora, 'that's indeed what he did. He snatched you momentarily from my tenderness, because perhaps, through an excess of love, I would not have brought you up well. He returns you to my wishes so that you become my savior in my distress, so that you may be the tutelary angel of this unhappy country. Everything God does is a work of wisdom and love: blessed be his name! All the peasants running around them shared their joy, and blessed God from the bottom of their hearts.
M. de Valbourg then ordered the forester to go and tell Theodora's brother that she would not return home until the next day, and that she would take her son there. Theodora begged her neighbor to take good care of the patient during his absence. Then M. de Valbourg brought up his carriage, helped his mother into it, sat down beside her, and conducted her to his chateau. Here new joys awaited Theodora. She had feared to show herself in her humble costume in front of her daughter-in-law, who was a great lady. But Antonie had too lofty a heart to pay attention to such a detail in such circumstances; she ran with open arms to meet the good old woman, kissed her in the most tender manner, and infinitely congratulated herself on being able to press the mother of her beloved husband to her heart. But when his daughter-in-law presented him with her two little children, Ferdinand and Marie, both charming and full of grace, both good and wise as two angels; when those pretty children came and threw themselves on his neck, exclaiming with the abandonment of the sincerity of their age: "Here is Grandmamma!" hello, grandma! the poor woman thought she was dying of pleasure. “Formerly, just now,” she said, “I was a prey to the most mortal grief, and now my joy is greater still; here I am happier than I was unhappy; my soul no longer suffices for my happiness; I cannot say what I feel... I can only weep, adore and thank God. O goodness of God, who, after the days of trials, already give us such joys in this world, how much more ineffable will be the felicities that you reserve for us in heaven with you! »
The next day, M. de Valbourg had his coach hitched up, and went with his mother to pay a visit to his uncle. Theodora stayed with her brother until she was completely cured, and then came to live in her son's castle; for Auguste and Antonie absolutely wanted to have her with them, and they took care to ensure a happy fate for Theodora's brother and sister. M. de Valbourg and his wife had too good a heart and too enlightened a mind to blush at the poverty of their parents. One day they invited them all together, fathers, mothers, children and grandchildren, and gave them a great party, at which Theodora was obliged to take the first place. These good people were delighted with the marks of benevolence and tenderness lavished on them, and tears of tenderness shone in their eyes.
It was there that Auguste and Antonie informed themselves exactly of the position and needs of each of the members of the family, and that with as much discernment as generosity they gave each the most suitable assistance, not only for the requirement of the moment, but also to facilitate to these good people the means to achieve an honest ease.
The little picture of the Virgin remained suspended in M. de Valbourg's salon, as a perpetual memory of the admirable ways of Providence, and each of the members of this happy family found in it an eternal reason for gratitude towards God, and for confidence in God. his paternal kindness.
END OF THEODORA
The garland of hops
The village school.
Frédéric Hermann, a poor schoolmaster from the village of Steinach, was one of the wisest and most modest men there was. His greatest happiness consisted in living among children; and he knew how to discharge with so much care the honorable and meritorious functions of his state, that he did infinite good by forming the hearts of his pupils in religion and virtue, while teaching them the knowledge useful to their vocation in the world. Satisfied with his modest emoluments, he felt so happy in his empire (as he often called his thatched roof, his garden and his school), that he would not have exchanged it for the palace of a king.
The small village of Steinach is located in a harsh and mountainous region. The first time that Hermann descended from the mountain by the path which led to this village, of which he had just been appointed teacher, and which he saw at the bottom of a gorge, between rocks and forests, the old and blackish steeple, the miserable moss-covered cottages, his heart sank. His anxiety grew still greater when he was shown the schoolhouse almost in ruins, and which could only be reached through a muddy pool, which one crossed by placing one's feet on stones placed at intervals. . The interior of this dwelling corresponded perfectly to its exterior: the ceiling was blackened by smoke, the rotten floorboards, and the small round panes of the windows so old and unclean that they barely let in a sad and dark half-light. dark. The room where the class was held also had a repulsive appearance with large cobwebs lining the walls, and a mephitic smell made the heart sick. The adjoining garden seemed quite large; but it was, strictly speaking, only a meager lawn, planted here and there with a few neglected trees, bearing a few bad fruits, or already so old that one saw more dead branches than productive ones. However, our teacher did not lose courage: "With the help of God," he said resolutely, "I hope to change all that." »
He entered into office with a fund of zeal, intelligence, and goodwill; under him a new spirit of docility and a desire to learn seemed to take hold of the whole school. The amiable teacher soon knew how to make the children so dear to him that they regarded him as their father; soon also he won the affection and general esteem of his parents. Then it was easy for him to have his just complaints accepted, and the communal council resolved unanimously to have the house restored. In his spare time he worked at uprooting old trees, digging up and turning up the beds to sow flowers and vegetables, and planting young shrubs of the best species everywhere. He even knew how to take advantage of the stagnant water which was at the entrance of the house and of a hill covered with heather which touched the garden. The first was transformed into a charming parterre, and the other into a very productive orchard. As he was the son of a gardener, and as he himself had a great taste for all these works, he got on very well with them, and his undertakings succeeded marvelously. Soon all the surroundings of the restored school resembled an immense garden of the best maintained.
Three years later, towards the fall, Hermann made a trip to the city to get married, and brought back his young wife. She was a wise, pious, intelligent person, and an excellent housekeeper; her name was Therese. Her father, who no longer existed, had been a civil servant, and had given her a good education. After having prepared themselves by the scrupulous accomplishment of all the duties that religion prescribes to us, the couple celebrated the wedding, modestly and without superfluous expense, at the house of the uncle of the young person, principal cantor of the parish. Thérèse had had the opportunity to see, several years before, the village school of which her future had recently been named the teacher; and the memory of this visit made her very sad; it was very repugnant to him to go and confine himself to such an unhealthy and dilapidated dwelling. Although Hermann had told her that now the house was in much better condition, she only expected slight changes, and she left for the village of Steinach not without experiencing some pangs of heart.
What was her surprise when, on her arrival in front of the school, instead of the stagnant pond which she remembered perfectly, she saw a charming flower bed adorned with pretty flowers and young trees already laden with fruit! was, in truth, covered only with thatch, like all those in the village; but the fresh yellow new roof and the greyish blue of the recently whitewashed walls gave it a blissful and clean appearance. The teacher telling his young wife of the sacrifices the town had made to repair this house, and apologizing for the fact that the thinness of the walls had only allowed it to be covered with straw, the good Thérèse replied, “Oh! be easy on this point, my friend; one can live happily under a thatched roof when one encloses within oneself the love of God, peace and concord. »
As he visited all the rooms, his astonishment increased still further: the windows, clean and clear as crystal, afforded a delightful view of a beautiful and vast, carefully cultivated garden; the walls were white as snow; the floor, brand new, gleamed with cleanliness. You could see the teacher's worktable between two windows; in front of this table, his big armchair; and, against a side wall, a glass cabinet enclosing the library. On the opposite side was an excellent piano, elegant, beautifully varnished, and made, like the secretary, the armchair, and the other pieces of furniture, of walnut. A very fine engraving, neatly framed, representing the divine friend of childhood who calls tender youth to himself and blesses it, hung near the library; above the piano rose a no less beautiful engraving, a Saint Cecilia, patroness of musicians, and, according to legend, inventor of the organ; between the two windows, opposite the door, in the most conspicuous place, the most admirable of these pictures had been placed: it was a Holy Family. All these engravings, with their pretty frames of well-polished walnut, made a charming effect on the white background of the wall, and contributed much to embellish this modest and pleasant asylum. A simple table covered with an oilcloth, and six straw chairs formed the rest of the furniture. Hermann had acquired part of this furniture with the fruit of his savings, and owed the others to the gratitude of his pupils. On each window stretched a row of flowerpots which charmed both the sight and the smell.
Hermann, however, was afraid that Therese, having hitherto lived in establishments well carpeted and adorned with mirrors, would not like these bare walls too much, and would miss her beautiful mirrors a little. “Oh! answered the young wife, when he spoke to her about it, those pretty plants which adorn our windows decorate an apartment much better than the flowers painted on the tapestries of the rich; they cost much less, and they have a pleasant scent. As for the lack of mirrors, tell me, my friend, the beautiful picture of Jesus blessing the children, a picture so suitably placed in a teacher's room to constantly remind him of his holy and important duties, and above all the charming engraving of the Holy Family, divine example of the union and piety which should reign in a Christian household, are they not in our eyes the most brilliant, the most useful mirrors? And this Saint Cecilia, whom you have placed above your piano, look how she raises her eyes to heaven singing the praises of the Lord: does it not seem to you that you can read there, as in a mirror, that we should we sanctify the sublime art of music by lifting our hearts to heaven? »
Struck by the wise reflections of his young wife, deeply moved, Hermann led her towards the garden. From the entrance to the hedge which enclosed the enclosure, one could see a wide, well-sanded path, bordered on the right and left by bushes of roses, plants of strawberries and gooseberries, interspersed with covered flowerbeds. flowers and young shrubs. At the end of the path, at the far end, stood a beautiful apple tree, tall, well flowered, and whose broad branches shaded a bench of grass built at the foot of the tree. The garden was divided into two parts: the first, nearest to the house, was planted with vegetables, which, grown in squares symmetrically aligned, and then all being in full ratio, charmed the view by the variety of their greenery. ; the second half of the garden formed the orchard. Therese found almost all the trees there so overloaded with fruit that the branches had to be shored up: even the youngest proved their fruitfulness by offering to the enchanted eyes a few beautiful apples or a few pears. A tender and thick grass, intended for the food of several cows, grew at the foot of all these trees. In one of the corners of the garden stood a dozen hives, and, for the needs of the bees, the intelligent Hermann had sown everything near the aromatic plants. On the hill beside the garden and forming part of the compound belonging to the school, the hops climbed, winding around long neatly aligned poles, and rising to such a height, that the golden light of evening twilight, crossing the interstices of the foliage, produced a magical effect. Therese, charmed by all these embellishments which attested to her husband's intelligence and activity, sat down beside him on a grassy bench near the apple tree, and said to him affectionately:
“Oh! dear Frédéric, how delighted I am with everything I have just seen! these are the marvels that work and perseverance can produce. You have then just proved to me that there is not a single situation in life, however painful it may seem, that cannot be made bearable, and even pleasant, by activity, reflection and industry. Also how you must enjoy the success of your efforts! Three years ago, this enclosure was only a wasteland, a sad desert, and today, you see it, by your work it has been transformed into a place of delight. Yes, my dear Hermann, I believe that we will live happily in this little paradise that your hands were able to create to place your wife there. »
After these sweet outpourings of two virtuous souls, Hermann, rising, said to his wife: "Come, my good Therese, I have something more to show you." And he led her to the classroom, where already almost all the children had gathered to receive the wife of their beloved master. They had even given this reception an air of solemnity. At first there were exclamations of benevolence and joy; then they sang in chorus a few verses composed in Therese's honor by a former clerk of the bailiwick; then a young boy carrying a little lamb adorned with a collar of pink ribbons, and a little girl dressed in a white dress and holding two pretty doves, came forward praying to the wife of their benefactor, in a simple little speech and naive as their age, to accept these gifts of innocence. Each of the other children then hastened to offer in turn a little rustic present: one a hen, the other a basket full of eggs, a basket full of fruit, a jar of honey, butter, fine, well-combed linen, a ham, or various household utensils. Thérèse, moved, could not hold back her tears at the sight of so many gifts, a sincere testimony to the affection and gratitude of these amiable children for her husband; and she thanked them with great sensitivity. “What pleasures at the same time! she cried; I had just walked in a beautiful garden, but this room where I am seems to me a much more interesting garden still; for I see there all those charming offspring which, like tender flowers and young shrubs, give the best hopes to their happy parents.
"Yes," said the priest, a venerable old man who happened to be present, "your comparison is perfectly just." May we, your husband and I, for your husband is my faithful collaborator here, may we, with the grace of God, have the happiness of raising these precious plants well and protecting them from perdition! Ah! Would to Heaven that all schools were, like yours, nurseries where piety, virtue, love of order and work would grow and prosper! »
Youth of Therese.
Thérèse's father was the steward of the Count of Lindenberg. Death having deprived him of his wife very early, he had then confided all the cares of the household to a faithful and industrious servant who had served him since the time of his marriage. The count had several children. Léonore, her youngest daughter, was the same age as Thérèse; this one was brought up with her, and became her inseparable companion. These two children received together the same lessons; they also learned all the works of their sex together, and ended by forming the most intimate friendship.
One day the Count left with all his family and a large retinue to pay his respects to the reigning prince, who was to pass through the neighboring town. Young Léonore, recovering from a very serious illness and barely convalescing, remained alone at the chateau; the doctor expressly forbade her to expose herself to the fatigues of the slightest journey. She was left with a maid to serve her. The latter, after the departure of the masters, asked the young lady for permission to go as far as the main road, half a league away, in order to see the procession pass by, promising to return as soon as possible: this permission was granted. All the other servants of the house, like almost all the village, also ran to the place where the prince was to pass. Therese could have followed her father to town; but, out of friendship for Leonore, she preferred to keep this young lady company. Unfortunately, the old maid especially attached to her experienced a serious illness that very morning, and Thérèse thought she should stay with this faithful servant to take care of her.
Alone in her room, Leonore was soon bored: the air was so sweet, the morning so beautiful! Léonore went for a walk in the garden: there she visited her flowers, forgotten and neglected during her illness. She saw her little parterre almost completely scorched by the heat of the sun; she immediately ran to get a watering can, and headed for a large basin in the middle of the garden, from which sprang a superb jet of water. In a hurry to fill her watering can, she plunged it into the basin; but at the moment when, without consulting her strength, she wanted to withdraw it, her foot slipped, and she fell into the pool, which was very deep. Fear and cold seized her, and she suddenly lost her breath and the use of her senses.
At that very moment Therese was looking out of the window overlooking the garden; she saw her friend fall, she heard the dull sound of her fall. Suddenly she descends with hasty steps, crying out for help; she rushes towards the main gate of the garden which is closed; then, heading for another door and redoubled her cries, she crosses the yard, and, almost out of breath, she finally arrives at the fatal spot. The poor girl, who was still struggling, lifted one of her arms out of the water. Consulting only her courage, Thérèse jumped into the pool, seized Léonore by the arm, and succeeded, not without difficulty, in pulling her out of this abyss. Léonore had lost consciousness; her eyes seemed closed forever, and the pallor of death was spread over her face. Thérèse, seeking to bring her back to life, lavished on her the most attentive care; at last she opened her eyes, fixed them on her liberator with a frightened air, and shook her hand without being able to utter a word. When she had somewhat recovered her senses, Therese took her by the arm and led her slowly to the chateau, where she undressed her and put her to bed. As soon as the warmth of the bed had restored her voice and reason, Leonore pressed the steward's daughter to her heart, shedding tears of gratitude. "You saved my life," she kept saying to him; go, I will never forget it.
