To me remains nor place nor time; My country is in every clime; I can be calm and free from care, On any shore, since God is there. While place we seek or place we shun, The soul finds happiness in none; But with a God to guide our way, 'Tis equal joy to go or stay. Could I be cast where Thou art not, That were indeed a dreadful lot; But regions none remote I call, Secure of finding God in all.--God Is EverywhereJeanne Marie Bouvier sat one day writing at her little oaken desk, when her father approached and, kissing her very gently on the forehead, told her that he had arranged for her marriage, and that her future husband was soon to arrive. Jeanne's fingers lost their cunning, the pen dropped; she arose to her feet, but her tongue was dumb.
Jeanne Marie was only sixteen, but you would have thought her twenty, for she was tall and dignified--she was as tall as her father: she was five feet nine. She had a splendid length of limb, hips that gave only a suggestion of curve line, a slender waist, a shapely, well-poised neck, and a head that might have made a Juno envious. The face and brow were not those of Venus--rather they belonged to Minerva; for the nose was large, the chin full, and the mouth no pea's blossom. The hair was light brown, but when the sun shone on it people said it was red. It was as generous in quantity and unruly in habits as the westerly wind. Her eyes were all colors, changing according to her mood. Withal, she had freckles, and no one was ever so rash as to call her pretty.
Now, Jeanne's father had not kissed her for two years, for he was a very busy man: he had not time for soft demonstration. He was rich, he was religious, and he was looked upon as a model citizen in every way.
The daughter had grown like a sunflower, and her intellect had unfolded as a moss-rose turns from bud to blossom. This splendid girl had thought and studied and dreamed dreams. She had imagined she heard a voice speaking to her: "Arise, maiden, and prepare thee, for I have a work for thee to do!"
Her wish and prayer was to enter a convent, and after consecrating herself to God in a way that would allow of no turning back, to go forth and give to men and women the messages that had come to her. And these things filled the heart of the worthy bourgeois with alarm; so he said to his wife one day: "That girl will be a foot taller than I am in a year, and even now when I give her advice, she opens her big eyes and looks at me in a way that thins my words to whey. She will get us into trouble yet! She may disgrace us! I think--I think I'll find her a husband."
Yet that would not have been a difficult task. She was loved by a score of youths, but had never spoken to any of them. They stood at corners and sighed as she walked by; and others, with religious bent, timed her hours for mass and took positions in church from whence they could see her kneel. Still others patroled the narrow street that led to her home, with hopes that she might pass that way, so that they might touch the hem of her garment.
These things were as naught to Jeanne Marie. She had never yet seen a man for whose intellect she did not have both a pity and a contempt.
But Claude Bouvier did not pick a husband for his daughter from among the simple youths of the town. He wrote to a bachelor friend, Jacques Guyon by name, and told him he could have the girl if he wanted her--that is, after certain little preliminaries had been arranged.
Now, Jacques Guyon had been at the Bouvier residence on a visit three months before, and had looked the lass over stealthily with peculiar interest, and had intimated that if Monsieur Bouvier wished to get rid of her it could be brought about. So, after some weeks had passed, Monsieur bethought him of the offer of Jacques Guyon, and he concluded that inasmuch as Guyon was rich and respectable it would be a good match.
So he wrote to Guyon, and Guyon replied that he would come, probably within a fortnight--just as soon as his rheumatism got better.
Monsieur Claude Bouvier read the letter, and walking into the next room, surprised Jeanne Marie by kissing her tenderly on her forehead--all as herein truthfully recorded.
* * * * *
So Jacques Guyon came, came in his carriage, with two servants riding on horseback in front and another riding on horseback behind. Jeanne Marie sat on the floor, tailor fashion, up in her little room of the old stone house, and peeked out of the diamond-paned gable-window very cautiously; and she was sorely disappointed.
In some of her dreams (and these dreams she thought were very bad), she had pictured a lover coming alone on a foam-flecked charger; and as the steed paused, the rider leaped lightly from saddle to ground, kissing his hand to her as she peeked through the curtains. For he discovered her when she hoped he would not, but she did not care much if he did.
But Monsieur Guyon's eyes did not search the windows. He got out of the carriage with difficulty, and his breath came wheezy and short as he mounted the steps. His complexion was dusty blue, his nose tinged with carmine, his eyes watery, and his girth aldermanic. He was growing old, and, saddest of all, he was growing old rebelliously and therefore ungracefully--dyeing his whiskers purple.
