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Another spring came round, and brought its roses, and the apple-trees blossomed for the third time since the commencement of our story; and the robins had rebuilt their nest, and began to lay their blue eggs in it; and Mary still walked her calm course, as a sanctified priestess of the great worship of sorrow. Many were
the hearts now dependent on her, the spiritual histories, the threads of which were held in her loving hand,― many the souls burdened with sins, or oppressed with sorrow, who found in her bosom at once confessional and sanctuary. So many sought her prayers, that her hours of intercession were full, and often needed to be lengthened to embrace all for whom she would plead. United to the good Doctor by a constant friendship and fellowship, she had gradually grown accustomed to the more and more intimate manner in which he regarded her,—which had risen from a simple "dear child,” and "dear Mary," to "dear friend," and at last "dearest of all friends," which he frequently called her, encouraged by the calm, confiding sweetness of those still, blue eyes, and that gentle smile, which came without one varying flutter of the pulse or the rising of the slightest flush on the marble cheek.
One day a letter was brought in, postmarked "Philadelphia." It was from Madame de Frontignac; it was in French, and ran as follows:
"MY DEAR LITTLE WHITE ROSE: :
"I am longing to see you once more, and before long I shall be in Newport. Dear little Mary, I am sad, very sad; the days seem all of them too long; and every morning I look out of my window and wonder why I was born. not so happy as I used to be, when I cared for nothing but to sing and smooth my feathers like the birds. That is the best kind of life for us women;-if we love anything better than our clothes, it is sure to bring us great sorrow. For all that, I can't help thinking it is very noble and beautiful to love;-love is very beautiful, but very, very sad. My poor dear
little white cat, I should like to hold you a little while to my heart; it is so cold all the time, and aches so, I wish I were dead; but then I am not good enough to die. The Abbé says, we must offer up our sorrow to God as a satisfaction for our sins. I have a good deal to offer, because my nature is strong and I can feel a great deal.
But I am very selfish, dear little Mary, to think only of myself, when I know how you must suffer. Ah! but you knew he loved you truly, the poor dear boy!-that is something. I pray daily for his soul; don't think it wrong of me; you know it is our religion; we should all do our best for each other.
“Remember me tenderly to Mrs. Marvyn. Poor mother!- the bleeding heart of the Mother of God alone can understand such sorrows.
"I am coming in a week or two, and then I have many things to say to ma belle rose blanche; till then I kiss her little hands.
"VIRGINIE DE FRONTIGNAC."
One beautiful afternoon, not long after, a carriage stopped at the cottage, and Madame de Frontignac alighted. Mary was spinning in her garret-boudoir, and Mrs. Scudder was at that moment at a little distance from the house, sprinkling some linen, which was laid out to bleach on the green turf of the clothes-yard.
Madame de Frontignac sent away the carriage, and ran up the stairway, pursuing the sound of Mary's spinning-wheel mingled with her song; and in a moment, throwing aside the curtain, she seized Mary in her arms, and kissed her on either cheek, laughing and crying both at once. "I knew where I should find you, ma blanche! I heard the wheel of my poor little princess! It's a good while since we spun together, mimi! Ah, Mary, darling, little do we know what we spin! life is hard and bitter, is'n't it? Ah, how white your cheeks are, poor child!"
Madame de Frontignac spoke with tears in her own eyes, passing her hand caressingly over the fair cheeks.
"And you have grown pale, too, dear
Mary could not but notice the want of that brilliant color and roundness in the cheek, which once made so glowing a picture; the eyes seemed larger and tremulous with a pathetic depth, and around them those bluish circles that speak of languor and pain. Still, changed as she was, Madame de Frontignac seemed only more strikingly interesting and fascinating than ever. Still she had those thousand pretty movements, those nameless graces of manner, those wavering shades of expression, that irresistibly enchained the eye and the imagination, — true Frenchwoman as she was, always in one rainbow shimmer of fancy and feeling, like one of those cloud-spotted April days which give you flowers and rain, sun and shadow, and snatches of birdsinging, all at once.
before a shrine; and then said, "Sweet Mary, pray for me; I am not at peace; I cannot get the victory over sorrow.”
"What sorrow can you have?" said Mary,-"you, so beautiful, so rich, so admired, whom everybody must love?"
"That is what I came to tell you; I came to confess to you. But you must sit down there," she said, placing Mary on a low seat in the garret-window; "and Virginie will sit here," she said, drawing a bundle of uncarded wool towards her, and sitting down at Mary's feet.
"Dear Madame,” said Mary, "let me get you a better seat."
"No, no, mignonne, this is best; I want to lay my head in your lap";—and she took off her riding-hat with its streaming plume, and tossed it carelessly from her, and laid her head down on Mary's lap. "Now don't call me Madame any more. Do you know," she said, raising her head with a sudden brightening of cheek and eye, "do you know that there are two mes to this person?-one is Virginie, and the other is Madame de Frontignac. Everybody in Philadelphia knows Madame de Frontignac;—she is very gay, very careless, very happy; she never has any serious hours, or any sad thoughts; she wears powder and diamonds, and dances all night, and never prays; — that is Madame. But Virginie is quite another thing. She is tired of all this,- tired of the balls, and the dancing, and the diamonds, and the beaux; and she likes true people, and would like to live very quiet with somebody that she loved. She is very unhappy; and she prays, too, sometimes, in a poor little way,-like the birds in your nest out there, who don't know much, but chipper and cry because they are hungry. This is your Virginie. Madame never comes here, -never call me Madame."
