"Let me see his face, and I'll tell you."
Lord Colambre's servant was summoned.
"Yes, I like his face. God bless you!—Leave me."
Lord Colambre gave his servant a charge to bear with Mr. Reynolds' rough manner and temper, and to pay the poor old gentleman every possible attention. Then our hero proceeded with his father on his journey, and on this journey nothing happened worthy of note. On his first perusal of the letter from Grace, Lord Colambre had feared that she would have left Buxton with Lady Berryl before he could reach it; but, upon recollection, he hoped that the few lines he had written, addressed to his mother and Miss Nugent, with the assurance that he should be with them on Wednesday, would be sufficient to show her that some great change had happened, and consequently sufficient to prevent her from quitting her aunt, till she could know whether such a separation would be necessary. He argued wisely, more wisely than Grace had reasoned; for, notwithstanding this note, she would have left Buxton before his arrival, but for Lady Berryl's strength of mind, and positive determination not to set out with her till Lord Colambre should arrive to explain. In the interval, poor Grace was, indeed, in an anxious state of suspense; and her uncertainty, whether she was doing right or wrong, by staying to see Lord Colambre, tormented her most.
"My dear, you cannot help yourself: be quiet," said Lady Berryl: "I will take the whole upon my conscience; and I hope my conscience may never have any thing worse to answer for."
Grace was the first person who, from her window, saw Lord Colambre, the instant the carriage drove to the door. She ran to her friend Lady Berryl's apartment. "He is come!—Now, take me away."
"Not yet, my sweet friend! Lie down upon this sofa, if you please; and keep yourself tranquil, whilst I go and see what you ought to do; and depend upon me for a true friend, in whose mind, as in your own, duty is the first object."
"I depend on you entirely," said Grace, sinking down on the sofa: "and you see I obey you!"
"Many thanks to you for lying down, when you can't stand."
Lady Berryl went to Lord Clonbrony's apartment; she was met by Sir Arthur. "Come, my love! come quick!—Lord Colambre is arrived."
"I know it; and does he go to Ireland? Speak instantly, that I may tell Grace Nugent."
"You can tell her nothing yet, my love; for we know nothing. Lord Colambre will not say a word till you come; but I know, by his countenance, that he has good and extraordinary news."
They passed rapidly along the passage to Lady Clonbrony's room.
"Oh, my dear, dear Lady Berryl, come! or I shall die with impatience," cried Lady Clonbrony, in a voice and manner between laughing and crying. "There, now you have congratulated, are very happy, and very glad, and all that—now, for mercy's sake, sit down, Lord Clonbrony! for Heaven's sake, sit down—beside me here—or any where! Now, Colambre, begin; and tell us all at once!"
But as nothing is so tedious as a twice told tale, Lord Colambre's narrative need not here be repeated. He began with Count O'Halloran's visit, immediately after Lady Clonbrony had left London; and went through the history of the discovery that Captain Reynolds was the husband of Miss St. Omar, and the father of Grace: the dying acknowledgment of his marriage; the packet delivered by Count O'Halloran to the careless ambassador—how recovered, by the assistance of his executor, Sir James Brooke; the travels from Wrestham to Toddrington, and thence to Red Lion-square; the interview with old Reynolds, and its final result: all was related as succinctly as the impatient curiosity of Lord Colambre's auditors could desire.
"Oh, wonder upon wonder! and joy upon joy!" cried Lady Clonbrony. "So my darling Grace is as legitimate as I am, and an heiress after all. Where is she? where is she? In your room, Lady Berryl?—Oh, Colambre! why wouldn't you let her be by?—Lady Berryl, do you know, he would not let me send for her, though she was the person of all others most concerned!"
"For that very reason, ma'am; and that Lord Colambre was quite right, I am sure you must be sensible, when you recollect, that Grace has no idea that she is not the daughter of Mr. Nugent: she has no suspicion that the breath of blame ever lighted upon her mother. This part of the story cannot be announced to her with too much caution; and, indeed, her mind has been so much harassed and agitated, and she is at present so far from strong, that great delicacy—."
"True! very true, Lady Berryl," interrupted Lady Clonbrony; "and I'll be as delicate as you please about it afterwards: but, in the first and foremost place, I must tell her the best part of the story—that she's an heiress; that never killed any body!"
So, darting through all opposition, Lady Clonbrony made her way into the room where Grace was lying—"Yes, get up! get up! my own Grace, and be surprised—well you may!—you are an heiress, after all."
"Am I, my dear aunt?" said Grace.
"True, as I'm Lady Clonbrony—and a very great heiress—and no more Colambre's cousin than Lady Berryl here. So now begin and love him as fast as you please—I give my consent—and here he is."
Lady Clonbrony turned to her son, who just appeared at the door.
"Ob, mother! what have you done?"
"What have I done?" cried Lady Clonbrony, following her son's eyes:—"Lord bless me!—Grace fainted dead—Lady Berryl! Oh, what have I done? My dear Lady Berryl, what shall we do?"
Lady Berryl hastened to her friend's assistance.
"There! her colour's coming again," said Lord Clonbrony; "come away, my dear Lady Clonbrony, for the present, and so will I—though I long to talk to the darling girl myself; but she is not equal to it yet."
When Grace came to herself, she first saw Lady Berryl leaning over her, and, raising herself a little, she said, "What has happened?—I don't know yet—I don't know whether I am happy or not.—Explain all this to me, my dear friend; for I am still as if I were in a dream."
With all the delicacy which Lady Clonbrony deemed superfluous, Lady Berryl explained. Nothing could surpass the astonishment of Grace, on first learning that Mr. Nugent was not her father. When she was told of the stigma that had been cast on her birth; the suspicions, the disgrace, to which her mother had been subjected for so many years—that mother, whom she had so loved and respected; who had, with such care, instilled into the mind of her daughter the principles of virtue and religion; that mother whom Grace had always seen the example of every virtue she taught; on whom her daughter never suspected that the touch of blame, the breath of scandal, could rest—Grace could express her sensations only by repeating, in tones of astonishment, pathos, indignation—"My mother!—my mother!—my mother!"
For some time she was incapable of attending to any other idea, or of feeling any other sensations. When her mind was able to admit the thought, her friend soothed her, by recalling the expressions of Lord Colambre's love—the struggle by which he had been agitated, when he fancied a union with her opposed by an invincible obstacle.
Grace sighed, and acknowledged that, in prudence, it ought to have been an invincible obstacle—she admired the firmness of his decision, the honour with which he had acted towards her. One moment she exclaimed, "Then, if I had been the daughter of a mother who had conducted herself ill, he never would have trusted me!" The next moment she recollected, with pleasure, the joy she had just seen in his eyes—the affection, the passion, that spoke in every word and look; then dwelt upon the sober certainty, that all obstacles were removed. "And no duty opposes my loving him!—And my aunt wishes it! my kind aunt! and my dear uncle! should not I go to him?—But he is not my uncle, she is not my aunt. I cannot bring myself to think that they are not my relations, and that I am nothing to them."