That evening when Jeanne Marie was introduced to Monsieur Guyon at dinner she found him very polite and very gracious. His breeches were real black velvet and his stockings were silk, and the buckles on his shoes were polished silver and the frill of his shirt was finest lace. His conversation was directed mostly to Jeanne's father, so Jeanne did not feel nearly so uncomfortable as she had expected.
The next day a notary came, and long papers were written out, and red and green seals placed on them, and then everybody held up his right hand as the notary mumbled something, and then all signed their names. The room seemed to be teetering up and down, and it looked quite like rain. Monsieur Bouvier stood on his tiptoes and again kissed his daughter on the forehead, and Monsieur Guyon, taking her hand, lifted the long, slender fingers to his lips, and told her that she would soon be a great lady and the mistress of a splendid mansion, and have everything that one needed to make one happy.
And so they were married by a bishop, with two priests and three curates to assist. The ceremony was held at the great stone church; and as the procession came out, the verger had a hard time to keep the crowd back, so that the little girls in white could go before and strew flowers in their pathway. The organ pealed, and the chimes clanged and rang as if the tune and the times were out of joint; then other bells from other parts of the old town answered, and across the valley rang mellow and soft the chapel-bell of Montargis Castle.
Jeanne was seated in a carriage--how she got there she never knew; by her side sat Jacques Guyon. The post-boys were lashing their horses into a savage run, like devils running away with the souls of innocents, and behind clattered the mounted, liveried servant. People on the sidewalks waved good-bys and called God-bless-yous. Soon the sleepy old town was left behind and the horses slowed down to a lazy trot. Jeanne looked back, like Lot's wife: only a church-spire could be seen. She hoped that she might be turned into a pillar of salt--but she wasn't. She crouched into the corner of the seat and cried a good honest cry.
And Monsieur Jacques Guyon smiled and muttered to himself, "Her father said she was a bit stubborn, but I'll see that she gets over it!"
And this was over three hundred years ago. It doesn't seem like it, but it was.
* * * * *
Read the lives of great men and you will come to the conclusion that it is harder to find a gentleman than a genius. While the clock ticks off the seconds, count on your fingers--within five minutes, if you can--five such gentlemen as Sir Philip Sidney! Of course, I know before you speak that Fenelon will be the first on your tongue. Fenelon, the low-voiced, the mild, the sympathetic, the courtly, the gracious! Fenelon, favored by the gods with beauty and far-reaching intellect! Fenelon, who knew the gold of silence. Fenelon, on whose lips dwelt grace, and who by the magic of his words had but to speak to be believed and to be beloved.
When Louis the Little made that most audacious blunder which cost France millions in treasure and untold loss in men and women, Fenelon wrote to the Prime Minister: "These Huguenots have many virtues that must be acknowledged and conserved. We must hold them by mildness. We can not produce conformity by force. Converts made in this manner are hypocrites. No power is great enough to bind the mind--thought forever escapes. Give civil liberty to all, not by approving all religions, but by permitting in patience what God allows."
"You shall go as missionary to these renegades!" was the answer--half-ironical, half-earnest.
"I will go only on one condition."
"And that is?"
"That from my province you withdraw all armed men--all sign of compulsion of every sort!"
Fenelon was of noble blood, but his sympathies were ever with the people. The lowly, the weak, the oppressed, the persecuted--these were ever the objects of his solicitude--these were first in his mind.
It was in prison that Fenelon first met Madame Guyon. Fenelon was thirty-seven, she was forty. He occasionally preached at Montargis, and while there had heard of her goodness, her piety, her fervor, her resignation. He had small sympathy for many of her peculiar views, but now she was sick and in prison and he went to her and admonished her to hold fast and to be of good-cheer.
Twelve years before this Madame Guyon had been left a widow. She was the mother of five children--two were dead. The others were placed under the care of kind kinsmen; and Madame Guyon went forth to give her days to study and to teaching. This action of placing her children partly in the care of others has been harshly criticized. But there is one phase of the subject that I have never seen commented upon--and that is that a mother's love for her offspring bears a certain ratio to the love she bore their father. Had Madame Guyon ever carried in her arms a love-child, I can not conceive of her allowing this child to be cared for by others--no matter how competent.