"Let us both give thanks to God, my dear young lady," replied Therese; it was he alone who gave me the courage and the strength to withdraw you from the pool. »
From that day on, the ties of friendship that united the two young people grew even closer, and they hardly left each other. Their labors, their pleasures, their affections, all were put in common. One thought only of pleasing the other, and so they spent several years, cherishing each other as if they had been two sisters. The delicacy of their sentiments, equally lofty, the same modesty and the same sweetness of character, their tenderness and their union made life an earthly paradise for them.
However, the war between France and Germany had broken out again. The French armies were approaching. The Count of Lindenberg, fearing to see his castle invaded, took the resolution to take refuge in Vienna with his family. Léonore, announcing this departure to her friend Thérèse, begged her in tears to accompany her on this journey, and used all her eloquence to persuade her to do so. “This province,” she told him, “will soon be occupied by the enemy: do we know what can happen? Apparently we won't be back in this castle for long, and we won't be able to protect you, while if you're with us, we'll do everything in our power to make you happy. us, dear Thérèse.
'God knows what my attachment to you is,' replied the young girl, 'and how much I would sincerely wish never to be separated from you; but I cannot abandon my father, especially now that death has deprived us of our faithful servant, who could have taken care of him in my absence, and that he no longer has any other support than me. »
Another time, when Léonore, renewing her entreaties, gave her young friend a brilliant picture of the marvels of the imperial residence, of all the festivals and all the amusements enjoyed there, the latter replied:
“Hey! how could you, dear young lady, allow me to rejoice away from my father, knowing him to be old and infirm, deprived of the care of his daughter, and ignorant of what he would have become? this single idea would poison all my pleasures and make me die of grief.
"But think, dear friend, of the sad position in which you are going to find yourself." Immediately after our departure, the castle will be closed and abandoned; and in the whole village there is no one you can associate with. How boring for a person of your age and education!
- Ah! don't insist, Mademoiselle; don't worry about me: as long as my father needs my presence, I will only see him: the rest of the universe will be indifferent to me. »
The Countess of Lindenberg, Leonore's mother, would also have been glad to take Thérèse with her to Vienna; she therefore joined her solicitations to those of her daughter. “Come with us, good Thérèse, you will keep my Léonore company; she will never be able to meet elsewhere a friend so faithful, so wise and so devoted as you have been up to this day. I will treat you like my own daughter; and besides, you are of an age when it is necessary to think of getting married in Vienna and under our protection, you will certainly find an advantageous match; and then, as well as on all occasions, I will act towards you like a mother full of tenderness. Make a decision ; you will have no reason to regret it, and you will be happy with us. »
Thérèse, moved to tears by these testimonies of kindness, confidence and attachment of her masters, thanked them in the most touching terms; but she protested again that it was impossible for her to leave her father in these times of war and misfortune.
“Well, so be it; by the way, you're right, my child, said Mr.mo of Lindenberg, I cannot blame you: on the contrary, I am deeply touched by your noble sentiments: may God reward you for your filial tenderness! Stay with your father to look after him, and be the consolation and support of his old age. But if you have the misfortune to lose it, don't consider yourself an orphan. Then write to me immediately; I will provide you with the means to join us; you will see that I will be a second mother to you, and you will always find in my daughter a tender sister. »
The day of departure arrived: Léonore and Thérèse shed many tears as they parted. Mme de Lindenberg was so touched by the reciprocal tenderness of these young friends that her eyes were flooded with tears, and the Count himself had difficulty in concealing his emotion. When the car left, Therese followed it with her eyes until it had disappeared into the nearby mountains. She wept, she sobbed so much that her beautiful eyes were swollen and a violent headache forced her to go to bed.
Thérèse, who stayed with her father, whose household she ran, led a peaceful and happy life. As she loved work, she knew how to create occupations and was never bored. She thought neither of the chateau nor of the garden, which no longer offered her any attraction. Thus passed the first year, when the father received the news of M. de Lindenberg's death. In the absence of a son, the castle with its outbuildings fell to the next of kin. The latter, regarding this fine estate as an uncertain possession in the midst of the chances of a prolonged war, sold it. A corn-merchant who had enriched himself by supplies to the army bought it, and made many changes, both in the local arrangements and in the personnel of the castle; the steward was dismissed. Thérèse and her father therefore left their old home and went to stay in the village in a modest apartment, consisting of two small bedrooms and a kitchen. Their retirement pension was very modest, and was not always exactly paid, because of the war; which sometimes exposed them to severe privations. Fortunately the good girl knew how to make up for it by her work, and thus to preserve the author of her days from misery. She was very adept at all women's work; she spent the day, and often part of the night, sewing or embroidering; in this way she always gained something. Besides, she knew how to govern her little household with so much care and intelligence that her darling father almost never lacked any of the resources which old age needs.
However, his health was failing day by day, and soon he was forced to stay in bed. It was then that her daughter's care and attention redoubled. She watched by his side, worked tirelessly well into the night by the dim light of a lamp, and never ceased to pray for him; finally she lavished on him all the alleviations, all the consolations which could depend on her. Charmed by the virtues of the good Therese, the father often shed tears of joy and tenderness. “You do a lot for me, my dear child; I see all your sacrifices, and I thank you for it. God will one day reward your filial piety; God will respect your father's blessing, and you will be happy. Such were the last words of this respectable old man, who died surrounded by all the consolations of religion and regretted by all who had known him.
After the death of this beloved father, Thérèse, seeing herself an orphan and destitute, remembered the
offers of Mme of Lindenberg; she was preparing to write to him when she received a letter from Leonore, her friend, which gave her very distressing news. Mme De Lindenberg also had just died; and, having long since lost her income as a result of the misfortunes of the war, she had left her daughter in a position all the more sad because she saw herself forced to live in Bohemia with a proud, avaricious, and wicked old aunt. , who had no regard for her, and treated her niece with the same harshness she would have used towards the lowest of servants. In short, the whole letter was filled with such heartbreaking details that Thérèse, forgetting her own sorrows, shed tears of pain and compassion over the unfortunate fate of her friend.
Thérèse, seeing all hope of joining Léonore and living with her vanish, since this noble young lady had also become a poor orphan, left the village and went to see her uncle Hilmer, who lived in a town situated at a considerable distance of the. She was very well received by him: he treated her with a truly paternal tenderness. Soon Thérèse, virtuous, modest and wise, and endowed with an agreeable face, was asked in marriage by several young people of good family. She could have found an advantageous establishment; but she preferred to all the suitors the poor teacher Hermann, whom she had known at her uncle's, and who combined a good character with noble feelings. Besides, she had a marked predilection for her profession as a teacher, the importance of which many people do not know enough to appreciate.
However, before manifesting her inclination, she thought it her duty to consult her uncle, who entirely approved of her choice, and who said to her: "You have done well, my niece, to give preference to this young man, whom I know of long standing to be pious, educated, of excellent character and irreproachable conduct; these qualities are infinitely more precious than the fortune which he lacks. His position is not brilliant, and his salary is modest, I know; but with his activity and his economy his modest income will be enough for him. Moreover, devoting himself entirely to the duties of his useful and honorable profession, he will know how to do much good, and his merit will not take long to be noticed in the teaching body. I see with pleasure that your hearts and your characters sympathize; so I believe you will be happy with him. Providence will watch over your household and supplement your meager resources. Your father will intercede for you in heaven; for the proofs of filial love which children give to their fathers and mothers, and the paternal blessing which follows from it, are a rich treasure which sooner or later bears fruit.
Hermann and Therese, in their country residence, further embellished by their fertile and well-cultivated garden, enjoyed quiet happiness. Loving God with all their soul, they found every day new reasons to admire the proofs of his goodness and to give him thanks. Having only one heart and one will, accustomed from childhood to dominate anger and bad temper, they knew how to maintain their union by respect and reciprocal attention; and they never happened to exchange a disparaging word, so careful were they to avoid anything that might disturb their household. Not being tormented by any frivolous desires and never incurring unnecessary expenses, they had the wisdom to be content with the little they had. The sobriety, order and economy which reigned among them still procured them, in spite of the modesty of their income, the means of always finding the wherewithal to exercise acts of beneficence towards the needy; they even managed to put some savings in reserve for times of hardship, from which the wealthiest families are not exempt.
What essentially contributed to their happiness was their activity and their love of work. The teacher fulfilled with great zeal and scrupulous exactitude the duties of his charge, and the progress of his pupils was for him a pure source of real enjoyment. The moments that remained at his disposal, he devoted them to the cultivation of his garden. Thérèse took care of the household, which was a model of order and cleanliness; and she too, taking advantage of the interval between classes, detained the young girls for an hour to teach them to knit, to sew, and to mend linen. She knew how to enliven this work and make it attractive by telling her schoolgirls some instructive and moral story, or by singing beautiful hymns with them.
Her skill in sewing and embroidery soon became known; soon from all sides work was brought to her, so that she increased at the same time her resources and her savings.
We have said that the teacher used his spare time to cultivate his garden. His desire to make himself useful led him to always be accompanied by a certain number of his schoolchildren, whom he taught to plant, prune and graft trees; he showed them by his precepts and his practice the best way to ensure the prosperity of an orchard. For her part, Thérèse taught the young girls the art of cultivating vegetables, of preserving them for the winter, of canning fruits; she still gave them a thousand other little notions which might one day be useful to them. When evening had arrived, the two spouses congratulated themselves on having spent their day so well. “Oh! How happy one is, they said to themselves, when one can contribute to the happiness of one's fellows! »
The two spouses again found an inexhaustible source of happiness in the inclination of their own children; for the Lord had blessed their union by the birth of several charming offspring. Catherine, the eldest of them all, had her mother's blue eyes and blond hair, which she greatly resembled; it was the same with Sophie, the second; but the third, Frederic, a pretty little boy, was lively and witty like his father, of whom he was the perfect image. Later they had still others. All had the freshness of roses, the beauty and innocence of angels. No sooner had the elders begun to speak than they showed more respect and tenderness to their parents day by day: the love that the latter felt for them also increased daily. The two spouses united their efforts and their care to bring up these children well, who, wise, docile and intelligent, became the consolation and the joy of the authors of their days, and amply rewarded them by their filial tenderness as much as by their
the rapid progress they made in their education, the additional expense that this large family caused in the household of the teacher. In a word, Hermann and Thérèse, seeing that their care for the education of their children bore such happy fruits, felt at the height of happiness.
So, when on beautiful spring mornings the happy mother, seated in the shade of the big apple tree, busy with her needlework, saw herself surrounded by her pretty children, some at her feet playing with flowers, the other older ones bounding hither and thither in the alleys of the garden, and often returning to ask her all sorts of childish questions, while all around her was verdant and in bloom; when she heard above her head the pleasant chirping of the warbler and its young, nestled in the branches of the tree, her maternal heart expanded, and she accompanied with her pure and melodious voice the song of the warbler, which seemed to say: "And I, too, enjoy the happiness of being a mother. »
Later, as the children began to grow up, she got into the habit of singing to them a few couplets within reach of their intelligence, the purpose of which was to awaken early in their young souls the taste for all that is true, beautiful. and good. Like young birds, the children soon began to repeat their mother's songs. One day Hermann, witness of this touching scene, was so moved by it that he composed a little song for the mother and her children. Although very simple and written without art, this song was so well adapted to the place and the circumstances, that the children were delighted with it, and it made the deepest impression on their young hearts.
Now, towards the end of the same week, on a delightful morning, a few moments after sunrise, the golden rays of which began to cast a vivid light on the surrounding hills and valleys, while the beautiful azure of the sky was not disturbed by any cloud, and the dew still sparkled like a magnificent adornment of diamonds on the leaves and flowers of the garden, the tender mother went as usual, surrounded by her family, to her favorite place, under the big apple tree, and there she sang with her, for the first time, this charming composition, of which here are the words:
CANTICLE OF SPRING
Look, oh my dear children, And see how our valleys Under the gentle breath of spring Seem already renewed.
What is this divine spirit, What is this benevolent genius, Which melts the snow of the ravine And covers the meadow with flowers?
Who knew how to tie in the heavens The star, torch of nature? And who, to enchant our eyes, Created flowers and greenery?
He is only a benefactor Capable of such kindness. You know it, it is the Lord Who with a word created these marvels.
He planted the giant oak And sowed the humble violet; On the small and on the big Watch his restless tenderness.
Yes, all that embraces our eyes: The body, the soul, the intelligence, Are only the precious gifts Of divine beneficence.
Let us raise to this God of peace Our hearts, our voices, our hope. To pay him for his blessings He is only recognition.
Is there a mortal vain enough to deny him his homage t
When this divine creator Wants our love for all sharing?
So join my accents! And pray with your mother. God always loved children; He will hear your prayer.
And you, mighty and sweet Lord, Spread your divine graces On these innocents, who towards you Lift up their childish hands.
May they have daily bread And what nature demands; Especially that they keep your love, And their heart without any defilement.
Deign to direct all their steps In the middle of a rebellious world, So that after the hour of death They taste eternal peace.
Thanks to your divine help, May all keep the straight path: May we always be united near you in joy!
As long as the fine weather lasted, this sort of hymn was repeated every morning in the shade of the apple tree. Then it was replaced by other compositions analogous to the seasons, but all filled with feelings of piety, virtue, and above all love and gratitude towards God. Hermann and Therese took care to vary these pious morning exercises by giving their children religious instructions or moral lessons, which they made more sensitive and more penetrating with touching and interesting stories and accounts. Also the children attended these family mornings with an ever new pleasure and gained much there. It was by such means that these estimable parents knew how to inspire their young family with religious sentiments, and to take advantage of all circumstances to bring them to the love of God and to the practice of virtue.
The trials of piety.
But, more powerful still than their words and their fine exhortations, their good example made the happiest impression on the children; just as the father and mother presented to the eyes of the whole country the model of virtuous parents and happy spouses, so too these children distinguished themselves throughout the village by their sincere devotion, their innocence, their gentleness and their good behavior. . The venerable priest often said to his parishioners: “The teacher's family is one of the most estimable and happiest I have ever known: do you know why? It is because she seeks her happiness only in the love of religion and virtue. »
The domestic felicity enjoyed by the teacher and his family was great without pain, and they were well worthy of it; this happiness was however not without mixture: our two husbands also had to wipe their share of setbacks, sorrows, because no human existence is exempt from it on the ground; but they endured them with that Christian resignation which makes them meritorious in the eyes of God. They often said: “It would not be good if it were always sunny, and if the sky were always clear and cloudless; there must also be dark and rainy days, storms, so that the earth can cool down and make the plants and fruits grow and prosper. Likewise, in this life there must be storms and contrary times; they serve to strengthen and ripen virtue, and to prepare it for an abundant harvest in eternity. »
A famine suddenly arose in the country; wheat and other foodstuffs cost double their ordinary price. The low income of the teacher was already almost insufficient in times of plenty to feed eleven people; for Therese then had nine children. She spent all her time caring for them, sewing, knitting and mending for them, to the point that she could no longer work for the people of the village, and therefore she no longer earned anything to increase household resources. The scarcity with which the country was afflicted therefore threw these brave people into a very painful situation.