"You may be every thing to them, my dear Grace," said Lady Berryl:—"whenever you please, you may be their daughter."
Grace blushed, and smiled, and sighed, and was consoled. But then she recollected her new relation, Mr. Reynolds, her grandfather, whom she had never seen, who had for years disowned her—treated her mother with injustice. She could scarcely think of him with complacency: yet, when his age, his sufferings, his desolate state, were represented, she pitied him; and, faithful to her strong sense of duty, would have gone instantly to offer him every assistance and attention in her power. Lady Berryl assured her that Mr. Reynolds had positively forbidden her going to him; and that he had assured Lord Colambre he would not see her if she went to him. After such rapid and varied emotions, poor Grace desired repose, and her friend took care that it should be secured to her for the remainder of the day.
In the mean time, Lord Clonbrony had kindly and judiciously employed his lady in a discussion about certain velvet furniture, which Grace had painted for the drawing-room at Clonbrony Castle.
In Lady Clonbrony's mind, as in some bad paintings, there was no keeping; all objects, great and small, were upon the same level.
The moment her son entered the room, her ladyship exclaimed, "Every thing pleasant at once! Here's your father tells me, Grace's velvet furniture's all packed: really Soho's the best man in the world of his kind, and the cleverest—and so, after all, my dear Colambre, as I always hoped and prophesied, at last you will marry an heiress."
"And Terry," said Lord Clonbrony, "will win his wager from Mordicai."
"Terry!" repeated Lady Clonbrony, "that odious Terry!—I hope, my lord, that he is not to be one of my comforts in Ireland."
"No, my dear mother; he is much better provided for than we could have expected. One of my father's first objects was to prevent him from being any encumbrance to you. We consulted him as to the means of making him happy; and the knight acknowledged that he had long been casting a sheep's eye at a little snug place, that will soon be open in his native country—the chair of assistant barrister at the sessions. Assistant barrister!' said my father; 'but, my dear Terry, you have been all your life evading the laws, and very frequently breaking the peace; do you think this has qualified you peculiarly for being a guardian of the laws?' Sir Terence replied, 'Yes, sure; set a thief to catch a thief is no bad maxim. And did not Mr. Colquhoun, the Scotchman, get himself made a great justice, by his making all the world as wise as himself, about thieves of all sorts, by land and by water, and in the air too, where he detected the mud-larks?—And is not Barrington chief-justice of Botany Bay?"
"My father now began to be seriously alarmed, lest Sir Terence should insist upon his using his interest to make him an assistant barrister. He was not aware that five years' practice at the bar was a necessary accomplishment for this office; when, fortunately for all parties, my good friend, Count O'Halloran, helped us out of the difficulty, by starting an idea full of practical justice. A literary friend of the count's had been for some time promised a lucrative situation under government: but, unfortunately, he was a man of so much merit and ability, that they could not find employment for him at home, and they gave him a commission, I should rather say a contract abroad, for supplying the army with Hungarian horses. Now the gentleman had not the slightest skill in horse-flesh; and, as Sir Terence is a complete jockey, the count observed that he would be the best possible deputy for his literary friend. We warranted him to be a thorough going friend; and I do think the coalition will be well for both parties. The count has settled it all, and I left Sir Terence comfortably provided for, out of your way, my dear mother; and as happy as he could be, when parting from my father."
Lord Colambre was assiduous in engaging his mother's attention upon any subject, which could for the present draw her thoughts away from her young friend; but at every pause in the conversation, her ladyship repeated, "So Grace is an heiress after all—so, after all, they know they are not cousins! Well, I prefer Grace, a thousand times over, to any other heiress in England. No obstacle, no objection. They have my consent. I always prophesied Colambre would marry an heiress; but why not marry directly?"
Her ardour and impatience to hurry things forward seemed now likely to retard the accomplishment of her own wishes; and Lord Clonbrony, who understood rather more of the passion of love than his lady ever had felt or understood, saw the agony into which she threw her son, and felt for his darling Grace. With a degree of delicacy and address of which few would have supposed Lord Clonbrony capable, his lordship co-operated with his son in endeavouring to keep Lady Clonbrony quiet, and to suppress the hourly thanksgivings of Grace's turning out an heiress. On one point, however, she vowed she would not be overruled—she would have a splendid wedding at Clonbrony Castle, such as should become an heir and heiress; and the wedding, she hoped, would be immediately on their return to Ireland: she should announce the thing to her friends directly on her arrival at Clonbrony Castle.
"My dear," said Lord Clonbrony, "we must wait, in the first place, the pleasure of old Mr. Reynolds' fit of the gout."
"Why, that's true, because of his will," said her ladyship; "but a will's soon made, is not it? That can't be much delay."
"And then there must be settlements," said Lord Clonbrony; "they take time. Lovers, like all the rest of mankind, must submit to the law's delay. In the mean time, my dear, as these Buxton baths agree with you so well, and as Grace does not seem to be over and above strong for travelling a long journey, and as there are many curious and beautiful scenes of nature here in Derbyshire—Matlock, and the wonders of the Peak, and so on—which the young people would be glad to see together, and may not have another opportunity soon—why not rest ourselves a little? For another reason, too," continued his lordship, bringing together as many arguments as he could—for he had often found, that though Lady Clonbrony was a match for any single argument, her understanding could be easily overpowered by a number, of whatever sort—"besides, my dear, here's Sir Arthur and Lady Berryl come to Buxton on purpose to meet us; and we owe them some compliment, and something more than compliment, I think: so I don't see why we should be in a hurry to leave them, or quit Buxton—a few weeks sooner or later can't signify—and Clonbrony Castle will be getting all the while into better order for us. Burke is gone down there; and if we stay here quietly, there will be time for the velvet furniture to get there before us, and to be unpacked, and up in the drawing-room."
"That's true, my lord," said Lady Clonbrony; "and there is a great deal of reason in all you say—so I second that motion, as Colambre, I see, subscribes to it."
They stayed some time in Derbyshire, and every day Lord Clonbrony proposed some pleasant excursion, and contrived that the young people should be left to themselves, as Mrs. Broadhurst used so strenuously to advise; the recollection of whose authoritative maxims fortunately still operated upon Lady Clonbrony, to the great ease and advantage of the lovers.
Happy as a lover, a friend, a son; happy in the consciousness of having restored a father to respectability, and persuaded a mother to quit the feverish joys of fashion for the pleasures of domestic life; happy in the hope of winning the whole heart of the woman he loved, and whose esteem, he knew, he possessed and deserved; happy in developing every day, every hour, fresh charms in his destined bride—we leave our hero, returning to his native country.