The favor that had greeted Madame Guyon wherever she went was very great. Her animation and devout enthusiasm won her entrance into the homes of the great and noble everywhere. She organized societies of women that met for prayer and conversation on exalted themes. The burden of her philosophy was "Quietism"--the absolute submission of the human soul to the will of God. Give up all, lay aside all striving, all reaching out, all unrest, cease penance and lie low in the Lord's hand. He doeth all things well. Make life one continual prayer for holiness--wholeness--harmony; and thus all good will come to us--we attract the good; we attract God--He is our friend--His spirit dwells with us. She taught of power through repose, and told that you can never gain peace by striving for it like fury.
This philosophy, stretching out in limitless ramifications, bearing on every phase and condition of life, touched everywhere with mysticism, afforded endless opportunity for thought.
It is the same philosophy that is being expressed by thousands of prominent men and women today. It embraced all that is vital and best in our so-called "advanced thought"; for in good sooth none of our new "liberal sects" has anything that has not been taught before in olden time.
But Madame Guyon's success was too great. The guardians of a dogmatic religion are ever on the scent for heresy. They are jealous, and fearful, and full of alarm lest their "institution" shall topple. Quietism was making head, and throughout France the name of Madame Guyon was becoming known. She went from town to town, and from city to city, and gave courses of lectures. Women flocked to hear her, they organized clubs. Preachers sometimes appeared and argued with her, but by the high fervor of her speech she quickly silenced them. Then they took revenge by thundering sermons against her after she had gone. As she traveled she left in her wake a pyrotechnic display of elocutionary denunciation. They dared her to come back and fight it out. The air was full of challenges. One prelate was good enough to say, "This woman may teach primitive Christianity--but if people find God everywhere, what's to become of us!"
And although the theme is as great as Fate and as serious as Death, one can not suppress a smile to think how the fear of losing their jobs has ever caused men to run violently to and fro and up and down in the earth, crying peace, peace, when there is no peace.
Now, it was the denunciation and wild demonstration of her fearing foes that advertised the labors of Madame Guyon. For strong people are not so much advertised by their loving friends as by their rabid enemies.
This happened quite a while ago; but as mankind moves in a circle (and not always a spiral, either) it might have happened yesterday. Make the scene Ohio: slip Bossuet out and Doctor Buckley in; condense the virtues of Miss Frances E. Willard and Miss Susan B. Anthony into one, and let this one stand for Madame Guyon; call it New Transcendentalism, dub the Madame a New Woman, and there you have it!
But with this difference: petitions to the President of the United States to arrest this female offender and shut her up in the Chicago jail, indefinitely, after a mock trial, would avail not. Yet persecution has its compensation, and the treatment that Madame Guyon received emphasized the truths she taught and sent them ringing through the schools and salons and wherever thinking people gathered themselves together. Yes, persecution has its compensation. In its state of persecution a religion is pure, if ever; its decline begins when its prosperity commences. Prosperous men are never wise and seldom good. Woe unto you when all men shall speak well of you!
Surely, persecution has its compensation! When Madame Guyon was sick and in prison, was she not visited by Fenelon? Ah, 'twas worth the cost. Sympathy is the first attribute of love as well as its last. And I am not sure but that sympathy is love's own self, vitalized mayhap by some divine actinic ray. Only a thorn-crowned, bleeding Christ could win the adoration of the world. Only the souls who have suffered are well loved. Thus does Golgotha find its recompense. Hark ye and take courage, ye who are in bonds! Gracious spirits, seen or unseen, will minister to you now, where otherwise they would have passed without a sign! But from the day Fenelon met Madame Guyon his fortune began to decline. People looked at him askance. By a grim chance he was made one of a committee of three to investigate the charges brought against the woman. The court took a year for its task. Fenelon read everything that Madame Guyon had published, conversed much with her, inquired into her history and when asked for his verdict said, "I find no fault in her."
He talked with Madame de Maintenon, and Madame de Maintenon talked with the King, and the offender was released.
Soon Fenelon began to utter in his sermons the truths he had learned from Madame Guyon. And he gave her due credit. He explained that she was a good Catholic--that she loved the Church--that she lived up to all the Church taught, and besides knowing all that Churchmen knew she knew many things beside.
Have a care, Archbishop of Cambrai! Enemies are upon thy track. Defend not defenseless womanhood: knowest thou not what they have said of her? Speak what thou art taught and keep thy inmost thoughts for thyself alone. Have a care, Fenelon! thy bishopric hangs by a spider's thread.
