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ure reflected the glowing loveliness of her visitor, just as the virgin snows of the Alps become incarnadine as they stand opposite the glorious radiance of a sunset sky.
Madame de Frontignac was accustomed to the effect of her charms; but there was so much love in the admiration now directed towards her, that her own warm nature was touched, and she threw out the glow of her feelings with a magnetic power. Mary never felt the cold, habitual reserve of her education so suddenly melt, never felt herself so naturally falling into language of confidence and endearment with a stranger; and as her face, so delicate and spiritual, grew bright with love, Madame de Frontignac thought she had never seen anything so beautiful, and, stretching out her hands towards her, she exclaimed, in her own language,"Mais, mon Dieu! mon enfant, que tu es belle!"
Mary's deep blush, at her ignorance of the language in which her visitor spoke, recalled her to herself;- she laughed a clear, silvery laugh, and laid her jewelled little hand on Mary's with a caressing movement.
"He shall not teach you French, ma toute belle,” she said, indicating the Abbé, by a pretty, wilful gesture; "I will teach you; and you shall teach me English. Oh, I shall try so hard to learn!" she said.
There was something inexpressibly pretty and quaint in the childish lisp with which she pronounced English. Mary was completely won over. She could have fallen into the arms of this wondrously beautiful fairy princess, expecting to be carried away by her to Dream-land.
Meanwhile, Mrs. Scudder was gravely discoursing with Colonel Burr and M. de Frontignac; and the Abbé, a smal and gentlemanly personage, with clear black eye, delicately-cut features, and powdered hair, appeared to be absorbed in his efforts to follow the current of a conversation imperfectly understood. Burr, the while, though seeming to be
entirely and politely absorbed in the conversation he was conducting, lost not a glimpse of the picturesque aside which was being enacted between the two fair ones whom he had thus brought together. He smiled quietly when he saw the effect Madame de Frontignac produced on Mary.
"After all, the child has flesh and blood!" he thought, " and may feel that there are more things in heaven and earth than she has dreamed of yet. A few French ideas won't hurt her."
The arrangements about lessons being completed, the party returned to the carriage. Madame de Frontignac was enthusiastic in Mary's praise.
"Cependant," she said, leaning back, thoughtfully, after having exhausted herself in superlatives,-" cependant elle est dévote, et à dix-neuf comment cela se peut il?"
"It is the effect of her austere education," said Burr. "It is not possible for you to conceive how young people are trained in the religious families of this country."
"But yet," said Madame," it gives her a grace altogether peculiar; something in her looks went to my heart. I could find it very easy to love her, because she is really good.”
"The Queen of Hearts should know all that is possible in loving," said Burr.
Somehow, of late, the compliments which fell so readily from those graceful lips had brought with them an unsatisfying pain. Until a woman really loves, flattery and compliment are often like her native air; but when that deeper feeling has once awakened in her, her instincts become marvellously acute to detect the false from the true. Madame de Frontignac longed for one strong, unguarded, real, earnest word from the man who had stolen from her her whole being. She was beginning to feel in some dim wise what an untold treasure she was daily giving for tinsel and dross. She leaned back in the carriage, with a restless, burning cheek, and wondered why she was born to be so miserable. The
thought of Mary's saintly face and tender eyes rose before her as the moon rises on the eyes of some hot and fevered invalid, inspiring vague yearnings after an unknown, unattainable peace.
Could some friendly power once have made her at that time clairvoyant and shown her the reality of the man whom she was seeing through the prismatic glass of her own enkindled ideality! Could she have seen the calculating quietness in which, during the intervals of a restless and sleepless ambition, he played upon her heart-strings, as one uses a musical instrument to beguile a passing hour, -how his only embarrassment was the fear that the feelings he was pleased to excite might become too warm and too strong, while as yet his relations to her husband were such as to make it dangerous to arouse his jealousy! And if he could have seen that pure ideal conception of himself which alone gave him power in the heart of this woman,- that spotless, glorified image of a hero without fear, without reproach,- would he have felt a moment's shame and abasement at its utter falsehood?