And we leave him with the reasonable expectation that he will support through life the promise of his early character; that his patriotic views will extend with his power to carry wishes into action; that his attachment to his warm-hearted countrymen will still increase upon further acquaintance; and that he will long diffuse happiness through the wide circle, which is peculiarly subject to the influence and example of a great resident Irish proprietor.
LETTER FROM LARRY TO HIS BROTHER, PAT BRADY, AT MR. MORDICAI'S, COACH MAKER, LONDON.
"MY DEAR BROTHER,
"Yours of the 16th, enclosing the five pound note for my father, came safe to hand Monday last; and with his thanks and blessing to you, he commends it to you herewith enclosed back again, on account of his being in no immediate necessity, nor likelihood to want in future, as you shall hear forthwith; but wants you over with all speed, and the note will answer for travelling charges; for we can't enjoy the luck it has pleased God to give us, without yees; put the rest in your pocket, and read it when you've time.
"Old Nick's gone, and St. Dennis along with him, to the place he come from—praise be to God! The ould lord has found him out in his tricks; and I helped him to that, through the young lord that I driv, as I informed you in my last, when he was a Welshman, which was the best turn ever I did, though I did not know it no more than Adam that time. So Ould Nick's turned out of the agency clean and clear; and the day after it was known, there was surprising great joy through the whole country; not surprising, either, but just what you might, knowing him, rasonably expect. He (that is, Old Nick and St. Dennis) would have been burnt that night—I mane, in effigy, through the town of Clonbrony, but that the new man, Mr. Burke, came down that day too soon to stop it, and said, 'it was not becoming to trample on the fallen,' or something that way, that put an end to it; and though it was a great disappointment to many, and to me in particular, I could not but like the jantleman the better for it any how. They say he is a very good jantleman, and as unlike Old Nick or the saint as can be; and takes no duty fowl, nor glove, nor sealing money; nor asks duty work nor duty turf. Well, when I was disappointed of the effigy, I comforted myself by making a bonfire of Old Nick's big rick of duty turf, which, by great luck, was out in the road, away from all dwelling-house, or thatch, or yards, to take fire: so no danger in life, or objection. And such another blaze! I wished you'd seed it—and all the men, women, and children, in the town and country, far and near, gathered round it, shouting and dancing like mad!—and it was light as day quite across the bog, as far as Hartley Finnigan's house. And I heard after, they seen it from all parts of the three counties, and they thought it was St. John's Eve in a mistake—or couldn't make out what it was; but all took it in good part, for a good sign, and were in great joy. As for St. Dennis and Ould Nick, an attorney had his foot upon 'em with an habere, a latitat, and three executions hanging over 'em: and there's the end of rogues! and a great example in the country. And—no more about it; for I can't be wasting more ink upon them that don't deserve it at my hands, when I want it for them that do, as you shall see. So some weeks past, and there was great cleaning at Clonbrony Castle, and in the town of Clonbrony; and the new agent's smart and clever: and he had the glaziers, and the painters, and the slaters, up and down in the town wherever wanted; and you wouldn't know it again. Thinks I, this is no bad sign! Now, cock up your ears, Pat! for the great news is coming, and the good. The master's come home, long life to him! and family come home yesterday, all entirely! The ould lord and the young lord, (ay, there's the man, Paddy!) and my lady, and Miss Nugent. And I driv Miss Nugent's maid and another; so I had the luck to be in it along wid 'em, and see all, from first to last. And first, I must tell you, my young Lord Colambre remembered and noticed me the minute he lit at our inn, and condescended to beckon me out of the yard to him, and axed me—' Friend Larry,' says he, 'did you keep your promise?'—'My oath again the whiskey, is it?' says I. 'My lord, I surely did,' said I; which was true, as all the country knows I never tasted a drop since. 'And I'm proud to see your honour, my lord, as good as your word, too, and back again among us.' So then there was a call for the horses; and no more at that time passed betwix' my young lord and me, but that he pointed me out to the ould one, as I went off. I noticed and thanked him for it in my heart, though I did not know all the good was to come of it. Well, no more of myself, for the present.
"Ogh, it's I driv 'em well; and we all got to the great gate of the park before sunset, and as fine an evening as ever you see; with the sun shining on the tops of the trees, as the ladies noticed; the leaves changed, but not dropped, though so late in the season. I believe the leaves knew what they were about, and kept on, on purpose to welcome them; and the birds were singing, and I stopped whistling, that they might hear them; but sorrow bit could they hear when they got to the park gate, for there was such a crowd, and such a shout, as you never see—and they had the horses off every carriage entirely, and drew 'em home, with blessings, through the park. And, God bless 'em! when they got out, they didn't go shut themselves up in the great drawing-room, but went straight out to the tirrass, to satisfy the eyes and hearts that followed them. My lady laning on my young lord, and Miss Grace Nugent that was, the beautifullest angel that ever you set eyes on, with the finest complexion, and sweetest of smiles, laning upon the ould lord's arm, who had his hat off, bowing to all, and noticing the old tenants as he passed by name. Oh, there was great gladness and tears in the midst; for joy I could scarce keep from myself.
"After a turn or two upon the tirrass, my Lord Colambre quit his mother's arm for a minute, and he come to the edge of the slope, and looked down and through all the crowd for some one.
"'Is it the Widow O'Neil, my lord?' says I; 'she's yonder, with the white kerchief, betwixt her son and daughter, as usual.'
"Then my lord beckoned, and they did not know which of the tree would stir; and then he gave tree beckons with his own finger, and they all tree came fast enough to the bottom of the slope forenent my lord: and he went down and helped the widow up, (oh, he's the true jantleman!) and brought 'em all tree up on the tirrass, to my lady and Miss Nugent; and I was up close after, that I might hear, which wasn't manners, but I couldn't help it. So what he said I don't well know, for I could not get near enough, after all. But I saw my lady smile very kind, and take the Widow O'Neil by the hand, and then my Lord Colambre 'troduced Grace to Miss Nugent, and there was the word namesake, and something about a check curtain; but, whatever it was, they was all greatly pleased: then my Lord Colambre turned and looked for Brian, who had fell back, and took him, with some commendation, to my lord his father. And my lord the master said, which I didn't know till after, that they should have their house and farm at the ould rent; and at the surprise, the widow dropped down dead; and there was a cry as for ten berrings. 'Be qui'te,' says I, 'she's only kilt for joy;' and I went and lift her up, for her son had no more strength that minute than the child new born; and Grace trembled like a leaf, as white as the sheet, but not long, for the mother came to, and was as well as ever when I brought some water, which Miss Nugent handed to her with her own hand.
"'That was always pretty and good,' said the widow, laying her hand upon Miss Nugent, 'and kind and good to me and mine.'