“Dear Virginie," said Mary, "how I love you!"
"Do you, Mary,-bien sûr? You are my good angel! I felt a good impulse from you when I first saw you, and have always been stronger to do right when 1 got one of your pretty little letters. Oh,
Mary, darling, I have been very foolish and very miserable, and sometimes tempted to be very, very bad! Oh, sometimes I thought I would not care for God or anything else! - it was very bad of me,-but I was like a foolish little fly caught in a spider's net before he knows it."
Mary's eyes questioned her companion with an expression of eager sympathy, somewhat blended with curiosity.
"I can't make you understand me quite," said Madame de Frontignac, “unless I go back a good many years. You see, dear Mary, my dear angel mamma died when I was very little, and I was sent to be educated at the Sacré Cœur, in Paris. I was very happy and very good, in those days; the sisters loved me, and I loved them; and I used to be so pious, and loved God dearly. When I took my first communion, Sister Agatha prepared me. She was a true saint, and is in heaven now; and I remember, when I came to her, all dressed like a bride, with my white crown and white veil, that she looked at me so sadly, and said she hoped I would never love anybody better than God, and then I should be happy. I didn't think much of those words then; but, oh, I have since, many times! They used to tell me always that I had a husband who was away in the army, and who would come to marry me when I was seventeen, and that he would give me all sorts of beautiful things, and show me everything I wanted to see in the world, and that I must love and honor him.
"Well, I was married at last; and Monsieur de Frontignac is a good brave man, although he seemed to me very old and sober; but he was always kind to me, and gave me nobody knows how many sets of jewelry, and let me do everything I wanted to, and so I liked him very much; but I thought there was no danger I should love him, or anybody else, better than God. I didn't love anybody in those days; I only liked people, and some people more than others. All the men I saw professed to be lovers, and I liked to lead them about and see what
foolish things I could make them do, because it pleased my vanity; but I laughed at the very idea of love.
'Well, Mary, when we came to Philadelphia, I heard everybody speaking of Colonel Burr, and what a fascinating man he was; and I thought it would be a pretty thing to have him in my train,and so I did all I could to charm him. I tried all my little arts, and if it is a sin for us women to do such things, I am sure I have been punished for it. Mary, he was stronger than I was. These men, they are not satisfied with having the whole earth under their feet, and having all the strength and all the glory, but they must even take away our poor little reign;— it's too bad!
"I can't tell you how it was; I didn't know myself; but it seemed to me that he took my very life away from me; and it was all done before I knew it. He called himself my friend, my brother; he offered to teach me English; he read with me; and by-and-by he controlled my whole life. I, that used to be so haughty, so proud,—I, that used to laugh to think how independent I was of everybody, I was entirely under his control, though I tried not to show it. I didn't well know where I was; for he talked friendship, and I talked friendship; he talked about sympathetic natures that are made for each other, and I thought how beautiful it all was; it was living in a new world. Monsieur de Frontignac was as much charmed with him as I was; he often told me that he was his best friend, that he was his hero, his model man; and I thought, oh, Mary, you would wonder to hear me say what I thought! I thought he was a Bayard, a Sully, a Montmorenci,-everything grand and noble and good. I loved him with a religion; I would have died for him; I sometimes thought how I might lay down my life to save his, like women I read of in history. I did not know myself; I was astonished I could feel so; and I did not dream that this could be wrong. How could I, when it made me feel more religious than anything in my whole life?
Everything in the world seemed to grow sacred. I thought, if men could be so good and admirable, life was a holy thing, and not to be trifled with.
“But our good Abbé is a faithful shepherd; and when I told him these things in confession, he told me I was in great danger, danger of falling into mortal sin. Oh, Mary, it was as if the earth had opened under me! He told me, too, that this noble man, this man so dear, was a heretic, and that, if he died, he would go to dreadful pains. Oh, Mary, I dare not tell you half what he told me,- dreadful things that make me shiver when I think of them! And then he said that I must offer myself a sacrifice for him; that, if I would put down all this love, and overcome it, God would perhaps accept it as a satisfaction, and bring him into the True Church at last.
"Then I began to try. Oh, Mary, we never know how we love till we try to unlove! It seemed like taking my heart out of my breast, and separating life from life. How can one do it? I wish any one would tell me. The Abbé said I must do it by prayer; but it seemed to me prayer only made me think the more of him.
"But at last I had a great shock; everything broke up like a great, grand, noble dream, and I waked out of it just as weak and wretched as one feels when one has overslept. Oh, Mary, I found I was mistaken in him, -all, all, wholly!"
Madame de Frontignac laid her forehead on Mary's knee, and her long chestnut hair drooped down over her face.