One day the good mother said to her husband: “Alas! my dear Frederic, I have sad news to tell you: in a few days our supply of flour will be exhausted: where will we get bread for so many mouths, without counting the other necessary expenses? This morning again the shoemaker brought us three pairs of shoes which he has mended and two other new pairs. Your gray coat that you wear every day is so worn out that you absolutely need another one, and I don't know where to get enough money to clothe and support us and our children. How will we do? After these words she remained silent and quite distressed. Her husband, seeking to console her, sat down at his piano, and sang the following beautiful canticle:
In his sorrows, the man who trusts In the goodness of the divine Creator, Will always see his prayer fulfilled, And sooner or later his pain will end.
In misfortunes as in suffering, He who keeps his heart ever fervent, And who places his hope in God, Does not build on quicksand.
Let us defend ourselves from an importunate complaint And keep ourselves from a dark despair; Why always mourn our misfortune? Why moan from morning till night? The fatal wound of our heart Does not heal in these bitter sorrows, And to indulge in this constant murmuring, It is to add to the evils we have suffered.
Let us all respect holy providence, Let us resign ourselves to its wise decrees, While waiting for its omnipotence to finally restore us happiness and peace. The God of love who created our species, To choose from it his triumphant elect, Much better than us, in his high wisdom, Knows what his weak children need.
Let us beware, in the excess of our sorrows, Of thinking ourselves abandoned by heaven, And of envying human riches As the fruits of their precious gifts. It is not the mighty of the earth Who are always blessed by the Lord. And very often the poor in his misery Is closer than them to solid happiness.
What is our gold, our power, to God? It only takes a moment, a glance, To raise the poor to opulence, To overthrow the rich and their pride. Let us therefore adore his supreme justice, In his gentleness let us place all our hope, To our desires his heart will be propitious, And his goodness to us will be seen.
The older children and the mother herself accompanied this hymn with their voices, the consoling words of which restored their courage.
No sooner had they finished their song than the priest entered the apartment where the whole family was gathered. "I have just come from a sick man's," he said to them, "and as I passed this house your song struck my ears: I listened, and I am deeply touched by your trust in God in these times of calamity. But what do you have? you all look very sad. »
Hermann confided to the venerable pastor the difficulties with which they were surrounded, and his wife's worries about the subsistence of their large family.
" Well ! my dear teacher, and you, good lady, do not worry. I still have several sacks of wheat in my attic, I will give them to you at the ordinary price to feed your children,
If I were richer, I would give it to you, and I would even like to offer you money; but my means do not permit it, my funds are exhausted. You will repay me the value of this wheat in happier times. Adieu, my dear friend, I am obliged to leave you sooner than I would like; come see me tonight. Farewell. »
The whole family gave vent to their transports, and testified to the charitable priest their sincere gratitude by covering his hands with kisses and by wetting them with tears of gratitude, rather than by articulating words. This supply of wheat lasted them until the harvest, which, being very abundant, put an end to this dearth, and restored the provisions to the ordinary price. The distress to which they had been reduced was salutary to them, providing them with proof that God never leaves us in need. "Despite our misery, my dear children," the teacher told them, "you have never gone to bed without eating." Our concern was therefore greater than our distress. How good is God! he rescued us and sent us bread when we needed it most. Let us give him thanks with all our hearts, and never allow ourselves to be shaken in our confidence in his tender concern for us. »
The children recognized in their hearts how great is the paternal tenderness of God towards us; they recognized more and more that he alone is the foster-father of all nature, and from that time on they prayed with much more fervor than before their prayers before and after the meal. It was only then that they understood in all their depth these beautiful words of Scripture: The eyes of all creatures are fixed on you, Lord: it is you who feed them when the hour has come.
Some time later, almost all the children were attacked at the same time with scarlet fever. Their tender mother flew from one bed to another to provide them with the most attentive care. She spent several nights with them without closing her eyes. In vain Hermann conjured her to take a few hours' rest, and promised to take her place with the children, the excess of her maternal anxiety did not allow her to indulge in sleep.
"There are too many sick people," she told him; hardly if we will both be enough to look after them. Her husband assisted her as best he could, and spared her as much trouble as he could. But other worries still came to torment the heart of this excellent mother. Their poverty in these cruel circumstances and the need for money often brought tears to her. “Alas! she cried, sobbing, to have so many sick children, and not to have a penny, not the slightest resource! How do we get out of such a desperate situation? Ah! my God, my God, my heart is breaking, have mercy on me! »
Her husband, having addressed to her some tender exhortations, sat down again at his piano, and sang in a touching and truly inspired voice the following stanzas:
To the decrees of the Lord let us entrust our fate: God, who made the lights of the celestial vault, Will be able, if he wishes, to show us the road Which, among so many pitfalls, must lead us to port.
Rest on him for the care of your happiness, Leave there the sorrows in which your soul drowns; Your weak judgment cannot fathom the way Your mighty Creator wants to guide you.
You alone know, great God, what mortals need When you want to test or bless their constancy, Marvelous means assist your power; And nothing can bend your eternal decrees.
Rest, my soul, in your divine Father; Your happiness is his goal, and his tutelary hand Will bring to fruition this excess of misery Which today makes you lament your destiny.
In our ills faith remains our support: In our tearful hearts it calls grace; And, whatever fate threatens us here, We will be able to taste the only good in heaven.
These consoling stanzas calmed the afflicted mother, and soon after the children were cured.
This passing misfortune was not without fruit for the family either: the children knew better how to appreciate all the tenderness of their parents and all the extent of their sacrifices; they saw how much they were loved, and their filial piety increased. After their recovery, Catherine often said to her mother: “My dear mother, I will never forget your tender and active solicitude during the course of my cruel illness. I deeply feel all that I owe you; I will do everything that depends on me not to afflict such an excellent, such a tender mother; I will constantly strive to make myself worthy of your goodness by my docility, my zeal and my good conduct. »
All the other children expressed similar sentiments to their father and mother, and this increase in reciprocal tenderness made the family even happier than it had ever been. The children also knew the price of health, and, thanking the good God for having healed them, they begged him not to afflict them with new illnesses.
Thus God used the very fever to open to them a new source of blessings, tenderness and domestic bliss.
Illness of the mother.
This period of difficulties and sorrows once over, our teacher and his family saw happy days again. Good harvests following scarcity had spread abundance in the country, and food became very cheap. From then on, it was easy for the brave Hermann and his worthy wife to re-establish their small affairs and to restore their large family to modest comfort. Several years had passed thus rapidly in the bosom of contentment and domestic happiness, without any accident having come to disturb their rest, when God subjected these virtuous mortals to a new trial.
The teacher had greeted the birth of his ninth child with transports of joy; but this time the confinements of his darling wife were so painful and dangerous that she was obliged to stay in bed for a long time.
However, by dint of care and attention, her condition improved little by little, and soon she was able to get up for a few hours each day. It was in these circumstances that the anniversary of the birth of her daughter Catherine arrived, and the day before she remained up all day. Still too weak to be able to devote herself to household chores, and not wishing to remain idle, she went and took from her closet a straw hat which she had formerly worn at Lindenberg before she was married, and began to arrange it. for Catherine, thinking of giving it to her on her birthday. Although the hat was damaged in several places, she knew how to restore it so well that one would have taken it at first glance for a brand new hat.
Young Catherine received this gift with infinite joy, which had just cost her good mother so much work. She especially admired its graceful form. Oh ! that a pretty bow of dark-colored ribbons would go well on the soft yellow of this straw! she thought; and how happy I would be if my papa had the kindness to give me the small sum it would take to buy some to my liking! No doubt, if I asked him, he would give it to me at once; but no, let's not say anything about it to dear papa; he is already so overburdened with so many expenses necessary for our upkeep, that it would be a real sin to ask him for more money for a useless finery.
Good Therese had taken pleasure in occupying herself all day long with arranging this hat intended for her darling daughter; but this application, in his weak state, increased his illness
headache to the point that she complained vehemently; and when night fell, she had such a violent fit of fever that people were alarmed at her condition. Hermann, frightened, got up and went to wake up the oldest of the children.
All ran, weeping and sobbing, round their mother's bed; the desolation was deep and general. “Oh! my good, my dear mother, cried one of the youngest, stretching out her little arms towards her mother, don't die, please! The screams and moans of those who were up roused the others. They also began to cry, even the smallest, who began to cry with all his might in his crib. The sight and the lamentations of all these children painfully agitated the soul of the tender mother. Then Hermann, to relieve her, made them leave the room and led them into the study room, saying to them: “My little friends, my dear children, your cries will not restore your mother's health; on the contrary, they will increase his evil. Let's pray to God for her instead. All knelt down at once, and lifted up their supplicating hands to heaven. The father, seeing himself in the middle of the night, and in the dim light of a lamp, surrounded by this circle of tender children offering to the Lord their supplications for a sick mother, felt his heart break. Catherine, carrying in her arms the youngest of her brothers, began to recite the following prayer: “Heavenly Father, ah! do not take our good mother away from us: we implore you, restore her health. Hermann added his wishes to theirs, and said to God from the bottom of his soul: "Yes, Lord, God of goodness, my only support in this desolation, you see the pain and the tears of these nine children." Oh ! deign to listen favorably to them, and do not deprive them of this mother so tender, who is still very necessary to them. Almighty God, have mercy on our tears. »
Then he entered the bedroom, and sat down beside his wife's bed. All his limbs trembled with worry; her face was as pale as that of Therese, who, recovering from her weakness, held out her hand to him and said: “Don't worry so much, my dear Frederic, I feel better already; God will not abandon me, he will restore me to health. So calm yourself, and put the children back to bed. " He obeys. Catherine and Sophie remained alone until daybreak with their mother, and, assisted by their father, they gave her the most tender care. However, the night passed in the liveliest fears and in continual prayers for the recovery of the patient.
The next day, at dawn, Catherine ran to tell her godmother, the ranger's wife. This charitable woman came at once. Hermann begged her to stay with Therese and keep her while he went to town to fetch a doctor. Instantly he took his cane and his hat, and prepared to leave. "Stay here, my good friend," said his wife; the doctor and the medicines are too expensive for us; we have already started the quarter of treatment which they were good enough to pay us in advance; save our money; I feel much better already, and I hope that God alone will be my doctor. You will see that in two to three days it will be nothing. »
The teacher still wanted to leave; the forester's wife then said: "My dear Hermann, I believe that your wife is right, I also think that the attack which occurred to her last night is not as dangerous as it had seemed at first sight . Yesterday, good Therese, you abused your strength by getting out of bed as soon as possible and staying up all day to work on Catherine's hat. It was a very serious imprudence in your state of convalescence; the weakness and discomfort of this night are the consequences. But believe me, it will be nothing, it will all pass, I know that from experience. Last year, you must remember, the same thing happened to me. The town doctor came; he prescribed me a light herbal tea, a simple decoction of certain herbs, and this remedy quickly restored me. The plants I have used are found in our regions, I can indicate them; have some, and you will see that they will give you the same relief as me. »
Therese claimed that her neighbor was right; but the husband was not of the same opinion, and made several very just objections. “In the first place, the circumstances,” he told them, “do not seem to me quite similar. Then temperaments and illnesses being infinitely varied, a remedy which suits one person is of no use to another, and, far from doing him any good, often aggravates his condition. The doctor alone can appreciate these differences, and prescribe what each one needs. So he was going to leave despite all the observations; but the invalid begged him insistently to stay and wait, in order to see the effect of the herbal tea which had done so much good to Catherine's godmother.
“This remedy can do no harm in any way,” added the latter; besides, if, against all odds, Thérèse has a new attack, there will always be time to call the doctor. »
Catherine, who had already picked the plants indicated by her for her godmother, offered to go get some at once. Hermann had great difficulty in agreeing to this test, and he assured us at the same time that if the patient was not better two days later, nothing in the world could prevent her from summoning the doctor. “Alas! said he, I fear that we have already lost too much time, and that, having wished to avoid some small expenses, we are forced to incur greater ones; we should have followed the old and good maxim
who says that the passions and illnesses must be cut short from the beginning, otherwise we risk arriving too late to fight them and to remedy them. »
Catherine put on the straw hat her mother had arranged for her the night before, took a basket under her arm, and went to get the plants her godmother had pointed out. "I'll be back soon, dear mamma," she said as she left; for there are plenty of these herbs among the ruins of the old castle up there on the mountain. Then little Frederic began to say to his sister: "Take care, Catherine, don't get too close to the castle, for you know very well that it is generally said that the chatelaine appears from time to time in the ruins, and that she does not like children; she might hurt you.
- Bah! said Catherine, 'don't believe that: it's only a tale invented to frighten rebellious children, so that they don't venture to climb these old walls, from the top of which a stone could fall on them and destroy them. crush ! »
She crossed the garden, and in passing she tore up a branch of perfectly ripe hops, adorned with its dark green leaves and its small fruits with greenish scales. She arranged this branch of hop flowers as a garland around her straw hat, to replace the ribbon which was missing: and, after having considered for a moment with pleasure the pleasant effect of this shade of color on her new adornment, the young daughter walked quickly towards the old castle.
The path that led to the top of the mountain sometimes crossed lawns dotted with flowers where the sun shed its brilliant light, sometimes groves which presented the most agreeable shade. She had soon climbed the mountain; then, finding herself in a place devoid of trees, not far from the ruins of the old castle, where grow those herbs which she knew perfectly well, she began to pick them with ardour; and, while making this harvest, the young girl prayed to God in the bottom of her heart to bless these plants, that they might restore health to her mother: she also asked him very earnestly to protect her family in their unfortunate position. . All around her was calm and silent, and only at intervals could the chirping of small birds be heard from within the nearby bushes.
After filling her basket, she suddenly seemed to hear someone's footsteps; she turned her head, and saw coming out of the shadow of the bushes a white woman approaching her; his gait was light and airy. A fine white veil enveloped her head. The lady of the chateau, whose portrait was seen in a picture hanging on the wall of the village church, had a similar costume, and a similar veil draped in the same way. At this sight, Catherine was seized with a sudden fright; for she remembered the popular rumors which circulated about the apparitions of the chatelaine in the midst of the ruins. But soon she reassured herself and fixed her gaze on the stranger. She was a young lady, about the same age as Catherine; she carried in her right hand a work bag closed by a padlock, while her left hand held under her chin the beautiful veil which covered her head. Her graceful face exuded such gentleness, such amiability, that Catherine's fears were entirely dissipated.
"Dear little one," said the stranger in an engaging voice, but with a rapid pronunciation and a foreign accent, "would you like a little money?" This question surprised Catherine. 'Yes,' she said, 'today my parents would really need the money; but how do you know, and where did you get the idea of giving me some?
— Listen, said the stranger, who was in no way a supernatural apparition, as Catherine had thought at the first moment: would you like to sell me your hat? I have just lost mine by accident, a gust of wind took it from me and carried it over there into the precipice; I still have a long journey to make, and I cannot do without a hat: will you do me the service of giving me yours? I would gladly pay you.
'I agree, Mademoiselle, although I am very attached to it; because it's a present from my good mother, who arranged it for me yesterday for my birthday, and this is the first time I've worn it. So I'm very attached to it; but at this moment my mother is ill, we would need money to relieve her, and I would give my life for her.
- Well! how many do you want? tell me honestly, I'll pay you whatever you want. Catherine replied: 'Really, Mademoiselle, I don't know the value of a hat; because I never bought one.