"That minute there was music from below. The blind harper, O'Neil, with his harp, that struck up 'Gracey Nugent.'
"And that finished, and my Lord Colambre smiling, with the tears standing in his eyes too, and the ould lord quite wiping his, I ran to the tirrass brink to bid O'Neil play it again; but as I run, I thought I heard a voice call 'Larry!'
"'Who calls Larry?' says I.
"'My Lord Colambre calls you, Larry,' says all at once; and four takes me by the shoulders and spins me round. 'There's my young lord calling you, Larry—run for your life.'
"So I run back for my life, and walked respectful, with my hat in my hand, when I got near.
"'Put on your hat, my father desires it,' says my Lord Colambre. The ould lord made a sign to that purpose, but was too full to speak. 'Where's your father?' continues my young lord. 'He's very ould, my lord,' says I.—' I didn't ax you how ould he was,' says he; 'but where is he?'—'He's behind the crowd below, on account of his infirmities; he couldn't walk so fast as the rest, my lord,' says I; 'but his heart is with you, if not his body.'—'I must have his body too: so bring him bodily before us; and this shall be your warrant for so doing,' said my lord, joking: for he knows the natur of us, Paddy, and how we love a joke in our hearts, as well as if he had lived all his life in Ireland; and by the same token will, for that rason, do what he pleases with us, and more may be than a man twice as good, that never would smile on us.
"But I'm telling you of my father. 'I've a warrant for you, father,' says I; 'and must have you bodily before the justice, and my lord chief justice.' So he changed colour a bit at first; but he saw me smile. 'And I've done no sin,' said he; 'and, Larry, you may lead me now, as you led me all my life.'
"And up the slope he went with me as light as fifteen; and when we got up, my Lord Clonbrony said, 'I am sorry an old tenant, and a good old tenant, as I hear you were, should have been turned out of your farm.'
"'Don't fret, it's no great matter, my lord,' said my father. 'I shall be soon out of the way; but if you would be so kind to speak a word for my boy here, and that I could afford, while the life is in me, to bring my other boy back out of banishment.'
"'Then,' says my Lord Clonbrony, 'I'll give you and your sons three lives, or thirty-one years, from this day, of your former farm. Return to it when you please. And,' added my Lord Clonbrony, 'the flaggers, I hope, will be soon banished.' Oh, how could I thank him—not a word could I proffer—but I know I clasped my two hands, and prayed for him inwardly. And my father was dropping down on his knees, but the master would not let him; and obsarved that posture should only be for his God. And, sure enough, in that posture, when he was out of sight, we did pray for him that night, and will all our days.
"But, before we quit his presence, he called me back, and bid me write to my brother, and bring you back, if you've no objections, to your own country.
"So come, my dear Pat, and make no delay, for joy's not joy complate till you're in it—my father sends his blessing, and Peggy her love. The family entirely is to settle for good in Ireland, and there was in the castle yard last night a bonfire made by my lord's orders of the ould yellow damask furniture, to plase my lady, my lord says. And the drawing-room, the butler was telling me, is new hung; and the chairs with velvet as white as snow, and shaded over with natural flowers by Miss Nugent. Oh! how I hope what I guess will come true, and I've rason to believe it will, for I dreamt in my bed last night it did. But keep yourself to yourself—that Miss Nugent (who is no more Miss Nugent, they say, but Miss Reynolds, and has a new-found grandfather, and is a big heiress, which she did not want in my eyes, nor in my young lord's), I've a notion, will be sometime, and may be sooner than is expected, my Lady Viscountess Colambre—so haste to the wedding. And there's another thing: they say the rich ould grandfather's coming over;—and another thing, Pat, you would not be out of the fashion—and you see it's growing the fashion not to be an Absentee.
"Your loving brother,
MADAME DE FLEURY
"There oft are heard the notes of infant woe, The short thick sob, loud scream, and shriller squall. How can you, mothers, vex your infants so?"—POPE.
"D'abord, madame, c'est impossible!—Madame ne descendra pas ici?" said Francois, the footman of Mad. de Fleury, with a half expostulatory, half indignant look, as he let down the step of her carriage at the entrance of a dirty passage, that led to one of the most miserable-looking houses in Paris.
[Footnote 1: In the first place, my lady, it is impossible! Surely my lady will not get out of her carriage here?]
"But what can be the cause of the cries which I hear in this house?" said Mad. de Fleury.
"'Tis only some child, who is crying," replied Francois: and he would have put up the step, but his lady was not satisfied.
"'Tis nothing in the world," continued he, with a look of appeal to the coachman, "it can be nothing, but some children, who are locked up there above. The mother, the workwoman my lady wants, is not at home, that's certain."
"I must know the cause of these cries; I must see these children," said Mad. de Fleury, getting out of her carriage.
Francois held his arm for his lady as she got out.
"Bon!" cried he, with an air of vexation. "Si madame la veut absolument, a la bonne heure!—Mais madame sera abimee. Madame verra que j'ai raison. Madame ne montera jamais ce vilain escalier. D'ailleurs c'est an cinquieme. Mais, madame, c'est impossible."
[Footnote 1: To be sure it must be as my lady pleases—but my lady will find it terribly dirty!—my Lady will find I was right—my lady will never get up that shocking staircase—it is impossible!]
Notwithstanding the impossibility, Mad. de Fleury proceeded; and bidding her talkative footman wait in the entry, made her way up the dark, dirty, broken staircase, the sound of the cries increasing every instant, till, as she reached the fifth story, she heard the shrieks of one in violent pain. She hastened to the door of the room from which the cries proceeded; the door was fastened, and the noise was so great, that though she knocked as loud as she was able, she could not immediately make herself heard. At last the voice of a child from within answered, "The door is locked—mamma has the key in her pocket, and won't be home till night; and here's Victoire has tumbled from the top of the big press, and it is she that is shrieking so."
Mad. de Fleury ran down the stairs which she had ascended with so much difficulty, called to her footman, who was waiting in the entry, despatched him for a surgeon, and then she returned to obtain from some people who lodged in the house assistance to force open the door of the room in which the children were confined.
On the next floor there was a smith at work, filing so earnestly that he did not hear the screams of the children. When his door was pushed open, and the bright vision of Mad. de Fleury appeared to him, his astonishment was so great that he seemed incapable of comprehending what she said. In a strong provincial accent he repeated, "Plait-il?" and stood aghast till she had explained herself three times: then suddenly exclaiming, "Ah! c'est ca!"—he collected his tools precipitately, and followed to obey her orders. The door of the room was at last forced half open, for a press that had been overturned prevented its opening entirely. The horrible smells that issued did not overcome Mad. de Fleury's humanity: she squeezed her way into the room, and behind the fallen press saw three little children: the youngest, almost an infant, ceased roaring, and ran to a corner: the eldest, a boy of about eight years old, whose face and clothes were covered with blood, held on his knee a girl younger than himself, whom he was trying to pacify, but who struggled most violently, and screamed incessantly, regardless of Mad. de Fleury, to whose questions she made no answer.