The poet says that the Evil Spirit stood abashed when he saw virtue in an angel form! How would a man, then, stand, who meets face to face his own glorified, spotless ideal, made living by the boundless faith of some believing heart? The best must needs lay his hand on his mouth at this apparition; but woe to him who feels no redeeming power in the sacredness of this believing dream,—who with calculating shrewdness uses this most touching miracle of love only to corrupt and destroy the loving! For him there is no sacrifice for sin, no place for repentance. His very mother might shrink in her grave to have him laid beside her.
Madame de Frontignac had the high, honorable nature of the old blood of France, and a touch of its romance. She was strung heroically, and educated according to the notions of her caste and church, purely and religiously. True it is, that one can scarcely call that education which teaches woman everything
except herself,-except the things that relate to her own peculiar womanly destiny, and, on plea of the holiness of ignorance, sends her without one word of just counsel into the temptations of life. Incredible as it may seem, Virginie de Frontignac had never read a romance or work of fiction of which love was the staple; the régime of the convent in this regard was inexorable; at eighteen she was more thoroughly a child than most American girls at thirteen. On entrance into life, she was at first so dazzled and bewildered by the mere contrast of fashionable excitement with the quietness of the scenes in which she had hitherto grown up, that she had no time for reading or thought,—all was one intoxicating frolic of existence, one dazzling, bewildering dream.
He whose eye had measured her for his victim verified, if ever man did, the proverbial expression of the iron hand under the velvet glove. Under all his gentle suavities there was a fixed, inflexible will, a calm self-restraint, and a composed philosophical measurement of others, that fitted him to bear despotic rule over an impulsive, unguarded nature. The position, at once accorded to him, of her instructor in the English language and literature, gave him a thousand daily opportunities to touch and stimulate all that class of finer faculties, so restless and so perilous, and which a good man approaches always with a certain awe. It is said that he once asserted that he never beguiled a woman who did not come half-way to meet him,
- an observation much the same as a serpent might make in regard to his birds.
The visit of the morning was followed by several others. Madame de Frontignac seemed to conceive for Mary one of those passionate attachments which women often conceive for anything fair and sympathizing, at those periods when their whole inner being is made vital by the approaches of a grand passion. It took only a few visits to make her as familiar as a child at the cottage; and the whole air of the Faubourg St. Germain seemed to melt away from her, as, with the pliability
peculiar to her nation, she blended herself with the quiet pursuits of the family. Sometimes, in simple straw hat and white wrapper, she would lie down in the grass under the apple-trees, or join Mary in an expedition to the barn for hen's eggs, or a run along the sea-beach for shells; and her childish eagerness and delight on these occasions used to arouse the unqualified astonishment of Mrs. Katy Scudder.
The Doctor she regarded with a naïve astonishment, slightly tinctured with apprehension. She knew he was very religious, and stretched her comprehension to imagine what he might be like. She thought of Bossuet's sermons walking about under a Protestant coat, and felt vaguely alarmed and sinful in his presence, as she used to when entering under the shadows of a cathedral. In her the religious sentiment, though vague, was strong. Nothing in the character of Burr had ever awakened so much disapprobation as his occasional sneers at religion. On such occasions she always reproved him with warmth, but excused him in her heart, because he was brought up a heretic. She held a special theological conversation with the Abbé, whether salvation were possible to one outside of the True Church,—and had added to her daily prayer a particular invocation to the Virgin for him.
The French lessons, with her assistance, proceeded prosperously. She became an inmate in Mrs. Marvyn's family also. The brown-eyed, sensitive woman loved her as a new poem; she felt enchanted by her; and the prosaic details of her household seemed touched to poetic life by her innocent interest and admiration. The young Madame insisted on being taught to spin at the great wheel; and a very pretty picture she made of it, too, with her earnest gravity of endeavor, her deepening cheek, her graceful form, with some strange foreign scarf or jewelry waving and flashing in odd contrast with her work.