The years kept slipping past as the years will. Twelve summers had come, and twelve times had autumn leaves known their time to fall. Madame Guyon was again in prison. A stranger was Archbishop of Cambrai: Fenelon no longer a counselor of kings--a tutor of royalty. His voice was silenced, his pen chained. He was allowed to retire to a rural parish. There he lived with the peasants--revered, beloved. The country where he dwelt was battle-scarred and bleeding; the smoke of devastation still hung over it. Not a family but had been robbed of its best. Death had stalked rampant. Fenelon shared the poverty of the people, their lowliness, their sorrows. All the tragedy of their life was his; he said to them, "I know, I know!"
Twelve years of Madame Guyon's life were spent in prison. Toward the last she was allowed to live in nominal freedom. But despotism, with savage leer and stealthy step, saw that Fenelon was kept far away. In those declining days, when the shadows were lengthening toward the east, her time and talents were given to teaching the simple rudiments of knowledge to the peasantry, to alleviating their material wants and to ministering to the sick. It was a forced retirement, and yet it was a retirement that was in every way in accord with her desires. But in spite of the persecution that followed her, and the obloquy heaped upon her name, and the bribe of pardon if she would but recant, she never retracted nor wavered in her inward or outward faith, even in the estimation of a hair. The firm reticence as to the supreme secrets of her life, and her steadfast loyalty to that which she honestly believed was truth, must ever command the affectionate admiration of all those who prize integrity of mind and purity of purpose, who hold fast to the divinity of love, and who believe in the things unseen which are eternal.
* * * * *
The town of Montargis is one day's bicycle journey from Paris. As for the road, though one be a wayfaring man and from the States he could not err therein. You simply follow the Seine as if you were intent on discovering its source, keeping to the beautiful highway that follows the winding stream. And what a beautiful, clear, clean bit of water it is! In Paris, your washerwoman takes your linen to the river, just as they did in the days of Pharaoh, and the bundle comes back sweet as the breath of June. Imagine the result of such recklessness in Chicago!
But as I rode out of Paris that bright May day it seemed Monday all along the way; for dames with baskets balanced on their heads were making their way to the waterside, followed by troops of barefoot or sabot-shod children. There was one fine young woman with a baby in her arms, and the innocent firstborn was busily taking its breakfast as the mother walked calmly along, bearing on her well-poised head the family wash. And a mile farther on, as if she had seen her rival and gone her one better, was another woman with a two-year-old cherub perched secure on top of the gently swaying basket, proud as a cardinal about to be consecrated. It was a study in balancing that I have never seen before nor since; and I only ask those to believe it who know things so true that they dare not tell them. As the day wore on, I saw that the wash was being completed, for the garments were spread out on the greenest of green grass, or on the bushes that lined the way. By ten o'clock I was nearing Fontainebleau, and the clothes were nearly ready to take in--but not quite. For while waiting for the warm sun and the gentle breeze to dry them, the thrifty dames, who were French and make soup out of everything, put in the time by laundering the children. It seemed like that economic stroke of good housewives who use the soapy wash-water for scrubbing the kitchen-floor. There they were, dozens of hopefuls on whom the fate of the nation rested--creepers to ten-year-olds--being scrubbed and dipped, or playing parlez-vous tag in lieu of towel, as innocent of clothes as Carlyle's imaginary House of Lords.
And so I passed off from the road that traced the Seine to a road that kept company with the canal. I followed the towpath, even in spite of warnings that 't was 'gainst the law. It was a one-horse canal, for many of the gaily painted boats were drawn only by a single, shaggy-limbed Percheron. The boats were sharp-prowed and narrow; and on some were bareheaded women knitting, and men carving curious things out of blocks of wood, as they journeyed. And I said to myself, if "it is the pace that kills," these people are making a strong bid for immortality. I hailed the lazily moving craft, waving my hat, and the slow-going tourists called back cheerily.
By and by I came to a great, wide plain that stretched away like a tideless summer sea. The wheat and lentils and pulse were planted in long strips. In one place I thought I could trace the good old American flag (that you never really love unless you are on a foreign shore) made with alternate strips of millet and peas, with a goodly patch of cabbages in the corner for stars. But possibly this was imagination, for I had been thinking that in a week it would be the Fourth of July and I was far from home--in a land where firecrackers are unknown.
Coming to a little rise of ground, I could see, lying calm and quiet amid the world of rich, growing grain, the town of Montargis. Across on the blue hillside was Montargis Castle, framed in a mass of foliage. I stopped to view the scene, and the echo of vesper-bells came pealing gently over the miles, as the nodding poppies at my feet bowed reverently in the breeze.