"Where are you hurt, my dear?" repeated Mad. de Fleury in a soothing voice. "Only tell me where you feel pain?"
The boy, showing his sister's arm, said, in a surly tone—"It is this that is hurt—but it was not I did it."
"It was, it was," cried the girl as loud as she could vociferate: "it was Maurice threw me down from the top of the press."
"No—it was you that were pushing me, Victoire, and you fell backwards.—Have done screeching, and show your arm to the lady."
"I can't," said the girl.
"She won't," said the boy.
"She cannot," said Mad. de Fleury, kneeling down to examine it. "She cannot move it: I am afraid that it is broken."
"Don't touch it! don't touch it!" cried the girl, screaming more violently.
"Ma'am, she screams that way for nothing often," said the boy. "Her arm is no more broke than mine, I'm sure; she'll move it well enough when she's not cross."
"I am afraid," said Mad. de Fleury, "that her arm is broken."
"Is it indeed?" said the boy, with a look of terror.
"Oh! don't touch it—you'll kill me, you are killing me," screamed the poor girl, whilst Mad. de Fleury with the greatest care endeavoured to join the bones in their proper place, and resolved to hold the arm till the arrival of the surgeon.
From the feminine appearance of this lady, no stranger would have expected such resolution; but with all the natural sensibility and graceful delicacy of her sex, she had none of that weakness or affectation, which incapacitates from being useful in real distress. In most sudden accidents, and in all domestic misfortunes, female resolution and presence of mind are indispensably requisite: safety, health, and life, often depend upon the fortitude of women. Happy they, who, like Mad. de Fleury, possess strength of mind united with the utmost gentleness of manner and tenderness of disposition!
Soothed by this lady's sweet voice, the child's rage subsided; and no longer struggling, the poor little girl sat quietly on her lap, sometimes writhing and moaning with pain.
The surgeon at length arrived: her arm was set: and he said, "that she had probably been saved much future pain by Mad. de Fleury's presence of mind."
"Sir,—will it soon be well?" said Maurice to the surgeon.
"Oh, yes, very soon, I dare say," said the little girl. "To-morrow, perhaps; for now that it is tied up, it does not hurt me to signify—and after all, I do believe, Maurice, it was not you threw me down."
As she spoke, she held up her face to kiss her brother.—"That is right," said Mad. de Fleury; "there is a good sister."
The little girl put out her lips, offering a second kiss, but the boy turned hastily away to rub the tears from his eyes with the back of his hand.
"I am not cross now: am I, Maurice?" said she.
"No, Victoire, I was cross myself when I said that."
As Victoire was going to speak again, the surgeon imposed silence, observing that she must be put to bed, and should be kept quiet. Mad. de Fleury laid her upon the bed, as soon as Maurice had cleared it of the things with which it was covered; and as they were spreading the ragged blanket over the little girl, she whispered a request to Mad. de Fleury, that she would "stay till her mamma came home, to beg Maurice off from being whipped, if mamma should be angry."
Touched by this instance of goodness, and compassionating the desolate condition of these children, Mad. de Fleury complied with Victoire's request; resolving to remonstrate with their mother for leaving them locked up in this manner. They did not know to what part of the town their mother was gone; they could tell only, "that she was to go to a great many different places to carry back work, and to bring home more; and that she expected to be in by five." It was now half after four.
Whilst Mad. de Fleury waited, she asked the boy to give her a full account of the manner in which the accident had happened.
"Why, ma'am," said Maurice, twisting and untwisting a ragged handkerchief as he spoke, "the first beginning of all the mischief was, we had nothing to do; so we went to the ashes to make dirt pies: but Babet would go so close that she burnt her petticoat, and threw about all our ashes, and plagued us, and we whipped her: but all would not do, she would not be quiet; so to get out of her reach, we climbed up by this chair on the table to the top of the press, and there we were well enough for a little while, till somehow we began to quarrel about the old scissors, and we struggled hard for them till I got this cut."
Here he unwound the handkerchief, and for the first time showed the wound, which he had never mentioned before.
"Then," continued he, "when I got the cut, I shoved Victoire, and she pushed at me again, and I was keeping her off, and her foot slipped, and down she fell; and caught by the press-door, and pulled it and me after her, and that's all I know."
"It is well that you were not both killed," said Mad. de Fleury. "Are you often left locked up in this manner by yourselves, and without any thing to do?"
"Yes, always, when mamma is abroad—except sometimes we are let out upon the stairs, or in the street; but mamma says we get into mischief there."
This dialogue was interrupted by the return of the mother. She came up stairs slowly, much fatigued, and with a heavy bundle under her arm.
"How now! Maurice, how comes my door open? What's all this?" cried she, in an angry voice; but seeing a lady sitting upon her child's bed, she stopped short in great astonishment. Mad. de Fleury related what had happened, and averted her anger from Maurice, by gently expostulating upon the hardship and hazard of leaving her young children in this manner during so many hours of the day.
"Why, my lady," replied the poor woman, wiping her forehead, "every hard-working woman in Paris does the same with her children; and what can I do else? I must earn bread for these helpless ones, and to do that I must be out backwards and forwards, and to the furthest parts of the town, often from morning till night, with those that employ me; and I cannot afford to send the children to school, or to keep any kind of a servant to look after them; and when I'm away, if I let them run about these stairs and entries, or go into the streets, they do get a little exercise and air to be sure, such as it is; on which account I do let them out sometimes; but then a deal of mischief comes of that, too—they learn all kinds of wickedness, and would grow up to be no better than pickpockets, if they were let often to consort with the little vagabonds they find in the streets. So what to do better for them I don't know."
The poor mother sat down upon the fallen press, looked at Victoire, and wept bitterly. Mad. de Fleury was struck with compassion: but she did not satisfy her feelings merely by words or comfort, or by the easy donation of some money—she resolved to do something more, and something better.
"Come often, then; for haply in my bow'r Amusement, knowledge, wisdom, thou may'st gain: If I one soul improve, I have not lived in vain."
It is not so easy to do good as those who have never attempted it may imagine; and they who without consideration follow the mere instinct of pity, often by their imprudent generosity create evils more pernicious to society than any which they partially remedy. "Warm Charity, the general friend," may become the general enemy, unless she consults her head as well as her heart. Whilst she pleases herself with the idea that she daily feeds hundreds of the poor, she is perhaps preparing want and famine for thousands. Whilst she delights herself with the anticipation of gratitude for her bounties, she is often exciting only unreasonable expectations, inducing habits of dependence, and submission to slavery.
Those who wish to do good should attend to experience, from whom they may receive lessons upon the largest scale that time and numbers can afford.