"Do you know," she said, one day, while thus employed in the north room at Mrs. Marvyn's,-"do you know Burr told me that princesses used to spin? He read
Why, what?" said Mary, with a startled and guilty look.
"Why, what? petite!" said the fairy princess, whimsically mimicking her accent. "Ah! ah! ma belle! you think I have no eyes;-Virginie sees deep in here!" she said, laying her hand playfully on Mary's heart. "Ah, petite!" she said, gravely, and almost sorrowfully, "if you love him, wait for him,-don't marry another! It is dreadful not to have one's heart go with one's duty."
"I shall never marry anybody," said Mary.
"Nevare marrie anybodie!" said the lady, imitating her accents in tones much like those of a bobolink. "Ah! ah! my little saint, you cannot always live on nothing but the prayers, though prayers are verie good. But, ma chère," she added, in a low tone, "don't you ever marry that good man in there; priests should not marry.”
"Ours are not priests,-they are ministers," said Mary. "But why do you speak of him?- he is like my father."
"Virginie sees something!" said the lady, shaking her head gravely; "she sees he loves little Mary."
"Of course he does!"
"Of-course-he-does?-ah, yes; and byand-by comes the mamma, and she takes this little hand, and she says, 'Come, Mary!' and then she gives it to him; and then the poor jeune homme, when he comes back, finds not a bird in his poor little nest. Oh, c'est ennuyeux cela!" she said, throwing herself back in the grass till the clover-heads and buttercups closed over her.
"I do assure you, dear Madame !""I do assure you, dear Mary, Virginie knows. So lock up her words in your little heart; you will want them some day."
There was a pause of some moments, while the lady was watching the course of a cricket through the clover. At last, lifting her head, she spoke very gravely,
"My little cat! it is dreadful to be married to a good man, and want to be good, and want to love him, and yet never like to have him take your hand, and be more glad when he is away than when he is at home; and then to think how different it would all be, if it was only somebody else. That will be the way with you, if you let them lead you into this; so don't you do it, mon enfant."
A thought seemed to cross Mary's mind, as she turned to Madame de Frontignac, and said, earnestly,
"If a good man were my husband, I would never think of another,-I wouldn't let myself."
"How could you help it, mignonne? Can you stop your thinking?
Mary said, after a moment's blush,— "I can try!"
"Ah, yes! But to try all one's life, oh, Mary, that is too hard! Never do it, darling!"
And then Madame de Frontignac broke out into a carolling little French song, which started all the birds around into a general orchestral accompaniment.
This conversation occurred just before Madame de Frontignac started for Philadelphia, whither her husband had been summoned as an agent in some of the ambitious intrigues of Burr.
It was with a sigh of regret that she parted from her friends at the cottage. She made them a hasty good-bye call,alighting from a splendid barouche with two white horses, and filling their simple best-room with the light of her presence for a last half-hour. When she bade goodbye to Mary, she folded her warmly to her heart, and her long lashes drooped heavily with tears.
After her absence, the lessons were still
pursued with the gentle, quiet little Abbé, who seemed the most patient and assiduous of teachers; but, in both houses, there was that vague ennui, that sense of want, which follows the fading of one of life's beautiful dreams! We bid her adieu for a season;— we may see her again.
THE summer passed over the cottage, noiselessly, as our summers pass. were white clouds walking in troops over blue mirrors of sea, there were purple mornings, choral with birdsinging, there were golden evenings, with long, eastward shadows. Appleblossoms died quietly in the deep orchard-grass, and tiny apples waxed and rounded and ripened and gained stripes of gold and carmine; and the blue eggs broke into young robins, that grew from gaping, yellow-mouthed youth to fledged and outflying maturity. Came autumn, with its long Indian summer, and winter, with its flinty, sparkling snows, under which all Nature lay a sealed and beautiful corpse. Came once more the spring winds, the lengthening days, the opening flowers, and the ever-renewing miracle of buds and blossoms on the appletrees around the cottage. A year had passed since the June afternoon when first we showed you Mary standing under the spotty shadows of the tree, with the white dove on her hand, -a year in which not many outward changes have been made in the relations of the actors of our story.
