Nothing is more striking in the light and shadow of the human drama than to compare the inner life and thoughts of an elevated and silent nature, with the thoughts and plans which those by whom they are surrounded have of and for them. Little thought Mary of any of the speculations that busied the friendly head of Miss Prissy, or that lay in the provident forecastings of her prudent mother. When a life into which all our life nerves have run is cut suddenly away, there follows, after the first long bleeding is healed, an internal paralysis of certain portions of our nature. It was so with Mary: the thousand fibres that bind youth and womanhood to earthly love and life were all in her still as the grave, and only the spiritual and divine part of her being was active. Her hopes, desires, and aspirations were all such as she could have had in greater perfection, as a disembodied spirit than as a mortal woman. The small stake for self which she had invested in life was gone,—and henceforward all personal matters were to her so indifferent that she scarce was conscious of a wish in relation to her own individual happiness. She was through the sudden crush of a great affliction in that state of self-abnegation to which the mystics brought themselves by fastings and self-imposed penances,—a state not purely healthy, nor realizing the divine ideal of a perfect human being, made to exist in the relations of human life,—but one of those exceptional conditions, which, like the hours that often precede dissolution, seem to impart to the subject of them a peculiar aptitude for delicate and refined spiritual impressions. We could not afford to have it always night—and we must think that broad, gay morning light, when meadow-lark and robin and bobolink are singing in chorus with a thousand insects and the waving of a thousand breezes, is on the whole the most in accordance with the average wants of those who have a material life to live and material work to do. But then we reverence that clear-obscure of midnight, when everything is still and dewy—then sing the nightingales which cannot be heard by day—then shine the mysterious stars. So when all earthly voices are hushed in the soul, all earthly lights darkened, music and colour float in from a higher sphere.

No veiled nun, with her shrouded forehead and downcast eyes, ever moved about a convent with a spirit more utterly divided from the world, than Mary moved about her daily employments. Her care about the details of life seemed more than ever minute; she was always anticipating her mother in every direction, and striving by a thousand gentle preveniences, to spare her from fatigue and care; there was even a tenderness about her ministrations, as if the daughter had changed feelings and places with the mother.

The Doctor, too, felt a change in her manner towards him, which, always considerate and kind, was now invested with a tender thoughtfulness, and anxious solicitude to serve, which often brought tears to his eyes. All the neighbours who had been in the habit of visiting at the house, received from her almost daily, in one little form or another, some proof of her thoughtful remembrance.

She seemed in particular to attach herself to Mrs. Marvyn; throwing her cares around that fragile and wounded nature, as a generous vine will sometimes embrace with tender leaves and flowers a dying tree.

But her heart seemed to have yearnings beyond even the circle of home and friends. She longed for the sorrowful and the afflicted; she would go down to the forgotten and the oppressed, and made herself the companion of the Doctor’s secret walks and explorings among the poor victims of the slave-ships, and entered with zeal as teacher among his African catechumens.

Nothing but the limits of bodily strength could check her zeal to do and suffer for others,—a river of love had suddenly been checked in her heart, and it needed all these channels to drain off the waters that otherwise must have drowned her in the suffocating agonies of repression.

Sometimes, indeed, there would be a returning thrill of the old wound, one of those overpowering moments when some turn in life brings back anew a great anguish. She would find unexpectedly in a book a mark that he had placed there, or a turn in conversation would bring back a tone of his voice, or she would see on some thoughtless young head, curls just like those which were swaying to and fro down among the wavering seaweeds, and then her heart gave one great throb of pain, and turned for relief to some immediate act of love to some living being. They who saw her in one of these moments, felt a surging of her heart towards them, a moisture of the eye, a sense of some inexpressible yearning, and knew not from what pain that love was wrung, and what poor heart was seeking to still its own throbbings in blessing them.

By what name shall we call this beautiful twilight, this night of the soul, so starry with heavenly mysteries, not happiness, but blessedness? They who have it, walk among men as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, and yet possessing all things.

The Doctor, as we have seen, had always that reverential spirit towards women which accompanies a healthy and great nature; but in the constant converse which he now held with a beautiful being, from whom every particle of selfish feeling or mortal weakness seemed sublimed, he appeared to yield his soul up to her leading, with a wondering humility, as to some fair miraculous messenger of heaven. All questions of internal experience, all delicate shadings of the spiritual history, with which his pastoral communings in his flock made him conversant, he brought to her to be resolved with the purest simplicity of trust.

‘She is one of the Lord’s rarities,’ he said one day to Mrs. Scudder, ‘and I find it difficult to maintain the bonds of Christian faithfulness in talking with her. It is a charm of the Lord’s hidden ones that they know not their own beauty; and God forbid that I should tempt a creature made so perfect by divine grace, to self-exultation, or lay my hand, unadvisedly, as Uzzah did, upon the ark of God, by my inconsiderate praises.’