Mad. de Fleury was aware that neither a benevolent disposition nor a large fortune were sufficient to enable her to be of real service, without the constant exercise of her judgment. She had therefore listened with deference to the conversation of well-informed men upon those subjects on which ladies have not always the means or the wish to acquire extensive and accurate knowledge. Though a Parisian belle, she had read with attention some of those books which are generally thought too dry or too deep for her sex. Consequently her benevolence was neither wild in theory, nor precipitate nor ostentatious in practice.
Touched with compassion for a little girl, whose arm had been accidentally broken, and shocked by the discovery of the confinement and the dangers to which numbers of children in Paris were doomed, she did not make a parade of her sensibility. She did not talk of her feelings in fine sentences to a circle of opulent admirers, nor did she project for the relief of the little sufferers some magnificent establishment, which she could not execute or superintend. She was contented with attempting only what she had reasonable hopes of accomplishing.
The gift of education she believed to be more advantageous than the gift of money to the poor; as it ensures the means both of future subsistence and happiness. But the application even of this incontrovertible principle requires caution and judgment. To crowd numbers of children into a place called a school, to abandon them to the management of any person called a schoolmaster or a schoolmistress, is not sufficient to secure the blessings of a good education. Mad. de Fleury was sensible that the greatest care is necessary in the choice of the person to whom young children are to be intrusted: she knew that only a certain number can be properly directed by one superintendent; and that by attempting to do too much, she might do nothing, or worse than nothing. Her school was formed, therefore, on a small scale, which she could enlarge to any extent, if it should be found to succeed. From some of the families of poor people, who in earning their bread are obliged to spend most of the day from home, she selected twelve little girls, of whom Victoire was the eldest, and she was between six and seven.
The person under whose care Mad. de Fleury wished to place these children was a nun of the Soeurs de la Charite, with whose simplicity of character, benevolence, and mild, steady temper, she was thoroughly acquainted. Sister Frances was delighted with the plan. Any scheme that promised to be of service to her fellow-creatures was sure of meeting with her approbation; but this suited her taste peculiarly, because she was extremely fond of children. No young person had ever boarded six months at her convent without becoming attached to good Sister Frances.
The period of which we are writing was some years before convents were abolished; but the strictness of their rules had in many instances been considerably relaxed. Without much difficulty, permission was obtained from the abbess for our nun to devote her time during the day to the care of these poor children, upon condition that she should regularly return to her convent every night before evening prayers. The house which Mad. de Fleury chose for her little school was in an airy part of the town; it did not face the street, but was separated from other buildings at the back of a court, retired from noise and bustle. The two rooms intended for the occupation of the children were neat and clean, but perfectly simple, with whitewashed walls, furnished only with wooden stools and benches, and plain deal tables. The kitchen was well lighted (for light is essential to cleanliness), and it was provided with utensils; and for these appropriate places were allotted, to give the habit and the taste of order. The school-room opened into a garden larger than is usually seen in towns. The nun, who had been accustomed to purchase provisions for her convent, undertook to prepare daily for the children breakfast and dinner; they were to sup and sleep at their respective homes. Their parents were to take them to Sister Frances every morning, when they went out to work, and to call for them upon their return home every evening. By this arrangement, the natural ties of affection and intimacy between the children and their parents would not be loosened; they would be separate only at the time when their absence must be inevitable. Mad. de Fleury thought that any education which estranges children entirely from their parents must be fundamentally erroneous; that such a separation must tend to destroy that sense of filial affection and duty, and those principles of domestic subordination, on which so many of the interests, and much of the virtue and happiness, of society depend. The parents of these poor children were eager to trust them to her care, and they strenuously endeavoured to promote what they perceived to be entirely to their advantage. They promised to take their daughters to school punctually every morning—a promise which was likely to be kept, as a good breakfast was to be ready at a certain hour, and not to wait for any body. The parents looked forward with pleasure also to the idea of calling for their little girls at the end of their day's labour, and of taking them home to their family supper. During the intermediate hours, the children were constantly to be employed, or in exercise. It was difficult to provide suitable employments for their early age; but even the youngest of those admitted could be taught to wind balls of cotton, thread, and silk, for haberdashers; or they could shell peas and beans, &c. for a neighbouring traiteur; or they could weed in a garden. The next in age could learn knitting and plain-work, reading, writing, and arithmetic. As the girls should grow up, they were to be made useful in the care of the house. Sister Frances said she could teach them to wash and iron, and that she would make them as skilful in cookery as she was herself. This last was doubtless a rash promise; for in most of the mysteries of the culinary art, especially in the medical branches of it, in making savoury messes palatable to the sick, few could hope to equal the neat-handed Sister Frances. She had a variety of other accomplishments; but her humility and good sense forbade her, upon the present occasion, to mention these. She said nothing of embroidery, or of painting, or of cutting out paper, or of carving in ivory, though in all these she excelled: her cuttings-out in paper were exquisite as the finest lace; her embroidered housewives, and her painted boxes, and her fan-mounts, and her curiously wrought ivory toys, had obtained for her the highest reputation in the convent, amongst the best judges in the world. Those only who have philosophically studied and thoroughly understand the nature of fame and vanity can justly appreciate the self-denial, or magnanimity, of Sister Frances, in forbearing to enumerate or boast of these things. She alluded to them but once, and in the slightest and most humble manner.
"These little creatures are too young for us to think of teaching them any thing but plain-work at present; but if hereafter any of them should show a superior genius, we can cultivate it properly! Heaven has been pleased to endow me with the means—at least our convent says so."
The actions of Sister Frances showed as much moderation as her words; for though she was strongly tempted to adorn her new dwelling with those specimens of her skill, which had long been the glory of her apartment in the convent, yet she resisted the impulse, and contented herself with hanging over the chimney-piece of her school-room a Madonna of her own painting.
The day arrived when she was to receive her pupils in their new habitation. When the children entered the room for the first time, they paid the Madonna the homage of their unfeigned admiration. Involuntarily the little crowd stopped short at the sight of the picture. Some dormant emotions of human vanity were now awakened—played for a moment about the heart of Sister Frances—and may be forgiven. Her vanity was innocent and transient, her benevolence permanent and useful. Repressing the vain-glory of an artist, as she fixed her eyes upon the Madonna, her thoughts rose to higher objects, and she seized this happy moment to impress upon the minds of her young pupils their first religious ideas and feelings. There was such unaffected piety in her manner, such goodness in her countenance, such persuasion in her voice, and simplicity in her words, that the impression she made was at once serious, pleasing, and not to be effaced. Much depends upon the moment and the manner in which the first notions of religion are communicated to children: if these ideas be connected with terror, and produced when the mind is sullen or in a state of dejection, the future religious feelings are sometimes of a gloomy, dispiriting sort; but if the first impression be made when the heart is expanded by hope or touched by affection, these emotions are happily and permanently associated with religion. This should be particularly attended to by those who undertake the instruction of the children of the poor, who must lead a life of labour, and can seldom have leisure or inclination when arrived at years of discretion, to re-examine the principles early infused into their minds. They cannot in their riper age conquer by reason those superstitious terrors, or bigoted prejudices, which render their victims miserable or perhaps criminal. To attempt to rectify any errors in the foundation after an edifice has been constructed, is dangerous: the foundation, therefore, should be laid with care. The religious opinions of Sister Frances were strictly united with just rules of morality, strongly enforcing, as the essential means of obtaining present and future happiness, the practice of the social virtues; so that no good or wise persons, however they might differ from her in modes of faith, could doubt the beneficial influence of her general principles, or disapprove of the manner in which they were inculcated.