"Look, yours is pretty, made of very fine straw and like those we wear today: I'll give you a six-franc crown for it: I think that'll suit you: it's a deal done, the hat is mine. But actually tell me what you ask for the pretty garland with which you adorned it. »
Catherine fixed the young lady with a look of astonishment, and thought she meant to joke; but the latter, far from joking, continued with vivacity and a tone of enthusiasm: “The more I look at this garland of hops, the more I find it marvelous; it is a true masterpiece. My mother recently had a crate of flowers sent from Italy, which are very expensive and in very good taste, but which are far from being comparable in beauty, freshness, and perfection to this garland. I agree that the colors are more varied and more brilliant; but these pretty flowers, in their soft green shade, intermingled with these leaves of a beautiful dark green, please me infinitely better; they make a delightful effect on the dazzling yellow of the hat. Come, tell me without fear what you require to yield me this garland; because I confess to you that I am crazy about it.
- Hey! my good young lady, answered Catherine, I give it to you very gladly on top of the bargain. Saying these words, she took off her hat and presented it to the stranger. " Oh! no, cried the latter, I cannot accept these hop flowers for nothing, it is too precious a present. Thank God I am able to pay them to you. While speaking thus, she took off her veil, and, after placing the hat on her beautiful hair, she exclaimed with joy: “Oh! it is exactly the size of my head, as if the milliner had measured me. I think it must look great on me; what do you say, my good little one? Catherine nodded.
At this moment the sound of a postilion's horn was heard.
“Come on, let's not waste time on useless words; the post chaise has reached the top of the climb, and I see Mama with her handkerchief beckoning me to join her. Here's a louis d'or: six francs for your hat, and eighteen for the garland. Farewell, my dear child! »
At these words, she threw the coin into Catherine's basket, and ran quickly towards the canopy, into which she climbed; the postilion cracked his whip, and as he was on a descent, the crew soon disappeared in a cloud of dust.
All this seemed like a dream to Catherine; but the gold coin found in his basket proved to him that everything was real; she looked, tossed and turned the brilliant piece of gold several times, and tortured her mind to guess the motives which might have induced the stranger to pay so dearly for the garland of hops. "It must be, she said, a very rich person, since she has so much money to spend." But six francs for the hat, and three times more for the branch of hops! it is, however, unique. Be that as it may, what seems certain to me is that God has deigned to grant the prayer that I addressed to him for my poor mother, and that by means of this gold we shall be able to summon the doctor. , and to pay for all the things she needs in her illness. »
Filial love rivalry.
Catherine took her basket filled with fragrant herbs and put it on her head, saying: “Oh! how happy my parents will be when I show them this gold, which is truly a help sent from Heaven! Let us hasten to bring it to them. I've picked enough herbs for today; now that the sun is so ardent, this basket will serve me as a hat by giving me shade. She doubled her pace, descended the mountain with the lightness of a doe, crossed the garden and entered her mother's room in great joy.
" Dear daddy ! good mom! she exclaimed even before entering, what happiness I have to announce to you! Look at this piece of gold, which, I have been told, is worth four crowns of six francs.
- How! my daughter, is it possible! exclaimed the father, looking at this beautiful new louis d'or with eyes that shone with the liveliest joy: where did you find this gold, which comes so timely? Twenty-four francs is a considerable sum for poor people like us. »
Therese sat up, took the coin, which her husband presented to her, and examined it too; his looks also expressed sweet satisfaction. "But let me see that gold piece too," said little Frederic then. I've heard gold spoken of so often as something everyone wants, that I'd love to know what it is. His mother handed him the coin. "What! that's just it! he cried; I had a grander idea of it from all the importance given to it. Oh ! we have in our little valley a great quantity of gold much more beautiful, much more brilliant than this petty little piece: there is no comparison. In the evening, when the sun goes down, the clouds, the tops of the mountains, the stream from our mill, even the windows of our peasants are all gold; yes, the sun itself, when it descends at the end of the day, offers our eyes the most magnificent ball of gold. This wretched little yellow piece that I see you gazing at with so much joy, tell me, what is it next to all this?
"And how did you manage to get this money?" asked the father again. Catherine related how she had given her hat to a young stranger who needed it, having lost hers, and how she had received this gold coin in exchange.
At this story, Thérèse's face, so serene a moment before, was covered with sadness. Instead of being able to rejoice at this help as a voluntary gift, the circumstantial account gave birth to the idea that it was only by some mistake that the young foreigner had given such a considerable sum of this hat.
Catherine, ignorant of the causes of her mother's sadness, interpreted it quite differently, and said sensitively: “Ah! dear mamma, please don't be angry, don't scold me for having sold that hat which you had taken such pains to arrange in order to give it to me on my birthday. I liked that pretty hat very much, and I liked it doubly because it came to me from you. Be sure that I only sold it reluctantly. But you, my good mother, you are infinitely dearer to me than my hat was to me; and I only took the opportunity of exchanging it for money with the intention of giving you the reliefs you so badly need; but if I could have foreseen that it pained you, I would never have yielded it for all the gold in the world.
"Reassure yourself, dear Catherine," replied the mother; the love you show me touches me infinitely: I thank you for it, you are an excellent child. However we cannot in conscience keep this money: it seems to me certain that there must be some misunderstanding there.
Yes, certainly there must be some mistake here; for no one with good sense would give twenty-four francs for an old straw hat. The young lady, in opening her purse hastily, must have made a mistake in throwing this gold coin into your basket, thinking that she was giving only a silver coin; or maybe she's a thoughtless young girl unable to use the money entrusted to her appropriately.
"She was not at all mistaken in forcing me to accept this louis d'or, which is worth four crowns of six francs, for her intention was to give me six francs for the hat and eighteen francs for the garland of hops with which it was adorned: she expressly told me so. Catherine added still more to this explanation by recounting all the details of her conversation with the young stranger.
“Oh! here we are ! exclaimed Therese, everything seems very clear to me now; the young lady imagined that this branch of hops, which you had picked in our garden, was composed of artificial flowers coming from the workshops of a skilful milliner; and as these kinds of objects of
toilette are very expensive, she believed that this garland, the naturalness and freshness of which she admired, and which in her eagerness and by an inconceivable levity she had not taken the trouble to examine closely enough, was worth she alone, without the hat, eighteen francs. That's why she paid so much for it.
"Yes, it cannot be otherwise," resumed the father, "and the gold coin must be returned to this young lady."
"I think like you," said Therese; the eighteen francs would be cheated if we kept them.
"I now realize that you are right, my dear parents," said Catherine; it is only now that I understand the excessive admiration of the young stranger at the sight of the garland. We didn't get along. When she exclaimed in her enthusiasm: It's nature itself!... I, in my simplicity, I took that simply in the literal sense, and I said that she was right: I was to suspect that she meant that my garland perfectly imitated nature. The error is however singular, surprising! But I don't see how we could return this gold to him, I don't know his name or his address.
"That's what it will be easy for us to learn at the last post she has just left," resumed the father; as she travels by post, her name, or at least that of her mother, must necessarily be entered in the registers of the office: the regulations oblige the postmasters to keep a note of the names, status and residence of any traveler who comes from change horses. Well ! you are going to write a letter to the young lady at once, leaving only the address to add. Tomorrow morning, you will go to the nearby post office to ask the director to give you this address; you will write it immediately on the letter, which you will send with the money. In this way the young lady will promptly receive what is due to her. May God preserve me from keeping ill-gotten gains under my roof: that never brings good luck. Provided that this young lady has not also paid too much for the hat: tell me, my wife, what do you think of it, was it really worth a crown of six francs? »
The mother answered that, as the young lady had a pressing need of it, and that besides this hat, in good condition, could be worn for a while longer, it did not seem to her that it had been bought too expensive at the rate of six francs, the sum that the young lady could give, and that they could keep without burdening their conscience.
Catherine, who had a talent for writing letters with great ease, sat down at her little desk and wrote one for the stranger. The father re-read the draft, touched it up in a few places, and otherwise found it very good. Then Catherine put to the net, in her pretty handwriting, this letter, which is as follows:
“I hasten to make up for a misunderstanding that took place yesterday, when I had the pleasure of obliging you by giving you my hat to replace the one that an accident had just taken from you under the ruins of the old castle of Steinach. You first offered me six francs, to which you were pleased to add another eighteen, because you believed that the garland with which I had surrounded my hat was of artificial flowers, whereas it was not. is just a sprig of hops that I picked up in our garden. You must not have taken long to realize your mistake. My parents are sorry, and I am as much as them since the moment they enlightened me on the more than probable cause of your error. All my life I will reproach myself for having neglected, at the first moment when you asked me so earnestly for this garland of hops, for telling you and repeating to you a hundred times that it is the work of nature, and not that of art. I beg your pardon for this mistake a thousand times, Mademoiselle, and since honor and delicacy do not allow my parents or me to withhold such a large sum for such a small object, and that you cannot have it for me given only by mistake, I take the liberty of sending you enclosed the sum of eighteen francs, keeping only the six francs which you had the kindness to offer me first for the hat alone, in the generous intention, no doubt, of wanting to oblige me, for which I will remain deeply grateful to you all my life. Please, Mademoiselle, accept the homage of my respects and the deep memory that I keep of all your kindnesses.
"Your devoted, "Catherine Hermann. »
The next morning, Thérèse gave her daughter the gold coin, telling her: "When you get to the office, you will tell the postmistress everything that has just happened, and you will ask her to change the coin, and to give you four crowns of six francs for it: you will put three of them in the letter, and you will immediately seal it in front of the lady, by writing the address there. The other crown is for the hat, and you can do with it as you see fit.
"Is it really true, dear mother," exclaimed Catherine, transported with joy, "that the other crown belongs to me and that I can do with it what I want?" Well ! its destination is already all found. As my papa still doubts that the plants are enough to cure you, I will go with my crown to find a doctor, and I will ask him to restore your health; I think that at the cost of so much money he will be able to do it well. In truth, something will then be needed for the pharmacy; but I have another resource all ready: I will sell the silk handkerchief which my godmother has given me: it is very pretty and still brand new, I have barely worn it three times; in this way we will be able to face everything without having to go into debt. »
When Sophie heard this laudable project of her sister, she exclaimed: “And I will sell my beautiful pearl necklace; we may get a lot out of it. These glass beads had little value; but Sophie made it her main adornment, and in her eyes it was a great treasure.
Little Charles said in turn: “I will sell my coco. It was a wooden horse on which he had just galloped around the room, and which he was very fond of. Young Louise, holding her doll in her arms, which she called Marguerite, also wanted to sell it. 'It will cost me to part with it,' she said, 'I shall cry; but I really like mamma, and since you say she needs money, and that to get it you want to give her the finest thing you have, I'll give her my present too. All the other children vied with each other in devotion, and offered to sell their playthings to relieve their mother, so that Charles, all joyful, exclaimed: “Good! Good ! courage: we are going to have a cartload of money. »
This rivalry of filial love particularly touched Thérèse and Hermann. The latter gave their good feelings deserved praise, while the mother, shedding tears of tenderness, said to her husband: “Ah! what a joy to have well-bred and good-natured children! In prosperity they are the greatest joy of their parents, and in times of misfortune they are their best consolation. »
Early the next day, Catherine prepared to leave for the neighboring town where the post office was located, and which was a good league from their village. She borrowed her sister Sophie's straw hat. On her mother's advice, she went to the garden to cut several cauliflowers of remarkable beauty, which she put in her little hand basket, to sell them in the town. Thérèse used to say: "When a good housewife has a little trip to make, or even to go to another part of her little domain, she always thinks if she could not do several things at the same time, in order to use your time well and never come and go empty-handed. »
On her arrival in the town, Catherine went to the office; she entered the room, where she found the postmistress seated against the window, busy knitting. She was a lady of good bearing and very fond of talking. Catherine, after having greeted her politely, asked her to tell her which two ladies had changed horses at this relay the previous morning.
"It was M.mo de Vertval and her daughter, Mrs.11e Henriette, who came from their country to go to the capital, where M. de Vertval lives. But what are these great ladies doing to you, my poor child? what relationship do you have with them? »
Catherine took the letter and the gold coin from her pocket, saying: "Mr.lle Henriette, in a little bargain I made with her, gave me three crowns of six francs too much: I would like to send them back to her; I beg you, for this purpose, to change me this louis d'or.
'Diantre,' said the postmistress, 'so it was a very important deal to make errors of eighteen francs right away. To see you, my good little one, one would not say that you are in the habit of concluding such considerable business. But can we know, without indiscretion, what this market consists of? »
Just as Catherine was about to begin her story, a postilion, dressed in his full dress uniform, entered the room, placed himself in a corner at the end of a table, having before him a pot of beer, and, while breakfasting , he listened to the conversation; then, having cast a glance at the young girl, he cried out with a burst of laughter: “Hey! hey! I'm not mistaken, it's the pretty hops seller, to whom Mrs.lle de Vertval bought a small branch of it for three crowns of six francs.
- Hey what! how? exclaimed the mistress of post, "three crowns for six francs a little sprig of hops!" but it is unheard of! such a thing has perhaps never been seen since the world began!...
"Truly, that young girl understands the hop business very well," said the postillion, seizing the pot of beer. However, I would not like each branch of hops to cost three crowns of six francs, because an honest man like me could no longer drink his pot of beer. It doesn't matter, he added, drinking a sip, the health of the intelligent hop seller.
- Hey! but this is a very singular story, said the postmistress; I would be delighted to know the smallest details. Come, my good little one; you must be tired and have an appetite. Come, sit there, beside me; here is a glass of excellent red wine and a piece of white bread; drink, eat, and then tell me properly how it all happened; what reason had the young lady to buy you a branch of hops? what did she want to do with it? Tell me that, let's see. »
Catherine began thus: "The young stranger having lost her hat on the road...
"How," interrupted the postmistress eagerly, "did she lose her hat?" I'm almost tempted to believe that she has rather lost her mind... Hey! but how ? by what chance did this happen to him? When she got into the car, here, at the door, she was still wearing her hat: I noticed that. It was a very pretty hat of green taffeta, lined with pink, and tied under the chin with a wide ribbon, also pink in color: how could she have lost her hat? »
Catherine didn't know. "I know something about it," said the postilion then, "and I can serve you as you wish, for it was I who led these ladies." I was placed in the seat of this open carriage, so that it was easy for me to see and hear everything. So I realized that M.lle de Vertval is a lively, dizzy and turbulent young person: she could never remain quiet for a moment. Sometimes she sang, sometimes she wanted me to sound the horn; then she rose and leaned to the right or to the left, outside the doors, to cast her eyes over the countryside. Her mother had infinite difficulty in restraining her and protecting her from accidents. Finally she remained quiet in her place for a few moments; but soon she complained of being too hot, and untied the ribbon which tied her hat under her chin. When we had arrived at the old stone bridge, opposite the great waterfall, seeing the river, all white with foam, rushing like a torrent between the rocks and the bushes, the young lady burst into transports of joy, and m ordered me to stop on the middle of the bridge, the place, to tell the truth, from where one can best contemplate this beautiful spectacle. She stood up straight in the car, and stretched her arms high, her body out of the door, to express her admiration. " What noise! what foam! she cried; I seem to see a river of milk. And how the water gushes! how it spreads all around a silvery dust, how the leaves of the neighboring bushes and the moss on the rocks glisten in the sun! they seem to be adorned with thousands of diamonds. She added a host of beautiful exclamations that I could not restrain. Suddenly a violent gust of wind arrives, and... pstch!... her pretty hat flew down the waterfall. She wanted to catch up with him, and she came very close to accompanying him in the torrent. Fortunately, her mother restrained her forcefully and in time. In a flash I jumped down from the seat, and tried to fish out the hat with the handle of my whip; but already it was too late: the raging waves swept him away in their rapid course, and rolled him up so that we could now see the head, now the rose-coloured lining; a few moments later we lost sight of him. I couldn't help laughing at it to myself; however, I sincerely regretted the loss of that beautiful hat.