Villages in France viewed from a distance seem so restful and idyllic. There is no sound of strife, no trace of rivalry, no vain pride; only white houses--the homes of good men and gentle women, and cherub children; and all the church-steeples truly point to God. Yet on closer view--but what of that!
When I reached the town, the church whose spire I had seen from the distance beckoned me first. I turned off from the wide thoroughfare, intending just to get a glance at the outside of the building as I passed. But the great iron gates thrown invitingly open, and a rusty, dusty dog of Flanders lying in the entry waiting for his master, told me that there was service within. So I entered, passing through the noiseless, swinging door, and into the dim twilight of the house of prayer. A score of people were there, and standing in the aisle was a white-robed priest. He was speaking, and his voice came so gently, so sure withal, so exquisitely modulated, that I paused and, leaning against a pillar, listened. I think it was the first time I ever heard a preacher speaking in a large church who did not speak so loud that an echo chased his sentences round and round the vaulted dome and strangled the sense. The tone was conversational and the manner so free from canting conventionality that I moved up closer to get a view of the face.
It was too dark to see well, but I came under the spell of the man's earnest eloquence. The sacred stillness, the falling night, the odor from incense and banks of flowers piled about the feet of an image of the Holy Virgin--evidently brought by the peasantry, having nothing else to give--made a combination of melting conditions that would have subdued a heart of stone.
The preacher ceased to speak, and as he raised his hands in benediction, I, involuntarily, with the other worshipers, knelt on the stone floor and bowed my head in silent reverie.
Suddenly, I was aroused by a crashing noise at my elbow, and glancing round saw that an old man near me had merely dropped his cane. A heavy cudgel it was that falling on the stone flagging sent a thundering reverberation through the vaulted chambers.
The worshipers were slipping out, one by one, and soon no one was left but the old man of the cudgel and myself. He wore wooden shoes, and was holding the cordwood fast between his knees, rolling his hat nervously in his big hands. "He's a stranger, too," I said to myself; "he is the man who owns the rusty dog of Flanders, and he is waiting to give the priest some message!"
I leaned over towards my neighbor and asked, "The priest--what is his name?"
"Father Francis, Monsieur!" and the old man swayed back and forward in his seat as if moved by some inward emotion, still fingering his hat.
Just then the priest came out from behind the altar, wearing a black robe instead of the white one. He moved down with a sort of quiet majesty straight towards us. We arose as one man; it was as though some one had pressed a button.
Father Francis walked by me, bowing slightly, and shook hands with my old neighbor. They stood talking in an undertone.
A last struggling ray of light from the dying sun came in over the chancel and flooded the great room for an instant. It allowed me to get a good look at the face of the priest. As I stood there staring at him I heard him say to the old man as he bade him good-by, "Yes, tell her I'll be there in the morning."
Then he turned to me, and I was still staring. And as I stared I was repeating to myself the words the people said when Dante used to pass, "There is the man who has been to Hell!"
"You are an Englishman?" said Father Francis to me pleasantly as he held out his hand. "Yes," I said; "I am an Englishman--that is, no--an American!"
I was wondering if he had really heard me make that Dante remark; and anyway, I had been rudely staring at him and listening with both ears to his conversation with the old man. I tried to roll my hat, and had I a cudgel I would surely have dropped it; and with it all I wondered if the dog of Flanders waiting outside was not getting impatient for me!
"Oh, an American! I'm glad--I have very dear friends in America!"
Then I saw that Father Francis did not look so much like the exiled Florentine as I had thought, for his smile was winning as that of a woman, the corners of his mouth did not turn down, and the nose had not the Roman curve. Dante was an exile: this man was at home--and would have been, anywhere.
He was tall, slender and straight; he must have been sixty years old, but the face in spite of its furrows was singularly handsome. Grave, yet not depressed, it showed such feminine delicacy of feeling, such grace, such high intellect, that I stood and gazed as I might at a statue in bronze. But plain to see, he was a man of sorrow and acquainted with grief. The face spake of one to whom might have come a great tribulation, and who by accepting it had purchased redemption for all time from all the petty troubles of earth.
"You must stay here as long as you wish, and you will come to our old church again, I hope!" said the Father. He smiled, nodded his head and started to leave me alone.
"Yes, yes, I'll come again--I'll come in the morning, for I want to talk with you about Madame Guyon--she was married in this church they told me--is that true?" I clutched a little. Here was a man I could not afford to lose--one of the elect!