Detached from every other worldly interest, this benevolent nun devoted all her earthly thoughts to the children of whom she had undertaken the charge. She watched over them with unceasing vigilance, whilst diffidence of her own abilities was happily supported by her high opinion of Mad. de Fleury's judgment. This lady constantly visited her pupils every week; not in the hasty, negligent manner in which fine ladies sometimes visit charitable institutions, imagining that the honour of their presence is to work miracles, and that every thing will go on rightly when they have said, "Let it be so," or, "I must have it so." Mad. de Fleury's visits were not of this dictatorial or cursory nature. Not minutes, but hours, she devoted to these children—she who could charm by the grace of her manners, and delight by the elegance of her conversation, the most polished circles and the best-informed societies of Paris, preferred to the glory of being admired the pleasure of being useful—
"Her life, as lovely as her face, Each duty mark'd with every grace; Her native sense improved by reading, Her native sweetness by good-breeding."
[Footnote 1: It was of this lady that Marmontel said—"She has the art of making the most common thoughts appear new, and the most uncommon simple, by the elegance and clearness of her expressions."]
"Ah me! how much I fear lest pride it be; But if that pride it be, which thus inspires, Beware, ye dames! with nice discernment see Ye quench not too the sparks of nobler fires."
By repeated observation, and by attending to the minute reports of Sister Frances, Mad. de Fleury soon became acquainted with the habits and temper of each individual in this little society. The most intelligent and the most amiable of these children was Victoire. Whence her superiority arose, whether her abilities were naturally more vivacious than those of her companions, or whether they had been more early developed by accidental excitation, we cannot pretend to determine, lest we should involve ourselves in the intricate question respecting natural genius—a metaphysical point, which we shall not in this place stop to discuss. Till the world has an accurate philosophical dictionary (a work not to be expected in less than half a dozen centuries), this question will never be decided to general satisfaction. In the mean time, we may proceed with our story.
Deep was the impression made on Victoire's heart by the kindness that Mad. de Fleury showed her at the time her arm was broken; and her gratitude was expressed with all the enthusiastic fondness of childhood. Whenever she spoke or heard of Mad. de Fleury, her countenance became interested, and animated, in a degree that would have astonished a cool English spectator. Every morning her first question to Sister Frances was—"Will she come to-day?"—If Mad. de Fleury was expected, the hours and the minutes were counted, and the sand in the hourglass that stood on the school-room table was frequently shaken. The moment she appeared, Victoire ran to her, and was silent; satisfied with standing close beside her, holding her gown when unperceived, and watching, as she spoke and moved, every turn of her countenance. Delighted by these marks of sensibility, Sister Frances would have praised the child, but was warned by Mad. de Fleury to refrain from injudicious eulogiums, lest she should teach her affectation.
"If I must not praise, you will permit me at least to love her," said Sister Frances.
Her affection for Victoire was increased by compassion: during two months the poor child's arm hung in a sling, so that she could not venture to play with her companions. At their hours of recreation, she used to sit on the school-room steps, looking down into the garden at the scene of merriment, in which she could not partake.
For those who know how to find it, there is good in every thing. Sister Frances used to take her seat on the steps, sometimes with her work, and sometimes with a book; and Victoire, tired of being quite idle, listened with eagerness to the stories which Sister Frances read, or watched with interest the progress of her work: soon she longed to imitate what she saw done with so much pleasure, and begged to be taught to work and read. By degrees she learned her alphabet; and could soon, to the amazement of her schoolfellows, read the names of all the animals in Sister Frances' picture-book. No matter how trifling the thing done, or the knowledge acquired, a great point is gained by giving the desire for employment. Children frequently become industrious from impatience of the pains and penalties of idleness. Count Rumford showed that he understood childish nature perfectly well, when, in his House of Industry at Munich, he compelled the young children to sit for some time idle in a gallery round the hall, where others a little older than themselves were busied at work. During Victoire's state of idle convalescence, she acquired the desire to be employed, and she consequently soon became more industrious than her neighbours. Succeeding in her first efforts, she was praised—was pleased, and persevered till she became an example of activity to her companions. But Victoire, though now nearly seven years old, was not quite perfect. Naturally, or accidentally, she was very passionate, and not a little self-willed.
One day being mounted, horsemanlike, with whip in hand, upon the banister of the flight of stairs leading from the school-room to the garden, she called in a tone of triumph to her playfellows, desiring them to stand out of the way, and see her slide from top to bottom. At this moment Sister Frances came to the school-room door, and forbade the feat: but Victoire, regardless of all prohibition, slid down instantly, and moreover was going to repeat the glorious operation, when Sister Frances, catching hold of her arm, pointed to a heap of sharp stones that lay on the ground upon the other side of the banisters.
"I am not afraid," said Victoire.
"But if you fall there, you may break your arm again."
"And if I do I can bear it," said Victoire. "Let me go, pray let me go: I must do it."
"No; I forbid you, Victoire, to slide down again!—Babet, and all the little ones, would follow your example, and perhaps break their necks."
The nun, as she spoke, attempted to compel Victoire to dismount: but she was so much of a heroine, that she would do nothing upon compulsion. Clinging fast to the banisters, she resisted with all her might; she kicked and screamed, and screamed and kicked; but at last her feet were taken prisoners; then grasping the railway with one hand, with the other she brandished high the little whip.
"What!" said the mild nun, "would you strike me with that arm?"
The arm dropped instantly—Victoire recollected Mad. de Fleury's kindness the day when the arm was broken: dismounting immediately, she threw herself upon her knees in the midst of the crowd of young spectators, and begged pardon of Sister Frances. For the rest of the day she was as gentle as a lamb; nay, some assert that the effects of her contrition were visible during the remainder of the week.