"And what was the mother saying at the time of this loss?" asked the postmistress.
"She wasn't as much affected by it as I would have thought," replied the postilion. But she felt a mortal fright the moment her daughter almost threw herself into the abyss; she was trembling; she had become as pale as a face of plaster, and a moment later she gave her daughter the most touching morality.
"What a thoughtlessness! she said to him in a severe tone: there is your hat lost, and you were on the point of throwing yourself into the abyss, under the very eyes of the mother, of whom you are so tenderly dear. Henriette, my Henriette, you are not reasonable, you have no more reason than a child still playing with dolls. You should be ashamed of it. If you continue to be so thoughtless, if you don't become a little more composed, you will cause your parents great sorrow; you will make your misfortune in this world and in the next. Let us give thanks to God, whose protection has just saved you from such great peril; promise him to correct you. »
“These motherly words made a strong impression on the young person. She was sobbing, and, throwing herself into her mother's arms, she replied: "Ah! mum, my good mum, darling mum, forgive me, oh! for this time forgive me again. You were my tutelary angel, without you I was lost..., drowned..., dead!... Ah! I thank you from the bottom of my soul, and I protest to you in the face of God that I will correct myself and that I will cause you no more fears or sorrows. »
"These words of the young lady pleased me infinitely," added the narrator; and I thought to myself that it would be desirable for the lesson to be profitable to him.
"God grant it!" said the postmistress; and what happened next?
— We continued on our way; but when we had arrived at the bottom of the big climb, we had to stop again: the young lady wanted to get out of the car and follow on foot the little path which shortens the path to reach the top of the mountain; it was, she said, to admire more closely the picturesque site, the rocks and the ruins of the old castle. His mother gave him permission, and stayed in the car. Indeed, this young lady, who is lively and alert, quickly arrived at the top of the ascent, where I distinctly saw her chatting with the little girl here (pointing to Catherine), who at that moment was busy picking plants on the edge of the path. It was then that she bargained for the hat with the garland of hops; and, her mother having made a sign to her to join us, she ran up all joyful with her pretty straw hat on her head, which, my faith, suited her much better than the one she had lost.
- Well ! said Catherine, it's just the hat I sold her; then she began to relate in detail the mistake which had taken place with regard to the garland with which he was surrounded.
"And the mother," interrupted the postmistress, "what did she say about this fine business?" was she satisfied? Tell me about it, John; because you must know this story until the end.
'Faith,' resumed the postilion, 'you can well imagine if she should be happy with such an extravagant bargain. After examining the hat and bestowing praise on her daughter for having had the good sense to take advantage of an encounter to replace the traveling hat she had lost, the lady asked her what she had paid for it. Then the thoughtless girl declared that the hat had cost her six francs, and the garland eighteen.
“As for the hat, a six-franc crown is not too expensive, for it is pretty and in good condition; but to have given eighteen francs for the garland, which is not worth two farthings!... Henriette, are you decidedly mad then?
“I believe, dear mamma, that you are joking: haven't you yourself given more for the Spanish elderberry which is on your hat? It seems to me that my garland is worth as much as yours: it is fresher, more natural...
“Shut up, you little scatterbrain: are you so blind that you cannot see at first sight that my garland is made of artificial flowers, while yours is simply a branch of hops torn from the first hurdle? »
“Nevertheless the young person persisted in wanting to be right. “Wait a bit,” his mother told him, “and you'll see what your beautiful acquisition is. »
"In fact, half an hour later, in the heat of the day, the garland was faded, and the young person, half ashamed, half vexed with herself, turned red like the lining of my uniform, and began to cry bitterly.
'I am very glad,' resumed her mother, 'that you have received this lesson again; perhaps she will teach you to be better on your guard. You see, my child, how appearances can deceive us, especially when we lend ourselves to them with so much levity. You thought you were buying an ornament that would last you for years to come, and before the very next day, you have nothing but a withered branch that you would no longer dare adorn yourself with. May the memory of this accident teach you not to judge people or things on mere appearance! It is the general and characteristic defect of all frivolous and thoughtless people to act hastily and to be unable to estimate anything at its true value. How many young people do we not see who allow themselves to be dazzled by a charming exterior, by pleasant flattery, by the lure of fine promises and passing pleasures, and thus compromise their innocence, their honor, the peace of life? soul, and their happiness in this world and in the next. Your excessive levity makes me conceive the deepest anxiety about your future. You won't always have your mother by your side to be your guardian angel, like the moment you almost threw yourself into the abyss. You very quickly forgot the fine promises you made to me when you had just escaped death: a few moments have barely passed since then, and you are already doing new foolish things. Henriette, please correct yourself, get rid of your levity, be more composed and more reasonable from now on, otherwise you will make me the most unhappy of mothers. »
The postmistress, who, at the beginning of this story of the postilion, had only laughed, gradually became pensive and serious. "It must be admitted," she said, "Mr.me de Vertval is a woman of common sense and an excellent mother. But her daughter, what did she reply to these wise and useful advices, which everyone, whatever their sex and their age, should imprint on their memory, and even better on their hearts?
'The young lady,' replied Jean, 'since then seemed as timid and silent as she had been lively and turbulent before. Throughout the rest of the trip she seemed absorbed in her thoughts. Very often the tears rolled down her cheeks, and before entering the city she again begged her mother to forgive her carelessness, and promised her once more to follow her wise and maternal lessons.
"And we too will follow them," replied the postmistress; because these same opinions are useful for everyone, and particularly for young people. Isn't it, Catherine, you also promise me to enjoy it? Catherine promised him.
Finally the postmistress changed the gold coin, gave Catherine a six-franc crown, put the three others in the letter, and, before sealing it, asked permission to read it, finding it very well. expressed his satisfaction with the delicacy of Catherine and her parents in this circumstance, and added: "It is doubtless your father who drew up and wrote this letter?" Catherine asserted that the letter was in her composition and handwriting, and that her father had only corrected the draft.
“It's hard for me to believe: the writing is very pretty and the spelling perfect. But we'll see right now: sit down at this desk, write the address, I'll dictate it to you. »
Catherine obeyed, and the postmistress, astonished, apologized for having suspected her for a moment of lying. “Truly your handwriting is very beautiful; few young people would do the same. It seems that your father is not only a good man, but also a man of talent, and that he gave him a good education. She sealed the letter and joined it to the other parcels for the next departure, saying: “My good little one, come and let me kiss you, I am delighted to meet you; you are a very well-bred young girl, your education and above all your feelings do you credit. Always remain what you are, and the wishes that I form for your happiness will come true. »
The doctor as they should all be.
The postmistress had a good breakfast served to Catherine, who, after having finished her meal and testifying her gratitude to this amiable lady, asked her the name and residence of the best doctor in the place. The lady, naturally very curious, wanted to know what the young girl had to do at the doctor's. Catherine then gave him a detailed account of her mother's illness, of the desolation of her brothers and sisters, and of the urgent need to help the patient, in order to preserve her for her family, which consisted of her husband and of his nine children.
"I want," she added, "to offer this crown which remains to me to the doctor, to induce him to take care of my mother and restore her to health as soon as possible." »
The postmistress was deeply moved by this fine act of filial piety. "It is good, it is very good, my daughter," she said to Catherine, "to dedicate with joy all that you possess to the restoration of your mother's health." Ah! my dear child, be very sure that the good Lord will bless you! Come with me! I will take you to the doctor myself; his home is a stone's throw from here, and his wife is my intimate friend. »
She immediately took her silk mantilla, and Catherine accompanied her to the doctor's house.
The postmistress thought it her duty to open the conversation by telling the story of the straw hat; and she did it in such a gay and witty manner that the doctor and his wife laughed out loud. Catherine's letter and the return of the three crowns of six francs each furnished him with a happy transition to portray in a touching manner the delicate probity of Catherine and her father; she spoke of the illness of Therese, mother of nine children, all alive, and ended by asking the doctor to come to the aid of such an interesting and amiable family.
The doctor, very tender, said, addressing Catherine, who had approached with a timid and supplicating air, holding her six-franc crown at the end of her fingers as if to persuade the doctor better: "Excellent girl, your good heart will be satisfied; take away your money, I ask nothing for the care I will give to your poor mother; I will go to see her tomorrow, and I hope, God helping, that she will be soon restored.
"And I too," resumed the postmistress, "want to have the pleasure of doing something in favor of this worthy schoolmistress, and I undertake to pay for all the remedies that the chemist provides her with." It is too fine and too meritorious an action on the part of this brave woman and her husband to have had, in the midst of the privations occasioned by illness and misery, enough probity and delicacy not to keep a money which chance had procured for them in such a strange way. To relieve virtuous people in their misfortune is to encourage virtue. »
Catherine shed tears of joy, thanking sometimes the doctor, sometimes the postmistress, for all their kindness; then she returned with the latter to the office to take back the basket she had left there.
“So what do you have in your basket? asked the lady.
"Madame, these are cauliflowers: will you allow me to offer them to you as a feeble testimony of my gratitude for the kindness with which you have showered me?" My mother had asked me to sell them; but I have the certainty that she will be grateful to me for having paid homage to such a charitable lady, and who finds so much pleasure in coming to the aid of unhappy families.
"I am charmed to see that to all your good qualities you still add a grateful heart." I gladly accept the cauliflowers, but by paying for them. In the household, and especially in your position, money is always useful. She took the cauliflowers, which she found to be of rare beauty, and paid for them generously. “I don't want you to take away your empty basket, wait a moment longer. She immediately fetched a bottle of Malaga wine, a white roll and a packet of biscuits. “Here, take this to your mother, the doctor wants her to drink a glass of it every day and dip a cookie in it. As for the white bread, you will share it between your brothers and your sisters, and you will take care not to forget yourself in the distribution. Farewell, my child, have a good trip. Always remain good and wise, and Heaven will not abandon you. »
Catherine, unable to find words capable of expressing her gratitude, covered the hand of her generous benefactress with kisses, and she resumed her way to her village, so happy, so joyful, that her feet seemed to have wings, and she arrived home almost without noticing it.
One can well imagine with what delight she told her beloved parents all that had happened; she repeated several times that the doctor would come and pay visits without charging any fee; that the drugs would be provided without causing them the slightest expense; then she opened the basket, took out the bottle, the biscuits and the money, gave them to her mother, and shared the white bread with her brothers and sisters. These gifts, and even more this good news, filled the whole family with joy, and Catherine, so happy, reflected: “Ah! let us give a thousand thanks to the good God: he was quick to reward us for having fulfilled the duties of probity. Papa is quite right to repeat to us often: Probity and righteousness are pleasing to God and to men. »
Early the next morning, the generous doctor presented himself. After examining the patient and questioning her about her condition, he declared that the disease was not very dangerous; but, he added, it might have become so if the doctor had been delayed any longer. The decoction of the plants of which you speak to me could be useful for the continuation; now more effective remedies are needed. He wrote several prescriptions, and gave the hope that in a week the patient would be able to leave her bed. Before taking his leave he intended to return soon; then he mounted his horse, and rode out to complete his tour.
Three days later he returned and inquired about the condition of the patient. He found it so satisfying that he said to Hermann: "All is well, very well, your wife no longer needs any medicine: all she needs is rest and fortifying food." At these words, the poor teacher heaved a sigh involuntarily, and raised his eyes to heaven, as if to say: Alas! where shall we take it?
“By the way, I was about to forget an essential thing,” said the doctor, taking a small sealed packet from his pocket: “here is what I was given for you at the post office. The address read: "AMUe Catherine Hermann, to Steinach, with seventy-two francs. »
Hermann opened it, and found there, besides the well-wrapped money, the following letter:
“We have just received with as much emotion as pleasure your kind letter containing the three six-franc pieces, and we, my parents and I, are deeply impressed with the delicacy of your feelings. I congratulate myself on the error I had made in taking for artificial the crown of hops which adorned the pretty hat which you so obligingly gave me. This error, I regard it today as very happy for me: first, in that it earned me more than one salutary lesson, of which I will try to profit, and then because, at the Even as I write these lines, it makes my soul blossom by providing it with the consoling proof that one can still find virtue, delicacy and probity in the smallest village, in the most modest cottages. As for the three écus that I gave you by mistake, I send them back to you today in full knowledge of the facts, and my parents, while approving this step, allowed me to add three more to reward your loyalty. . Be sure, Miss, that a much more precious reward awaits you in heaven.
I was at this point in my letter when someone came to tell us that your respectable mother is dangerously ill. My parents do not want to miss the opportunity that presents itself to be useful to you: for this purpose, they have doubled the small sum that I had intended for you. You will therefore find enclosed twelve pieces of six francs, which we ask you in common to accept as a weak testimony of our esteem and of the satisfaction which you have procured for us in more than one respect. We hope that this aid, which has come at the right time, can help you to take good care of your dear patient, for whose speedy recovery we send the most ardent wishes to Heaven: may we soon have the happiness of receiving the pleasant news that they have been granted!
In this hope, please, Miss, accept the sincere and affectionate greetings
From your devoted friend, “Henriette de Vertval. »
The astonishment of Hermann, Thérèse and Catherine on receiving this letter and the considerable sum it contained, can only be compared to their joy. They could not guess how Mlle Henriette already knew of the mother's illness, since Catherine had neither told her nor written a single word about it; they did not know that the generous doctor was in regular correspondence with Mme.mode Vertval, whose benevolent and charitable character he had come to know during his stay in Vienna. As soon as he got home, after his first visit to Thérèse, he began to write to Mme.mc from Vertval the story of the garland of hops; and the dismissal of the three crowns, which anyone other than the virtuous Hermann would have believed he could keep without scruple, had given the doctor the opportunity to commend the sick mother, as well as her poor and interesting family, to the kindness of this lady. But this modest man, who loved to do good in secret, said not a single word about all this. He contented himself with replying to the lively demonstrations of gratitude with which he was overwhelmed for the kindness he had shown in bringing this package himself:
“It seems to me that this is a very simple thing. I was at the office just when this package arrived. Seeing the address, I thought it would be nice for you to receive it this very evening. I therefore begged the postmistress to entrust it to me, and at once, taking my cane and my hat, I came to bring it. For is it not a sacred duty to relieve one another? and when we can soften the pains of our fellow men and render them some service, it is also our duty not to put it off until tomorrow. Besides, the evening being beautiful, I wanted to take a walk; and as I take a keen interest in the position of this dear invalid, mother of so many children, I have not imagined a better walk than this. I confess to you, however, that I am quite tired and that I find myself altered: could you give me a glass of milk? And he sat down by the window.