"He was going somewhere with my husband to explore, out in the regions of the Ohio, where he had some splendid schemes of founding a state; and I was all interest. And one day, as they were preparing, Monsieur de Frontignac gave me a quantity of papers to read and arrange, and among them was a part of a letter; - I never could imagine how it got there; it was from Burr to one of his confidential friends. I read it, at first, wondering what it meant, till I came to two or three sentences about me."
Madame de Frontignac paused a moment, and then said, rising with sudden energy,
Mary, that man never loved me; he cannot love; he does not know what love is. What I felt he cannot know; he cannot even dream of it, because he never felt anything like it. Such men never know us women; we are as high as heaven above them. It is true enough that my heart was wholly in his power, — but why? Because I adored him as something divine, incapable of dishonor, incapable of selfishness, incapable of even a thought that was not perfectly noble and heroic. If he had been all that, I should have been proud to be even a poor little flower that should exhale away to give him an hour's pleasure; I would have of fered my whole life to God as a sacrifice for such a glorious soul; - and all this time, what was he thinking of me?
"He was using my feelings to carry his plans; he was admiring me like a picture; he was considering what he should do with me; and but for his interests with my husband, he would have tried his power to make me sacrifice this world and the next to his pleasure. But he does not know me. My mother was a Montmorenci, and I have the blood of her house in my veins; we are princesses; we can give all; but he must be a god that we give it for."
Mary's enchanted eye followed the beautiful narrator, as she enacted before her this poetry and tragedy of real life, so much beyond what dramatic art can ever furnish. Her eyes grew splendid in their depth and brilliancy; sometimes they were full of tears, and sometimes they flashed out like lightnings; her whole form seemed to be a plastic vehicle which translated every emotion of her soul; and Mary sat and looked at her with the intense absorption that one gives to the highest and deepest in Art or Nature.
"Enfin,-que faire?" she said at last, suddenly stopping, and drooping in every limb. " Mary, I have lived on this dream so long!- never thought of anything else! now all is gone, and what shall I do?
"I think, Mary," she added, pointing to the nest in the tree, “I see my life in many things. My heart was once still and quiet, like the round little eggs that were in your nest;-now it has broken out of its shell, and cries with cold and hunger. I want my dream again,—I wish it all back, or that my heart could back into its shell. If I only could drop this year out of my life, and care for nothing, as I used to! I have tried to do that; I can't; I cannot get back where I was before."
"Would you do it, dear Virginie?" said Mary; "would you, if you could? "It was very noble and sweet, all that," said Virginie; "it gave me higher thoughts than ever I had before; I think my feelings were beautiful;-but now they are like little birds that have no mother; they kill me with their crying."
"Dear Virginie, there is a real Friend in heaven, who is all you can ask or think,-nobler, better, purer,—who cannot change, and cannot die, and who loved you and gave Himself for you."
"You mean Jesus," said Virginie. "Ah, I know it; and I say the offices to him daily, but my heart is very wild and starts away from my words. I say, 'My God, I give myself to you!'-and after all, I don't give myself, and I don't feel comforted. Dear Mary, you must have suffered, too,- for you loved really,-I saw it; when we feel a thing ourselves, we can see very quick the same in others; -and it was a dreadful blow to come so all at once."
“Yes, it was,” said Mary; "I thought I must die; but Christ has given me peace."
These words were spoken with that long-breathed sigh with which we always speak of peace, -a sigh that told of storms and sorrows past, the sighing of the wave that falls spent and broken on the shores of eternal rest.
There was a little pause in the conversation, and then Virginie raised her head and spoke in a sprightlier tone.
"Well, my little fairy cat, my white doe, I have come to you. Poor Virginie
Dear, dear Virginie, indeed you shall!" said Mary. "I will love you dearly, and pray for you. I always have prayed for you, ever since the first day I knew you."
"I knew it, — I felt your prayers in my heart. Mary, I have many thoughts that I dare not tell to any one, lately, — but I cannot help feeling that some are real Christians who are not in the True Church. You are as true a saint as Saint Catharine; indeed, I always think of you when I think of our dear Lady; and yet they say there is no salvation out of the Church."
This was a new view of the subject to Mary, who had grown up with the familiar idea that the Romish Church was Babylon and Antichrist, and who, during the conversation, had been revolving the same surmises with regard to her friend. She turned her grave, blue eyes on Madame de Frontignac with a somewhat surprised look, which melted into a half-smile. But the latter still went on with a puzzled air, as if trying to talk herself out of some mental perplexity. and more
"Now, Burr is a heretic, than that, he is an infidel; he has no religion in his heart,-I saw that often, -it made me tremble for him,-it ought to have put me on my guard. But you, dear Mary, you love Jesus as your life. I think you love him just as much as Sister Agatha, who was a saint. The Abbé says that there is nothing so dangerous as to begin to use our reason in religion,- that, if we once begin, we never know where it may carry us; but I can't help using mine a very little. I must think there are some saints that are not in the True Church."
"All are one who love Christ," said Mary; 66 we are one in Him."
"I should not dare to tell the Abbé," said Madame de Frontignac; and Mary queried in her heart, whether Dr. H. would feel satisfied that she could bring this wanderer to the fold of Christ without undertaking to batter down the walls of