‘Well, Doctor,’ said Miss Prissy, who sat in the corner sewing on the dove-coloured silk, ‘I do wish you could come into one of our meetings and hear those blessed prayers. I don’t think you nor anybody else ever heard anything like ’em.’

‘I would, indeed, that I might with propriety enjoy the privilege,’ said the Doctor.

‘Well, I’ll tell you what’ said Miss Prissy, ‘next week they’re going to meet here, and I’ll leave the door just ajar, and you can hear every word, just by standing in the entry.’

‘Thank you, madam,’ said the Doctor, ‘it would certainly be a blessed privilege, but I cannot persuade myself that such an act would be consistent with Christian propriety.’

‘Ah, now do hear that good man,’ said Miss Prissy, after he had left the room; ‘if he ha’n’t got the making of a real gentleman in him as well as a real Christian, though I always did say, for my part, that a real Christian will be a gentleman. But I don’t believe all the temptations in the world could stir that blessed man one jot or grain to do the least thing that he thinks is wrong or out of the way. Well, I must say, I never saw such a good man; he is the only man I ever saw good enough for our Mary.’

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 repaired the old 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 thread 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 needed to be lengthened often 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, and 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, post-marked ‘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. I am 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.

‘Verginie 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.

Mary & Eugenie

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, isn’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 Madame,’ said Mary, looking up, and struck with the change in the once brilliant face.

‘Have I, petite? I don’t know why not. We women have secret places where our life runs out. At home I wear rouge; that makes all right; but I don’t put it on for you, Mary; you see me just as I am.’

Mary could not but notice the want of that brilliant colour and roundness in the cheek, that 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; yet 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 bird-singing all at once.

‘I have sent away my carriage, Mary, and come to stay with you. You want me, n’est-ce pas?’ she said, coaxingly, with her arms round Mary’s neck; ‘if you don’t, tant pis; for I am the bad penny you English speak of, you cannot get me off.’

‘I am sure, dear friend,’ said Mary, earnestly, ‘we don’t want to put you off.’

‘I know it; you are true, you mean what you say; you are all good real gold, down to your hearts; that is why I love you; but you, my poor Mary, your cheeks are very white; poor little heart, you suffer.’

‘No,’ said Mary; ‘I do not suffer now. Christ has given me the victory over sorrow.’

There was something sadly sublime in the manner in which this was said, and something so sacred in the expression of Mary’s face, that Madame de Frontignac crossed herself, as she had been wont 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 Verginie 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 me’s to this person?—one is Verginie, 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 Verginie 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 Verginie—Madame never comes here; never call me Madame.’

‘Dear Verginie,’ said Mary, ‘how I love you!’

‘Do you, Mary—bien sur? 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 I 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 honour 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 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, that 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 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 dishonour, incapable of selfishness, incapable of even a thought that was not perfectly noble and heroic. If he had been all that, I would have been proud to have been even a poor little flower that should exhale away, to give him an hour’s pleasure; I would have offered 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 were it not 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 depths 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,’ she added, pointing to the nest in the tree, ‘Mary, 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 go 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 Verginie,’ said Mary; ‘would you if you could?’

‘It was very noble and sweet, all that,’ said Verginie; ‘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 Verginie, 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 Verginie. ‘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 Verginie raised her head and spoke in a sprightlier tone.

‘Well, my little fairy cat,—my white doe,—I have come to you. Poor Verginie wants something to hold to her heart; let me have you,’ she said, throwing her arms round Mary.

‘Dear, dear Verginie, 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 anti-Christ, and who had during the conversation 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. ‘Now, Burr is a heretic,—and more 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; ‘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. Hopkins would feel satisfied that she could bring this wanderer to the fold of Christ, without undertaking to batter down the walls of her creed; and yet, there they were, the Catholic and the Puritan, each strong in her respective faith, yet melting together in that embrace of love and sorrow, joined in the great communion of suffering. Mary took up her Testament, and read the fourteenth of John:—

‘Let not your heart be troubled; ye believe in God, believe also in me; in my Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you; I go to prepare a place for you; and if I go to prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you unto myself, that where I am there you may be also.’

Mary read on through the chapter, through the next wonderful prayer; her face grew solemnly transparent, as of an angel; for her soul was lifted from earth by the words, and walked with Christ far above all things, over that starry pavement where each footstep is on a world.