Catherine hastened to bring him one on a very clean earthenware plate; he drank, and said: “This milk is excellent; but, as it is a little too greasy, I would like to pour some water on it. Catherine brought a decanter as clear and as transparent as the water it contained. The doctor gave a friendly smile, looked around the room, and said: "Order and cleanliness reign everywhere in this house: that's what I like." »
After quenching his thirst, he got up, approached the library, inspected the books, and approved the choice. "It seems your school is very well kept," he said to Hermann.
"From today to eight," replied the teacher.
- Well ! said the doctor, as I still owe our dear patient one last visit, I will come that day and I will take advantage of the opportunity to be present, if you allow me, at the examination.
Hermann assured him that he would be delighted if the doctor would do him this honor.
While chatting with Hermann, he continued to take a few turns in the room; he examined the prints, the piano, the furniture, the elegant simplicity and above all the extreme cleanliness of which gave him visible pleasure. “Your piano seems very good to me,” he said to Hermann. “Would you be kind enough to play me a piece of your choice?
“With the greatest pleasure, Doctor. »
Hermann sat down at the piano, and played a new sonata by Steibelt with a skill, a taste and an expression which his listener was as much charmed as surprised. When the sonata was over, the doctor said to him:
“You are playing extremely well, I compliment you on that. No doubt you are also strong on vocal music?
In response, Hermann nodded to his eldest daughter, who brought a hymnal, and opened it, saying: "Since the day when for the first time I had the honor of seeing the doctor, and especially since the moment when mamma was better, the hymn here has not gotten me out of my mind. We will sing it.
All the other children placed themselves around their father, and they sang with piano accompaniment, the children repeating in chorus the last two verses:
0 my songs, celebrate guardian goodness
And the ineffable love of the divine Creator;
Of unhappy mortals he wants to be the father,
And the care of our days makes his heart beat faster. His charity on us spreads grace; Nothing hidden for his paternal eye. Everything among us is forgotten and erased, The love of God alone is eternal.
“It's beautiful, it's sublime! cried the doctor; your singing method is perfect, teacher; your eldest daughter's voice is lovely, and your other children sing in chorus with admirable harmony. But the pious and deep feelings of gratitude with which you recite this hymn still enhance the charm of your voices: feeling is the soul of song, and alone can give it expression and melody. And what a finer and loftier feeling than that of love and gratitude to God! Mlle Catherine therefore made an excellent choice in giving us these verses. I listened to you not only with pleasure, but also with the charm of a pious emotion. I would be tempted to spend whole hours listening to you, nevertheless it is time to return home; I still have a few sick people to visit this evening in town. I therefore leave you, despite the great pleasure I would have in spending my whole evening in the midst of you. He got up and approached the patient's bedside once more. He consoled her affectionately and encouraged her with the best hopes. He promised to return a week later, since he could not visit her sooner, and besides, she could do without his care without any danger.
Thérèse held out her hand to him and said: “Doctor, what benefits you shower on us poor people! Not only are you kind enough to give me your care free of charge, but you also took the trouble to come yourself to bring us the help that Heaven sends us through the hands of Mrs.me from Vertval. I will never be able to express my gratitude enough to you. Tears ran down Therese's pale cheeks; the father and eldest daughter also poured some.
“I myself will write to M.me de Vertval, says the father, to thank her for the gifts she has made us, while Catherine, for her part, will send a letter to Mrs.lle Henriette. For you, Mr. Doctor, may our tears tell you all that we cannot express!
The doctor felt a deep emotion from these testimonies of gratitude, especially since this family was unaware of all that he had done for them in recommending them to the kindness of Mrs.me from Vertval. "Farewell, good people, see you again," he said abruptly, in order to hide his own tears from them; and he slipped away quickly.
When the father, Catherine and the children, who had accompanied the doctor to the door of the house, had returned, Thérèse raised her hands and her eyes to heaven and said: “Great God, God of goodness and mercy! yes, we have just experienced it again, your love and your concern for us are boundless, like your omnipotence. You took pity on our misfortune and helped us in distress: you always come to the aid of those who love you and who invoke you. May our gratitude to you be eternal, and may our trust in you, even in the most desperate situations, be unshakable. It is you who consoled us in our ills and who dried our tears. Fill our hearts with a sweet and firm confidence in your paternal solicitude, and we will already be happy on earth, and every day we will have new reasons to appreciate your kindness and to express our gratitude to you. »
To this prayer of the mother, the whole family answered unanimously: “So be it. »
Shortly after, the good Therese had fully recovered her health. She felt an indescribable joy at seeing herself in a condition to resume the cares of her household, which she busied herself with ardor and pleasure; she was especially happy to still be able to devote herself entirely to the education of her family. Hermann, for his part, kept his school with a new zeal and lived only for his children: this was the name he gave both to his pupils and to his young family. The doctor had kept his word; on the appointed day he came to attend the examination of the children of the village, whom he questioned himself, and to whom he distributed several prizes of encouragement which he had brought from town. The school prospered, the household resumed a modest ease, and the winter thus passed away in invariable contentment, and without any sorrow or any sensible pain coming to disturb the domestic happiness of the pious family.
Spring reappeared, to the great satisfaction of the parents; the trees in the garden were covered with beautiful flowers, an almost certain sign of an abundant harvest. The children ran with joy over the green meadow, picking, in the grass and under the bushes adorned with new foliage, pretty primroses and fragrant violets, to offer them to their father and their mother. Their young souls, already sensitive to the beauties of nature, experienced a kind of voluptuousness when they saw themselves awakened every morning by the song of the birds which nested in complete safety on the trees and in the surrounding hedges, while the more little ones of the children testified a lively pleasure each time they heard the singular but pleasant cry of the young cuckoo.
It was one of those fine days in May; the teacher had just sat down to table with his nine children, the youngest of whom was seated on his mother's lap. The large bowl which contained the milk soup was promptly emptied, and Catherine went to fetch an enormous platter of steaming potatoes, on which the children threw themselves with that eagerness and appetite natural at their age. Suddenly a knock was heard at the door. " Come in ! cried ten voices at once; all looked curiously in that direction, and a young lady, tall, beautiful, and elegantly dressed, entered.
" God! it's Mlle Henrietta! exclaimed Catherine, rising hastily and flying to meet him. The whole family stood respectfully. Hermann, Therese and Catherine were the first to approach the young stranger to thank her for the generous gift she had been kind enough to send them. But Henriette interrupted them at the first words, and said to them: "Please, please don't talk to me about this trifle, and resume your places, otherwise you would force me to leave at once."
"Will you allow me to eat some potatoes with you?"
'Mademoiselle does us too much honor,' said Hermann, 'to take part in our frugal meal; we wish we had something better to offer you.
- Oh ! thank you, Mr. Hermann; potatoes are my best treat; it's my favorite dish. »
Catherine went to fetch a very clean straw chair from the next room; she also brought an earthenware plate; then she chose several of the most beautiful potatoes, peeled off the skins and placed them on the plate, sparkling white and clean. Henriette found them excellent, and ate them with great pleasure. This young person was of a gay, playful character, and of a charming amiability. She showed the liveliest satisfaction in gazing one after another at all this circle of pretty children with fresh complexions and curly hair. Their jovial faces, and the good appetite with which they ate their potatoes, pleased him infinitely.
"How well these children look!" one cannot really say which is the prettiest, so charming and full of health are they all. Frugal food benefits them wonderfully; with that their clothing is so clean!
- Yes ! Thank God, replied Therese, they are in good health. However, we find it difficult to provide for their upkeep and their food, modest as they are. With this our children are growing every day, and every day also this brings an increase in expenses which increases our worries.
- Hey! retorted the lively and witty Henriette, smiling, "would you like your children to become smaller day by day?" otherwise you would be embarrassed! Come on, Madame, take courage and leave it up to the good God: He will provide for it. »
As soon as the lively Henriette had satisfied her appetite, she got up, ran to the piano, which she had already noticed, and said: making music. She began to play several pieces so pleasantly that they were met with applause. Hermann having then approached, she said to him: 'It's your turn, Monsieur, please play a very cheerful air for us; then she took the smallest child in her arms, and began to waltz with him around the room to amuse him. The little one she was holding in her arms was laughing with all her might; his younger brothers and sisters, led by example as much as by the excitement of the music, took each other by the hands and began to dance too. The gaiety became general.
However, neither this gaiety nor the presence of the foreign young lady prevented Therese from reminding her children of the usual prayer after the meal, and the young foreign girl prayed devoutly with the others.
"Now," said Henriette, "let's sing a pious canticle, that ends a prayer appropriately." Teacher, would you be kind enough to accompany us on the piano? You are no doubt familiar with the beautiful hymn whose chorus is as follows:
All good comes down from heaven, and comes to us from God. »
And immediately she intoned in her brilliant voice the first stanza of this canticle which began thus:
Before God, with a word, gave birth to the world, Everything was chaos, deep darkness. God willed: immediately the light broke, Order reigned everywhere, and the century opened.
Catherine, Hermann and Therese sang the refrain together. It was really a little spiritual concert of ravishing effect. As soon as it was finished, Therese took the youngest of her children, who needed some sleep, and carried him to the next room to undress him and put him to bed. No sooner had she left than we heard a knock at the door again. Catherine ran to open it, and a lady with a distinguished appearance and a refined toilet was seen entering the room. This lady, before entering, paused a few moments on the threshold of the door, and seemed to take pleasure in considering this room so clear, so clean and so smiling. His gaze fell with equal satisfaction on the numerous group of these pretty children.
"It's my mother," said Henriette softly to Catherine, who was at her side. The latter then made a respectful bow to the lady, who, fixing her gaze on her, exclaimed in astonishment: “God in heaven, what do I see? Pardon me, Mademoiselle, but the more I look at you, the more I find you resemble one of the most intimate friends of my youth. In truth, I first thought I saw her in person. The same features, the same height, the same hair and even the same costume, exactly as she was dressed the day she saved my life, a very long time ago. This is how I saw her when, after a long fainting spell, I opened my eyes to the light. I will never forget him ! Oh ! it's probably your mother. Ah! tell me, she added, looking around the room, is she still alive? Where is she ? »
Before Catherine could answer, Therese, having heard these last words from the next room, returned to the bedroom. Mme de Vertval gazed at her for a moment, and exclaimed ecstatically: "Therese!" Ah! it is you, dear Therese! What a pleasure to see you again after such a long separation! And she ran with open arms pressing her to her heart.
The good schoolmistress, who had listened to the foreign lady, remained dumbfounded and looked at this lady with eyes that showed extreme astonishment: “I don't remember ever having had the honor of seeing Madame.
- How ! don't you recognize Léonore? you no longer remember the happy days of our childhood and our early youth, which we spent together at the castle of Lindenberg? don't you remember that you came to see me there every day, that we worked, that we sang, that we had fun, that we swayed on the swing, that we watered the flowers? Have you forgotten all this? Could you also have forgotten that you saved my life the day I had the misfortune to fall into the big pool?
— O God! it's you ! exclaimed Therese, completely surprised and transported with joy. Ah! what a pleasure to see you again! A thousand and a thousand times I have thought of you: what would I not have given to hear from you! but I was never able to learn what had become of you.
'And I, too, have been thinking of you; I cannot say how much I longed to find the dear friend of my youth again and to be able to kiss her again, were it only once. How I groaned over the deplorable circumstances which separated us for so many years! How many tears have I shed! At last we meet again, thank God, and I hope it's never to leave us again. Come, Thérèse, dear friend, dear companion of my childhood, may I press you again to my heart. »
And these two good and sensitive friends flew into each other's arms, and held each other for a long time, shedding tears of joy and tenderness.
"Do you still remember," resumed Mrs.me de Vertval, do you remember our touching farewell to Lindenberg when I left with my parents for Vienna? Ah! How many thanksgivings we owe to God, who has restored us to each other in such a surprising, unexpected way! Of course, when I entered this house, this room, I expected nothing less than to find you there! »
Thérèse, barely able to contain her emotion and her tears of joy, finally spoke again: “But what happy chance brought you to these countries, dear friend? because that's the only name I can give you, not knowing if I should still call you Mcry of Lindenberg or madam!
- Ah! you ignore it? Here, look: that tall lady is my daughter.
- How ! Mlle Henriette is your daughter? so you are Mme from Vertval? Oh ! you are doubly welcome. Great God, what an astonishing stroke of luck!
— It is God who directed all this; he wanted to reward you for the probity and the delicacy which you all showed in the business of the garland of hops. The letter which Catherine had attached to the return of the three crowns touched me so deeply by the nobility of the sentiments expressed in such a simple style, that I wanted to get to know this excellent young person and her kind parents better. I have therefore taken information about Catherine and the situation of her family, and all the information I have gathered has been to your advantage; but also I learned at the same time of the disease of the estimable mother of such an interesting family. Without suspecting in any way that Catherine's mother was my old friend, I took the keenest interest in your position. At the moment I have just left the capital to spend the summer in our countryside. Passing near the small village of Steinach, I conceived the irresistible desire to make acquaintance with such an honest family and of whom I have been told so much good. Henriette, who can never tire of running, begged me to allow her to take the lead along the little path, while I followed her slowly in my car on the main road. I stopped for a few moments at your door, where I was listening with pleasure to your charming concert, and, so as not to interrupt it, I only announced myself by knocking at your door when the singing had ceased. This is how God brought me to finally find you, after such a long separation.
Turning then to the spectators of this touching scene, all amazed at what they had just seen and heard: “Ah! here is your husband, here are your children, dear friend: how happy you must be in the bosom of such an amiable family! your children are really lovely. And she kissed them one after the other. Then, addressing Hermann: “You will forgive me, Monsieur, if I have not yet spoken to you; but the joy of seeing a friend who is very dear to me was so sudden that it made me forget everyone. I hasten to repair this distraction by presenting to you the homage of the highest esteem; I know that you are an honorable man, a good father, a good husband and an excellent teacher; I congratulate Thérèse on having made such an excellent choice, just as I must also congratulate you, Sir, on having such an accomplished wife. You have all inspired me with the keenest interest; later I shall have to converse with you on this subject. For the moment, I ask your permission to walk alone with her in the garden: we have so many things to tell each other! And, going out arm in arm with Therese, she said to Henriette: "Go, my daughter, take the cakes and sweets I have brought from the carriage, divide them among these lovely children, and have fun with them." them until we return. »
Painting of a good mother.
After taking a few walks in the garden, the two friends went to sit on a bench at the foot of the apple tree, under its pretty white and red flowers: a beautiful azure sky seemed to smile at their happiness. Mme de Vertval was the first to recount all that had happened to her since her mother's death, what she had had to suffer with her wicked and avaricious aunt, who strictly forbade her any correspondence because the postage, paper and sealing wax were an unnecessary expense. She then found it impossible to give her friend news of her and to receive any. After several years of a very unhappy life in the house and dependent on this aunt, she made the acquaintance of M. de Vertval, a man of integrity and excellent character; she married him, and he made her perfectly happy. Some time after their marriage, the events of the war forced her to take refuge with her husband in Prague, where they remained until after the conclusion of peace. It was only then that she was able to go with her husband to the countries which she had formerly inhabited with Thérèse; but too long a space of time had passed, too many changes had taken place, it was impossible for her to discover her childhood friend.