"Oh, yes; that was a long time ago, though. Are you interested in Madame Guyon? I am glad--not to know Fenelon seems a misfortune. He used to preach from that very pulpit, and Madame was baptized at that font and confirmed here. I have pictures of them both; and I have their books--one of the books is a first edition. Do you care for such things?"
When I was broke in London, in the Fall of Eighty-nine! Do I care for such things? I can not recall what I said, but I remembered that this brown-skinned priest with his liquid, black eyes, and the look of sorrow on his handsome face, stood out before me like the picture of a saint.
I made an engagement to meet him the next morning, when he bethought him of his promise to the old man of the cudgel and wooden shoes.
"Come now, then--come with me now. My house is just next door!"
And so we walked up the main aisle of the old church, around the altar where Madame Guyon used to kneel, and by a crooked, little passageway entered a house fully as old as the church. A woman who might have been as old as the house was setting the table in a little dining-room. She looked up at me through brass-rimmed spectacles, and without orders or any one saying a word she whisked off the tablecloth, replaced it with a snowy, clean one, and put on two plates instead of one. Then she brought in toasted brown bread and tea, and a steaming dish of lentils, and fresh-picked berries in a basket all lined with green leaves.
It was not a very sumptuous repast, but 't was enough. Afterward I learned that Father Francis was a vegetarian. He did not tell me so, neither did he apologize for absence of fermented drink, nor for his failure to supply tobacco and pipes.
Now, I have heard that there be priests who hold in their cowled heads choice recipes for spiced wines, and who carry hidden away in their hearts all the mysteries of the chafing-dish; but Father Francis was not one of these. His form was thin, but the bronze of his face was the bronze that comes from red corpuscles, and the strongly corded neck and calloused, bony hands told of manly abstinence and exercise in the open air, and sleep that follows peaceful thoughts, knowing no chloral.
After the meal, Father Francis led the way to his little study upstairs. He showed me his books and read to me from his one solitary "First Edition." Then he unlocked a little drawer in an old chiffonier and brought out a package all wrapped in chamois. This parcel held two miniature portraits, one of Fenelon and one of Madame Guyon.
"That picture of Fenelon belonged to Madame Guyon. He had it painted for her and sent it to her while she was in prison at Vincennes. The other I bought in Paris--I do not know its history."
The good priest had work to do, and let me know it very gently, thus: "You have come a long way, brother, the road was rough--I know you must be weary. Come, I'll show you to your room."
He lighted a candle and took me to a bedroom at the end of the hall. It was a little room, very clean, but devoid of all ornament, save a picture of the Madonna and her Babe, that hung over the head of the little iron bedstead. It was a painting--not very good. I think Father Francis painted it himself; the face of the Holy Mother was very human--divinely human--as motherhood should be.
Father Francis was right: the way had been rough and I was tired.
The treetops sang a cooing lullaby and the nightwinds sighed solemnly as they wandered through the hallway and open doors. It did not take me long to go to sleep. Later, the wind blew up fresh and cool. I was too sleepy to get up and hunt for more covering, and yet I was cold as I curled up in a knot and dreamed I was first mate with Peary on an expedition in search of the North Pole. And the last I remember was a vision of a gray-robed priest tiptoeing across the stone floor; of his throwing over me a heavy blanket and then hastily tiptoeing out again.
The matin-bells, or the birds, or both, awoke me early, but when I got downstairs I found my host had preceded me. His fine face looked fresh and strong, and yet I wondered when he had slept.
After breakfast, the old housekeeper hovered near.
"What is it, Margaret?" said the Father, gently.
"You haven't forgotten your engagement?" asked the woman, with just a quaver of anxiety.
"Oh no, Margaret"; then turning to me, "Come, you shall go with me--we will talk of Fenelon and Madame Guyon as we walk. It is eight miles and back, but you will not mind the distance. Oh, didn't I tell you where I'm going? You saw the old man at the church last night--it is his daughter--she is dying--dying of consumption. She has not been a good girl. She went away to Paris, three years ago, and her parents never heard from her. We tried to find her, but could not; and now she has come home of her own accord--come home to die. I baptized her twenty years ago--how fast the time has flown!"
The priest took a stout staff from the corner, and handing me its mate we started away. Down the white, dusty highway we went; out on the stony road where yesterday, as the darkness gathered, trudged an old man in wooden shoes and with a cordwood cudgel--at his heels a dog of Flanders.