The greatest moral effects are like those of music, not wrought out by sharp-sided intellectual propositions, but melted in by a divine fusion, by words that have mysterious indefinite fulness of meaning, made living by sweet voices, which seem to be the out-throbbings of angelic hearts; so one verse in the Bible read by a mother in some hour of tender prayer has a significance deeper and higher than the most elaborate of sermons, the most acute of arguments.

Verginie Frontignac sat as one divinely enchanted, while that sweet voice read on; and when the silence fell between them she gave a long sigh as we do when sweet music stops. They heard between them the soft stir of summer leaves, the distant songs of birds, the breezy hum when some afternoon wind shivered through many branches, and the silver sea chimed in; Verginie rose at last, and kissed Mary on the forehead. ‘That is a beautiful book,’ she said, ‘and to read it all by one’s self must be lovely; I cannot understand why it should be dangerous; it has not injured you.

‘Sweet saint,’ she added, ‘let me stay with you; you shall read to me every day; do you know I came here to get you to take me; I want you to show me how to find peace where you do; will you let me be your sister?’

‘Yes, indeed,’ said Mary, with a cheek brighter than it had been for many a day; her heart feeling a throb of more real human pleasure than for long months.

‘Will you get your mamma to let me stay?’ said Verginie, with the bashfulness of a child; ‘haven’t you a little place like yours, with white curtains, and sanded floor, to give to poor little Verginie to learn to be good in?’

‘Why, do you really want to stay here with us,’ said Mary, ‘in this little house?’

‘Do I really?’ said Virginie, mimicking her voice with a start of her old playfulness; ‘don’t I really? Come now, mimi, coax the good mamma for me, tell her I shall try to be very good. I shall help you with the spinning; you know I spin beautifully,—and I shall make butter, and milk the cow, and set the tables. Oh, I will be so useful, you can’t spare me!’

‘I should love to have you dearly,’ said Mary, warmly; ‘but you would soon be dull for want of society here.’

Quelle idée! ma petite drole,’ said the lady, who with the mobility of her nation had already recovered some of the saucy mocking grace that was habitual to her, as she began teasing Mary with a thousand little childish motions. ‘Indeed, mimi, you must keep me hid up here, or may be the wolf will find me and eat me up; who knows?’ Mary looked at her with inquiring eyes.

‘What do you mean?’

‘I mean, Mary,—I mean that when he comes back to Philadelphia he thinks he will find me there; he thought I should stay while my husband was gone; and when he finds I am gone he may come to Newport; and I never want to see him again without you; you must let me stay with you.’

‘Have you told him,’ said Mary, ‘what you think?’

‘I wrote to him, Mary, but oh, I can’t trust my heart! I want so much to believe him; it kills me so to think evil of him that it will never do for me to see him. If he looks at me with those eyes of his I am all gone; I shall believe anything he tells me; he will draw me to him as a great magnet draws a poor little grain of steel.’

‘But now you know his unworthiness, his baseness,’ said Mary, ‘I should think it would break all his power.’

Should you think so? Ah, Mary, we cannot unlove in a minute; love is a great while dying. I do not worship him now as I did. I know what he is. I know he is bad, and I am sorry for it. I would like to cover it from all the world, even from you, Mary, since I see it makes you dislike him; it hurts me to hear any one else blame him; but sometimes I do so long to think I am mistaken, that I know if I should see him I should catch at anything he might tell me, as a drowning man at straws; I should shut my eyes and think after all that it was all my fault, and ask a thousand pardons for all the evil he has done. No. Mary, you must keep your blue eyes upon me, or I shall be gone.’

At this moment Mrs. Scudder’s voice was heard, calling Mary below.

‘Go down now, darling, and tell mamma; make a good little talk to her, ma reine; ah, you are queen here; all do as you say, even the good priest there; you have a little hand, but it leads all; so go, petite.’

Mrs. Scudder was somewhat flurried and discomposed at the proposition; there were the pros and the cons in her nature, such as we all have.

In the first place, Madame de Frontignac belonged to high society, and that was pro; for Mrs. Scudder prayed daily against worldly vanities, because she felt a little traitor in her heart that was ready to open its door to them if not constantly talked down. In the second place, Madame de Frontignac was French, there was a con; for Mrs. Scudder had enough of her father John Bull in her heart to have a very wary look-out on anything French. But then, in the third place, she was out of health and unhappy, and there was a pro again; for Mrs. Scudder was as kind and motherly a soul as ever breathed. But then she was a Catholic, con. But the Doctor and Mary might convert her, pro. And then Mary wanted her, pro. And she was a pretty, bewitching, loveable creature, pro. The pros had it; and it was agreed that Madame de Frontignac should be installed as proprietress of the spare chamber, and she sat down to the tea-table that evening in the great kitchen.

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