Thérèse in turn told her story since her departure from Lindenberg, her retirement and her peaceful life with her uncle the cantor, where she learned to know and to esteem the honest and virtuous character of the teacher Hermann, her current husband, who made the happiest of women. She added that during the first years of her household no domestic grief had come to disturb the happiness of her household; that very often, under the same apple tree in the shade of which they were sitting at that moment, she had offered fervent thanksgiving to God for having blessed her union and for having made her the most fortunate of wives and mothers; that the considerable growth of his family had alone caused him at first worries and embarrassments, and had finally plunged them into misery at the time and in consequence of his last illness.
“But, in the name of Heaven! tell me, dear Thérèse, how you managed with an income of barely a few hundred francs, and with your nine children, to keep your household in such perfect order and to subsist honorably for so many years.
"Sometimes I've surprised myself," replied Therese. However, I like to believe that the goodness of the Lord watched over us; it is true that we did not fail to contribute to it according to our means; and in this we have experienced the truth of this proverb that my husband often repeated: Help yourself, Heaven will help you!
"I have the perfect conviction that you knew how to govern your household with intelligence, and that you spared neither trouble nor care to keep it in good order." However, I would like to know how you managed with such meager resources to feed nine children and meet the expenses of such a considerable household. I cannot conceive it. Tell me, dear friend, tell me your secret in every detail. »
Thérèse answered: “Everything depends on our first habits: the love of order and economy contracted during early youth is usually preserved until the end of life. Even before our marriage, my husband and I were very frugal. Hermann was then only a sub-master, and between classes he gave private lessons in town: his talents and his activity made him earn a lot of money; and as he was neither drinker nor gambler, and disliked dissipations of any kind, he soon found himself in a certain ease. Thinking in advance of his future establishment, he procured little by little, and when the occasion arose, furniture, books, pictures and the piano. Everything that we have most beautiful now was his before our marriage. Now he could buy neither books, nor paintings, nor musical instruments. Me on my side, being still a girl, I also made savings. Instead of following the fashions and wasting my money on lace, ribbons, neckerchiefs and other similar frivolities, I gradually bought linen, mattresses, kitchen utensils, all things which have since been very useful to us. At the beginning of our union, before our family had become so large, we had constantly found a way to make some savings, and we took care every month or every quarter to put these savings aside. This denier of reserve was afterwards of great help to us.
— It was prudent to have tried to always keep a pear for the thirst; but I still cannot understand how, with so few resources and so much expense, you were able to achieve this goal. I have heard it said, in general, that the secret of a good housewife consists in knowing how to increase the receipts and decrease the expenses. But, in your particular position, how was this possible for you? Come on, dear friend, tell me how you managed to increase your income.
— My husband and I have constantly endeavored to increase our resources and to extend them by all the means which probity authorizes. In truth, the part of our salary which we were given in money, wood, and corn, naturally had to remain as it was, and was not susceptible of increase. But the various plots that the commune allocates to the teacher could be improved; my husband applied himself to it and knew how to take advantage of it. This garden was a dry, arid lawn, and the square in front of our schoolhouse was a sort of marsh, a veritable cesspool.
“There is a spring on the hill above, the waters of which cross the village, and which once stopped in front of our house, for lack of flow; hence this foul swamp. Hermann made ditches which make the waters flow into our garden, which they water today, and which provide us with rich greenery and fertile vegetation. By dint of work, he transformed this unhealthy marsh into a pretty meadow lined with bushes, flowers and fruit trees. By this means we are able to feed two cows which provide us with an abundance of milk and butter, while my husband's predecessor had barely enough to feed a single cow.
“The part of the garden that we have cultivated with vegetables provides us with more than our consumption; as for the superfluous, we send it to the market of the neighboring town, where we tear off above all our asparagus and our cauliflowers, which are of excellent quality and of an uncommon beauty. What brings us the most are the fruit trees that my husband planted and grafted fifteen years ago. For a house where there are many children, a garden lined with fruit trees is a real boon; our children find there healthy and ready-made food to taste; we have a large quantity left, which we sell. Look, my dear Léonore, the apple tree under which we are sitting, and which bears delicious fruit, has earned us many a year, alone, more than ten crowns. Our nursery also has already brought us some. The bees there, who find abundant food in this garden
and on the surrounding bushes furnish us with wax and honey in such large quantities that we derive a good profit from them. My husband, having noticed one day some hop plants growing against the hedge, conceived the idea of cultivating this plant and transforming the hill adjoining the garden into a hop field, which formerly had been covered only with brambles. This attempt is a perfect success for him, and the hop harvest also earns us a handsome sum of money each year.
“Thus our garden contributes greatly to the maintenance of the household. But it requires activity, intelligence and continual care; without it all prosperity becomes impossible. So my husband takes all the pains in the world to increase his resources. He goes twice a week to the chateau, a league from here, and gives singing and piano lessons; moreover, he copies music, and he knows how to trace his notes with such neatness, one would say that they are engraved: my uncle the cantor sends him from time to time large notebooks of music to copy, and procures for him thus an honorable gain. When you have talent and good will, you always find something to do.
“For my part, I tried to contribute as much as I could to the ease of our household. First of all, I make good use of my flowerbed, the flowers of which I carefully cultivate.
“At weddings the bride needs a wreath of orange blossoms, the guests wear bouquets in their buttonholes; at funerals, a wreath of white roses is placed on the coffins of young girls, and immortals on the tombs; the inhabitants of the village and surrounding hamlets come to buy all this from me. I had a large barnyard of chickens and turkeys, I added a dovecote to it, and the proximity of the water allows me in the spring to raise geese and ducks, which my little girls keep while knitting. In addition, the parents of my schoolchildren brought me so much work that very often I sewed, embroidered or knitted from daybreak and well into the night. As my children grew, I gave them occupations proportionate to their age.
"I taught my daughters to spin flax, to sew, to knit, to cook, to take care of the laundry, and finally all the works which are the responsibility of a mistress of the house, while the boys worked in the garden, digging, weeding, pulling weeds, watering flowers and vegetables, etc. ; in the evening, at the wake, they made baskets to contain the flowers and vegetables intended to be sent to the market, or else they busied themselves with shelling the beans, choosing the feathers, separating the down, etc. Finally, all contributed by their work, according to their strength, to provide for the needs of the house.
“Allow me to quote you one more thing on this subject: last year, I noticed on the bushes which surround the mountain an extraordinary quantity of those scarlet red berries which are called eglantines. I had my children pick them, who brought me several baskets: the women of the village laughed at me, not realizing what I intended to use them for. I had the interior cleaned; and these berries, despised in the country, gave me excellent jams. Then they were greatly surprised; they would have been much more so if they had seen the money I got out of it.
“This is how, by dint of hard work and industry, we managed to double our modest salaries.
“I pass now to the second part of the science of the household, science which consists, as you said, in knowing how to increase the receipts and decrease the expenses. »
Therese went on: “The main way of restricting expenses consists in not spending a badly misplaced farthing. That's what we did: our kitchen has never seen anything but the ordinary being prepared. Never have any of these sophisticated and skilfully prepared dishes, which cost so much and flatter the sensuality without giving strength to the body, appeared on our table. We are content with the most frugal food, and we are better off for it. Our children know neither sweets nor delicacies of any kind; also their cheeks are round and colored like apples. In my kitchen I don't need any other spice than cumin, thyme, onion and chives from our garden; as for the best of all seasonings, the appetite, we do not lack it, I can assure you; for, when one works all day, the appetite always comes. My husband has never frequented cabarets or billiards, or played cards, as so many others do; I too never drink coffee or other delicacies. Children drink only water; my husband and I drink small beer or cider from the apples in our garden; we use wine only in case of indisposition or illness. Hermann is also not in the habit of smoking or taking snuff; he has two reasons for this: "In the first place," he says, "if I used tobacco for only a penny a day, that would not fail to compose, after a certain number of years, a fairly large sum. , and in a household such as ours, whose income is fixed and limited, every expense, however small it may seem, must be accounted for. Then he finds with good reason that the use of the pipe is a dirty, nauseating and disgusting habit. The most agreeable smoke for him was that which I procured for him while walking in the apartments.
the schoolroom a lighted stove on which I had thrown a few juniper berries or apple peels. He used to rub between his fingers from time to time the geranium, of which we have plants in our garden and on the balcony of our windows; and on inhaling this odor he said with delight: "It is much more agreeable than tobacco, and does not cost so much." »
“As for our dress, it was always clean, but simple and modest; all luxury and all superfluity were in horror to us. I always made my daughters' dresses myself as well as my own; it was the same with the mending of the clothes of my husband and my boys. We spared our clothes as much as possible; on Sunday evenings, when they left church, my children were required to take off their Sunday clothes, fold them carefully and put them in a cupboard: in this way they kept them clean and in good condition for a long time. The slightest tear that I saw in it was mended on the spot, so that it wouldn't get any bigger. The clothes that my husband had worn for a long time were still used successively by all my sons, from the eldest to the youngest; I also arranged my old dresses, which passed to my daughters. This is, for example, what I did for the famous straw hat which I had worn at Lindenberg before my marriage, which I arranged for Catherine, and which was the happy instrument of our reunion, Dear friend. This proves to you that nothing in our household has been lost; and I took advantage of each piece of cloth or linen as long as there were still two threads left together.
“I applied the same economy to everything concerning furniture. We never bought luxury or fancy objects, even if we had had them almost for nothing. An old proverb says: When we willingly buy the superfluous, we are sooner or later forced to sell the necessary. The furniture we had, we always took care to keep it in good condition. Often, in a poorly kept household, many pieces of furniture and other objects are lost or damaged through negligence: glasses, plates, porcelain vases break, kitchen utensils or gardening implements left lying around get lost, rust or are stolen. In an untidy house, the children seize everything they find within their reach, and spoil everything they touch. How much time do we lose looking for an object, for lack of being able to remember where we put it! With us everything has its fixed place, where it is sheltered from accidents, and we always find it when we need it. This constant habit of order, cleanliness and economy has saved us many losses and expenses. The same furniture that we bought the first year of our marriage is still in such good condition that it can be used by our grandchildren. Never the slightest rag, the smallest piece of paper, nor the smallest strand of yarn was lost on the floor; he was immediately relieved, and was useful to us at one time or another. I must point out that the flourishing health of my children must be attributed to this same cleanliness, and, thank God, they have always been in good health, save for the common illnesses of their age. I could still say many things on this matter; but I am already afraid of having chattered too long and of having abused your kindness.
- Not at all, my dear friend, I listened to you with pleasure and I will listen to you for a long time. Order and wise economy in the government of domestic affairs cannot be sufficiently recommended to mothers of all classes of society, whatever their rank and fortune, to the rich as well as to the poor; I admire your activity, your prudence and the resignation you have been able to display in such a difficult position, a position whose embarrassments, increasing each year, must often have forced you to sigh.
Doubtless, I have more than once moaned about our hard and painful position, especially when scarcity and illness came to aggravate it still further to the point of sometimes plunging us into real distress; and I cannot deny that I have shed tears in secret. However, I did not let myself be discouraged: my heart was heartbroken, it is true, but I showed courage, so as not to increase the affliction of my family. In my sorrows I have always had recourse to prayer and reflection; then I found in my very misfortunes powerful consolations. I recognized that our poverty was salutary to us; for it forced us to work, to avoid idleness, and, by this continual exercise of our faculties, preserved for us a robust body and a healthy mind, which was a great happiness for us. If we had been richer, we would have committed more than one stupidity that we did not do. The sorrows we experienced from time to time forced us to think more often of God: our prayers were more fervent, our trust in him more complete, and his help and paternal solicitude more visible. All these results increased and strengthened our piety: what do we know if in a less poor situation my family would have been as pious and as wise? So, far from complaining, I bless the Lord for having put us in such a precarious position, even for having sent us disgraces and for having led us through the path of trials. May the holy name of our God therefore be praised and blessed in all things!
However, I confess to you, dear friend, that if our current position were to take a long time to
improve, one way or another, I couldn't help but fear a little for our future. I no longer have the health or vigor of my youth, and our salary is obviously too low to support so many children. The time is approaching when it will be necessary to make our boys learn a trade and give some dowry to our girls. Where shall we get the money required for this double object? This torments me very much; I can't help talking about it often to my husband, who tries in vain to calm me down and revive my courage. So far we have passed our days in peace and contentment, loved and esteemed by all. It would be desirable, however, that my husband could obtain a more advantageous position, were it only in consideration of his large family.
- Well ! my dear Thérèse, said Mr.me from Vertval, it will come. Believe me when I tell you: In this very moment when you are tormenting yourself, the good Lord has already prepared your happiness and that of your family. As soon as his supreme wisdom sees that the position in which he has placed us in this world is no longer compatible with our true happiness, that is to say useful to our salvation and our improvement, he withdraws us from it and place in another. In this regard, let us trust in his goodness. I have seen frequently in the world that when a man fulfills the duties of his state with zeal and fidelity, despite the mediocrity of his salary, the good Lord takes him out of obscurity and places him in a position which enlarges the sphere of his usefulness for the good, and which rewards him at the same time for his useful labors with a happy ease. Same thing will happen, I'm sure, to your husband. So take it easy; a little more patience, and everything will be fine. But it's time to go see our children again. »
At these words, the two friends got up and went back into the house.
During this long but interesting and instructive conversation between the two friends under the shade of the blossoming apple tree, Henriette had amused herself in the room with the teacher's children, and had distributed to them the sweets which her mother had ordered her to go to. take in the trunk of his car. These sweets, artistically worked and embellished with pretty colors, had struck with great surprise and great joy these poor children, who had never seen anything like it before. They had difficulty in conceiving that these pretty little sheep, these shepherds and shepherdesses, these charming little garlands and baskets of flowers could be eaten. So when the lady told them to break them up and taste a piece, they were all amazed, and thought she was joking.
“No, no,” cried some, “we will not eat them; it would be a shame.
— I'll give my pretty garland of flowers to Mama, said Louise, she'll keep it for me in her cupboard. »
Marie carefully examined her candy-candy basket filled with fruit the size of peas, and exclaimed painfully, “Oh! what a pity ! the hoarfrost has passed over these little apples, they are all covered with it and shine like icicles in winter. Little Antoine, jumping for joy, ran to his father, showed him his pretty snow-white sheep, and asked him if he shouldn't roast it before he could eat it; while Charles, like a real cannibal, had scandalized his brothers and sisters by biting off the head of his charming shepherdess, which he swallowed, assuring that it was very good.
Little Charlotte, whose portion consisted of a handful of dragees, climbed onto a chair to reach the table, and began to carefully separate the reds from the whites; she ate the reds and put the whites aside. “So what are you doing here? asked Henrietta; why don't you eat those little white sugared almonds?
'It is,' replied the child, 'that they are not yet ripe; we were wrong to pick them so soon.”