Mary calmly spun and read and thought; now and then composing with care very English-French letters, to be sent to Philadelphia to Madame de Frontignac, and receiving short missives of very French-English in return.
The cautions of Madame, in regard to the Doctor, had not rippled the current of their calm, confiding intercourse; and the Doctor, so very satisfied and happy in her constant society and affection, scarcely as yet meditated distinctly that he needed to draw her more closely to
himself. If he had a passage to read, a page to be copied, a thought to express, was she not ever there, gentle, patient, unselfish? and scarce by the absence of a day did she let him perceive that his need of her was becoming so absolute that his hold on her must needs be made permanent.
As to his salary and temporal concerns, they had suffered somewhat for his unpopular warfare with reigning sins,—a fact which had rather reconciled Mrs. Scudder to the dilatory movement of her cher ished hopes. Since James was gone, what need to press imprudently to new arrangements? Better give the little heart time to grow over before starting a subject which a certain womanly instinct told her might be met with a struggle. Somehow she never thought without a certain heart-sinking of Mary's look and tone the night she spoke with her about James; she had an awful presentiment that that tone of voice belonged to the things that cannot be shaken. But yet, Mary seemed so even, so quiet, her delicate form filled out and rounded so beautifully, and she sang so cheerfully at her work, and, above all, she was so entirely silent about James, that Mrs. Scudder had hope.
Ah, that silence! Do not listen to hear whom a woman praises, to know where her heart is! do not ask for whom she expresses the most earnest enthusiasm! but if there be one she once knew well, whose name she never speaks,-if she seem to have an instinct to avoid every occasion of its mention,-if, when you speak, she drops into silence and changes the subject, -why, look there for something! just as, when going through deep meadow-grass, a bird flies ostentatiously up before you, you may know her nest is not there, but far off, under distant tufts of fern and buttercup, through which she has crept with a silent flutter in her spotted breast, to act her pretty little falsehood before you.
Poor Mary's little nest was along the sedgy margin of the sea-shore, where grow the tufts of golden-rod, where wave the reeds, where crimson, green, and pur
ple sea-weeds float up, like torn fringes of Nereid vestures, and gold and silver shells lie on the wet wrinkles of the sands.
The sea had become to her like a friend, with its ever-varying monotony. Somehow she loved this old, fresh, blue, babbling, restless giant, who had carried away her heart's love to hide him in some far-off palmy island, such as she had of ten heard him tell of in his sea-romances. Sometimes she would wander out for an afternoon's stroll on the rocks, and pause by the great spouting cave, now famous to Newport dilettanti, but then a sacred and impressive solitude. There the rising tide bursts with deafening strokes through a narrow opening into some inner cavern, which, with a deep thunderboom, like the voice of an angry lion, casts it back in a high jet of foam into the sea.
Mary often sat and listened to this hollow noise, and watched the ever-rising columns of spray as they reddened with the transpiercing beams of the afternoon sun; and thence her eye travelled far, far off over the shimmering starry blue, where sails looked no bigger than miller's wings; and it seemed sometimes as if a door were opening by which her soul might go out into some eternity, - some abyss, so wide and deep, that fathomless lines of thought could not sound it. She was no longer a girl in a mortal body, but an infinite spirit, the adoring companion of Infinite Beauty and Infinite Love.
As there was an hour when the fishermen of Galilee saw their Master transfigured, his raiment white and glistening, and his face like the light, so are there hours when our whole mortal life stands forth in a celestial radiance. From our daily lot falls off every weed of care,from our heart-friends every speck and stain of earthly infirmity. Our horizon widens, and blue, and amethyst, and gold touch every object. Absent friends and friends gone on the last long journey stand once more together, bright with an immortal glow, and, like the disciples who saw their Master floating in the clouds