All the other children burst into a loud burst of laughter, without, however, thinking of making fun of her; nevertheless the poor little one, quite ashamed, blushed, and almost cried. Henriette, with an amiable smile, hastened to console her; she took her in her arms, saying: 'Console yourself, dear little Lolotte, it's nothing; it's so easy to make a mistake, it can happen to anyone. Well, that happened to me, who's much taller than you: ask your sister Catherine if it's not true. Is not it ? your parents forbade you to eat strawberries and gooseberries before they were fully ripe and well coloured; by making a mistake with these dragees, you have at least shown that you are very obedient; thus it would be wrong to make fun of you, because this trait does you honor; you are a good little girl. And she gave him another piece of cake, which soon restored all his gaiety.
During this interval, Catherine, by order of her parents, had prepared some refreshments for the foreign ladies. The table was covered with a tablecloth whose whiteness was truly dazzling; there was a bowl of sweet milk, another of curdled milk, a fine piece of fresh butter placed on a plate garnished with vine leaves, the beautiful dark green of which heightened the already so appetizing color of the butter; a compote containing cottage cheese surrounded by a beautiful cream; another compote where there was virgin honey pure as gold. On the end of the table was a tasty home-baked bread, at the other end a loaf of white bread that Catherine had secretly fetched from the nearby baker. The whole was surrounded by several small baskets of rushes, elegantly braided, lined inside with vine leaves, and filled with several kinds of perfectly preserved fruit; a magnificent bouquet of seasonal flowers, placed in a vase, occupied the middle of the table. The plates were only of earthenware, and the spoons of iron; but everything was sparkling clean. Hermann brought a bottle of excellent old wine, the remains of the one which the good postmistress had sent them during Therese's illness, and which since her recovery had been carefully preserved in the cellar. He placed it opposite the places reserved for the ladies of Vertval.
When the two friends entered the house, Mrs.me de Vertval was pleasantly surprised to see the exquisite neatness that reigned in the arrangement of this rustic table.
“How happy are the inhabitants of the countryside! she said: nature lavishes her most precious gifts on them: milk, butter, honey, delicious fruits! You have it all at first hand, whereas in the towns we pay dearly for it all, and never have it as good or as fresh as at home. How bland are all the sweetest sweets and all the delicacies prepared by the hand of men, in comparison with these gifts of beneficent nature, these magnificent fruits, for example? »
Mme de Vertval sat down beside Therese; Henriette and Catherine placed themselves opposite; Hermann wanted to stay up to serve these ladies; butme de Vertval said to him in the most amiable tone: "Monsieur Hermann, come and sit beside me, we haven't talked together yet, and I have some proposals to make to you." However, let's start by enjoying this excellent snack, and then we'll talk more at our ease. »
Hermann did the honors of the table with perfect ease, and the foreign ladies ate everything with great appetite. When we got to dessert, Mrs.roe de Vertval spoke to the teacher thus:
"Let's drink to the health and prosperity of your kind family, Monsieur Hermann."
"And especially to yours," replied the latter respectfully.
"And I, too," said Therese, knocking the glasses, "I drink to the health of my dear Leonore and to our constant friendship."
"Yes, always, always, my dear Therese, friendship between us, in life and in death!" Ah! Monsieur Hermann, she added, addressing himself to him, you cannot form an idea of the happiness I feel at having reunited today with a friend whom I loved so much and missed so much. I wouldn't give my present bliss for a crown, for an entire kingdom! The time during which I took your wife away from you to go and chat with her in the garden no doubt seemed long to you; I assure you that these moments seemed to me very short, very quick: we had so many things to say to each other! However, they sufficed to inform me, through the mouth of my friend, of all the details of your position, and of the pains which oppress her heart as wife and mother. Well ! my friends, banish your sorrows, and please listen to me attentively.
“It has been some time since my husband was appointed mayor of the township where our main properties are located, and where we live most of the year. The chief town of this canton is a rather considerable borough. For a long time my husband felt the need to reorganize the primary school in this place according to a better plan; if he hasn't done so yet, it was out of consideration for the poor old man who has been running it for more than thirty years. He is a good man; but he is often ill. Now this schoolmaster himself recognizes that his weakness and his infirmities no longer allow him to direct a numerous and turbulent youth, and desires his retirement. My husband will ask the higher authority for it, and will obtain for this old man a pension, by means of which he will be able to end his useful career in peace and quiet. The municipal council has already stolen the funds for the reorganization on a larger plan of this old school, so badly kept: it will be set up as a municipal college. The buildings, the garden and the other outbuildings were rented and repaired at the expense of the municipality. Everything has been ready for some time; it was only a matter of finding a teacher, a man of talent and good will, capable of founding and directing the new college well: this will be the greatest service that my husband will render to his constituents, and even to the inhabitants of the whole district. Also Mr. de Vertval is very keen on finding a master who brings together all the desirable qualities. We liked your daughter Catherine's letter so much that we first thought of you. The doctor who had treated Thérèse likewise wrote to us about you, making the most flattering portrait of your whole family; he spoke particularly of your talents, your principles, and your conduct in the most honorable terms. From that moment the choice of my husband was made: he told me that a man who brought up his children in feelings of probity and delicacy such as those who had dictated Catherine's letter on the subject of the error of our Henriette, must necessarily be a perfect honest man and a worthy teacher, as he desired for his canton. However, he thought he should ask for a few details about your method of teaching, and that is why the doctor wished to be present at the examination of your pupils. He was delighted with it, and his very detailed account fully satisfied my husband. The doctor also wrote to us that you enjoy the esteem and confidence of all the inhabitants of Steinach, not only by the zeal with which you exercise your functions as a schoolmaster, but also by the important services which you have delivered to the whole village. I myself can appreciate the happy influence you have exercised in this commune. I saw the village of Steinach about twenty years ago, and I find it hard to recognize it today. Formerly it offered a distressing aspect of poverty and misery in the midst of these mountains and these rocks; everything around was bare, sad and uncultivated, whereas now you can barely see the small bell tower and the roofs of the houses through the many groups of fruit trees and the hills where hops are grown. ; everywhere I see well-cultivated gardens, producing vegetables and fruits in abundance; everywhere also I see beehives for the production of honey. The inhabitants of the village, among whom laziness and indolence once reigned, are now, thanks to your care and your example, industrious like their bees.
"And you too, my dear friend," continued Mme.me de Vertval, you have done immense good to this commune. As agriculture, in this narrow valley, did not sufficiently occupy the mothers of families, you taught them to take advantage of a thousand things the use of which was previously unknown. For example, you taught them to make jams, to make common lace, to weave straw hats, selvedge slippers, etc. ; they sell all these objects advantageously in the markets and fairs of the neighborhood, and this industry is very profitable to them. You taught young girls to sew, to knit stockings and to embroider muslin. Your lack of fortune, my dear friends, has not prevented your presence alone from enriching this village. Although the very name of school of gardening and rural and domestic economy was unknown to your peasants, you have none the less founded one of the best of this kind;
you taught there free of charge how to plant trees, how to graft them, how to cultivate vegetables, how to preserve them during the winter, how to raise and maintain bees, and many other things useful to the inhabitants of the countryside. It is indisputable that your presence has been a source of civilization and prosperity for this village; and certainly the zeal with which you have labored to make yourselves useful to your fellow men must be in the eyes of God and of men a title to their favours. Also, according to the favorable report of our friend the doctor, a report which I find today fully confirmed by the testimony of my own eyes, my husband's decision was not long in coming. He brushed aside a crowd of competitors who presented themselves armed with powerful recommendations to obtain this advantageous position, and he often exclaimed: “No, the brave schoolmaster Hermann is the man of my choice; Hermann will be the principal of my college. God grant that he does not refuse this job! "As the time has come when I usually go to the countryside, and the road passes very close to your village, I wanted to announce this good news to you myself and to share with you the proposals that my husband has charged for you; and I have no doubt that they seem acceptable to you. First of all, the town of Vertval is a pretty place, very pleasant; the building of the new college
you are going to live is quite new, it is vast, and your apartment is much more comfortable there than this one; the garden is large and beautiful. Your fixed salary will rise to at least three times that which you enjoy here, without counting the fees which your pupils will pay, the supplies of firewood, etc., which the commune is ready to grant you. These, it seems to me, are offers which are not to be despised. Then your family will have a fate; those of your sons who will show a disposition for teaching, trained by your care, will help you in your functions; and all the families of the canton of Vertval will congratulate themselves on having such an excellent teacher. As for me, I shall have the sweet satisfaction of living with my dear Thérèse, and my daughter will find in Catherine a companion as amiable as Thérèse was to me in my youth. Come on, Mr. Hermann: what do you think? »
When Hermann heard these advantageous proposals, he was so surprised, so delighted with joy, that he could not utter a single word; tears shone in her eyes. After a moment of the liveliest emotion, he finally exclaimed:
“What happiness, what miraculous help the God of goodness has condescended to grant me at the very moment when we have the greatest need of it! I cannot thank him enough, as well as you, Madame, who are the happy instrument of his mercies. Yes, Madam, I accept with eagerness and gratitude the honor and the benefit that you announce to me; I will strive to conscientiously fulfill my duties, in order to justify the confidence of my generous benefactors, and to testify to them my deep gratitude rather by my conduct than by my words. »
Therese's joy was so lively that she couldn't help exhaling it in tears. Little Charlotte, who was at her side, said to her: “Why are you crying, mother? This lady is so kind! she does not growl. Please don't cry, or else I'll cry too. »
Therese took the hand of Mrs.me de Vertval, and pressing it with extreme emotion first against his lips, then against his heart: “Oh! What happiness, she said, what grace from God to have found you again and to see you again so good, so humane, so compassionate, so gentle and so modest, just as I knew you at Lindenberg! How happy I am to be able henceforth to spend my days in the sweetness of your intimacy! That my Hermann, that my children will be happy in the pleasant position that you procure for us! Dear friend, dear Léonore, I would like to be able to express to you my joy and my gratitude, to tell you how much I love you; but I cannot, the terms fail me. Oh! may the good Lord reward you and bless you a thousand and a thousand times!
Come, my children, join me in thanking our benefactress, our good angel sent from heaven. »
Instantly, this good and charitable lady was surrounded by the whole amiable family, who hastened at will to cover her hands with innumerable kisses. The foreign lady and her daughter also had their eyes filled with tears at the sight of the noisy testimonies of joy and gratitude from this multitude of such lovely children whose lot she had improved.
"I still can't get over it," exclaimed Therese at last, after wiping away the tears that flooded her cheeks; this all seems like a dream to me! How wonderful and incomprehensible are the ways of Providence!
"Yes, my dear friend," answered Mrs.me de Vertval, it is evidently the providence of God which alone could have directed all the events in this way; it was she who used a branch of hops to bring us together and to introduce you to my husband, who assigned the place of teacher in our canton to Hermann before we even knew it was you , dear Thérèse, who is his wife. You saved my life a long time ago. Events separated us without my being able to do anything for you. Since then fortune has favored me, but I have always vainly desired to see you again; I wanted with all my heart, from the moment I had the means, to pay my debt and prove my gratitude to you. You can, from this, judge how great my joy and my surprise must have been when, barely arriving under this thatched roof, I met Catherine there, who is indeed your living portrait, and when a few moments later I recognized yourself and I hugged you. Certainly, my joy and my happiness equal yours. If you, your husband, and your children have reason to thank God for getting you out of so much trouble, I, my husband, my children, and even our entire township, we will have the most powerful reasons to regard this event as a favor from Heaven, and for many years to come we will have reason to give thanks to God. In truth, Henriette's error had happy consequences for all of us.
- Well ! exclaimed Henriette, who never missed an opportunity to appear cheerful and mad, "I am delighted to have done so much good by paying so generously for the garland of hops." In the past I was well scolded on this subject; now I have to praise myself a little, since the others don't. If I hadn't paid so generously for this branch of hops, all that happened would not have happened; mother would not have found her friend, and our district would not have an excellent teacher. »
Her mother replied: “These happy consequences cannot be put on your account, my dear Henriette; they are not your work, and you have bad grace to boast of them. Your mistake will always be a mistake, and you have nonetheless committed a thoughtless act; but nothing glorifies divine Providence so much as to see the profit it derives from all these blunders to turn them to our good. Often even our most thoughtless actions contribute to our happiness, while often our best-conceived endeavors fail completely and sometimes turn to our disadvantage. God shows us by this that he directs things here below, and teaches us that in all our actions, in all our undertakings, we must, above all, put our trust in him and attribute to him the glory of all that which happens to us from profitable. By all that I have just told you, my dear daughter, I am far, as you see, from wanting to maintain in you the levity and thoughtlessness which you have not yet been able to correct yourself completely. Lightness and thoughtlessness usually have disastrous results, and if sometimes God causes happy events to come from them, it is only by his grace and his mercy. It is therefore necessary to act on all occasions with prudence and reflection, and to rely for the rest on divine goodness. We must imitate the plowman, who cultivates his field with all possible care, and who then relies on the blessing from on high. »
Mme de Vertval, then addressing Hermann, said that it would be to his advantage to go to his new post as soon as possible: she asked him at the same time to announce to her the day when he would be ready to leave, because she would send him cars to take his family and all his belongings. She assured him once more that he would be happy in his new abode, and that the many services he would not fail to render there would soon win him general esteem; she added that it would not be long before he saw himself in a condition to make a spell for his children. Everything she predicted here was realized later.
Mme de Vertval bid Therese a tender farewell, promising to see her again soon; then, surrounded by all this family, whose happiness she was going to make, and to whom, with that affable air which was so natural to her, she wished good health, she returned with Henriette to her crew, who, to the great astonishment of the villagers , had stopped close to the house of the poor teacher.
Before getting into the carriage, Henriette, who had taken the lead with Catherine, said to her on the way: "By the way, Catherine, aren't you angry with me for having taken off your hat in the heat was doing then? you must have suffered a lot! My wrong is all the more serious because that hat was doubly precious to you. Well ! it's left in our car, I left it there to give it back to you: let's go ahead, you'll see it. »
The young friends soon arrived at the car. Then Henriette uncovered the hat and handed it to Catherine. " Is it possible ! exclaimed Catherine, what! this pretty garland of hops has survived to this day! Really it is not faded at all; it's my very garland, it's still as green as when I picked it: it's a miracle! »
Henriette began to clap her hands and laugh out loud. “Oh! ha! she cried, you're caught in your turn. I took your natural garland for an artificial garland, and you now take this artificial garland for a natural garland. Listen: I really liked yours, its freshness and elegance made me miss it. As soon as I arrived in town, my first care was to run to our fashion dealer, to whom I handed it over to make me a similar one in artificial flowers; she succeeded perfectly, as you see, since you were mistaken. Do me the pleasure of accepting the hat as well as the garland, which you will keep in memory of the one God used to make us all happy. »
Catherine did not want to deprive her young friend of such a rich toilet item, but she insisted; they were still to be discussed, when Mr.me de Vertval arrived, accompanied by Hermann and her family.
"Accept this garland, good Catherine," said the amiable lady, "and keep it with care, in remembrance of God's infinite goodness and mercy." He has done great things in our favor by means of this garland of hops, which art has been able to imitate so well... His supreme wisdom takes advantage of an infinity of means to instruct us, to correct us and to make us happy. : sometimes it is a shady stem, as in Nineveh; sometimes a barren fig tree, as on the road to Jerusalem; here it is a simple branch of hops picked from the hedge in your garden. »