Having thus found the secret of reducing the little rebel to obedience by touching her on the tender point of gratitude, the nun had recourse to this expedient in all perilous cases: but one day, when she was boasting of the infallible operation of her charm, Mad. de Fleury advised her to forbear recurring to it frequently, lest she should wear out the sensibility she so much loved. In consequence of this counsel, Victoire's violence of temper was sometimes reduced by force, and sometimes corrected by reason; but the principle and the feeling of gratitude were not exhausted or weakened in the struggle. The hope of reward operated upon her generous mind more powerfully than the fear of punishment; and Mad. de Fleury devised rewards with as much ability as some legislators invent punishments.
Victoire's brother Maurice, who was now of an age to earn his own bread, had a strong desire to be bound apprentice to the smith who worked in the house where his mother lodged. This most ardent wish of his soul he had imparted to his sister: and she consulted her benefactress, whom she considered as all-powerful in this, as in every other affair.
"Your brother's wish shall be gratified," replied Mad. de Fleury, "if you can keep your temper one month. If you are never in a passion for a whole month, I will undertake that your brother shall be bound apprentice to his friend the smith. To your companions, to Sister Frances, and above all to yourself, I trust, to make me a just report this day month."
"You she preferr'd to all the gay resorts, Where female vanity might wish to shine, The pomp of cities, and the pride of courts."
At the end of the time prescribed, the judges, including Victoire herself, who was the most severe of them all, agreed she had justly deserved her reward. Maurice obtained his wish; and Victoire's temper never relapsed into its former bad habits—so powerful is the effect of a well-chosen motive!—Perhaps the historian may be blamed for dwelling on such trivial anecdotes; yet a lady, who was accustomed to the conversation of deep philosophers and polished courtiers, listened without disdain to these simple annals. Nothing appeared to her a trifle that could tend to form the habits of temper, truth, honesty, order, and industry;—habits which are to be early induced, not by solemn precepts, but by practical lessons. A few more examples of these shall be recorded, notwithstanding the fear of being tiresome.
One day little Babet, who was now five years old, saw, as she was coming to school, an old woman, sitting at a corner of the street, beside a large black brazier full of roasted chestnuts. Babet thought that the chestnuts looked and smelled very good; the old woman was talking earnestly to some people, who were on her other side; Babet filled her work-bag with chestnuts, and then ran after her mother and sister, who, having turned the corner of the street, had not seen what passed. When Babet came to the school-room, she opened her bag with triumph, displayed her treasure, and offered to divide it with her companions. "Here, Victoire," said she, "here is the largest chestnut for you."
But Victoire would not take it; for she said that Babet had no money, and that she could not have come honestly by these chestnuts. She spoke so forcibly upon this point, that even those who had the tempting morsel actually at their lips, forbore to bite; those who had bitten laid down their half-eaten prize; and those who had their hands full of chestnuts, rolled them, back again towards the bag, Babet cried with vexation.
"I burned my fingers in getting them for you, and now you won't eat them!—And I must not eat them!" said she: then curbing her passion, she added, "But at any rate, I won't be a thief. I am sure I did not think it was being a thief just to, take a few chestnuts from an old woman, who had such heaps and heaps: but Victoire says it is wrong, and I would not be a thief for all the chestnuts in the world—I'll throw them all into the fire this minute!"
"No; give them back again to the old woman," said Victoire.
"But, may be, she would scold me for having taken them," said Babet; "or who knows but she might whip me?"
"And if she did, could not you bear it?" said Victoire: "I am sure I would rather bear twenty whippings than be a thief."
"Twenty whippings! that's a great many," said Babet; "and I am so little, consider—and that woman has such a monstrous arm!—Now, if it was Sister Frances, it would be another thing. But come! if you will go with me, Victoire, you shall see how I will behave."
"We will all go with you," said Victoire.
"Yes, all!" said the children; "and Sister Frances, I dare say, would go, if you asked her."
Babet ran and told her, and she readily consented to accompany the little penitent to make restitution. The chestnut woman did not whip Babet, nor even scold her; but said she was sure, that since the child was so honest as to return what she had taken, she would never steal again. This was the most glorious day of Babet's life, and the happiest. When the circumstance was told to Mad. de Fleury, she gave the little girl a bag of the best chestnuts the old woman could select, and Babet with great delight shared her reward with her companions.
"But, alas! these chestnuts are not roasted. Oh, if we could but roast them!" said the children.
Sister Frances placed in the middle of the table, on which the chestnuts were spread, a small earthenware furnace—a delightful toy, commonly used by children in Paris to cook their little feasts.
"This can be bought for sixpence," said she: "and if each of you twelve earn one halfpenny a-piece to-day, you can purchase it to-night, and I will put a little fire into it, and you will then he able to roast your chestnuts."
The children ran eagerly to their work—some to wind worsted for a woman who paid them a liard for each ball, others to shell peas for a neighbouring traiteur—all rejoicing that they were able to earn something. The elder girls, under the directions and with the assistance of Sister Frances, completed making, washing, and ironing, half a dozen little caps, to supply a baby-linen warehouse. At the end of the day, when the sum of the produce of their labours was added together, they were surprised to find, that, instead of one, they could purchase two furnaces. They received and enjoyed the reward of their united industry. The success of their first efforts was fixed in their memory: for they were very happy roasting the chestnuts, and they were all (Sister Frances inclusive) unanimous in opinion that no chestnuts ever were so good, or so well roasted. Sister Frances always partook in their little innocent amusements; and it was her great delight to be the dispenser of rewards, which at once conferred present pleasure, and cherished future virtue.
"To virtue wake the pulses of the heart, And bid the tear of emulation start."—ROGERS.
Victoire, who gave constant exercise to the benevolent feelings of the amiable nun, became every day more dear to her. Far from having the selfishness of a favourite, Victoire loved to bring into public notice the good actions of her companions. "Stoop down your ear to me, Sister Frances," said she, "and I will tell you a secret—I will tell you why my friend Annette is growing so thin—I found it out this morning—she does not eat above half her soup everyday. Look, there's her porringer covered up in the corner—she carries it home to her mother, who is sick, and who has not bread to eat."
Mad. de Fleury came in, whilst Sister Frances was yet bending down to hear this secret; it was repeated to her, and she immediately ordered that a certain allowance of bread should be given to Annette every day to carry to her mother during her illness.
"I give it in charge to you, Victoire, to remember this, and I am sure it will never be forgotten. Here is an order for you upon my baker: run and show it to Annette. This is a pleasure you deserve; I am glad that you have chosen for your friend a girl who is so good a daughter. Good daughters make good friends."
By similar instances of goodness Victoire obtained the love and confidence of her companions, notwithstanding her manifest superiority. In their turn, they were eager to proclaim her merits; and, as Sister Frances and Mad. de Fleury administered justice with invariable impartiality, the hateful passions of envy and jealousy were never excited in this little society. No servile sycophant, no malicious detractor, could rob or defraud their little virtues of their due reward.
"Whom shall I trust to take this to Mad. de Fleury?" said Sister Frances, carrying into the garden where the children were playing a pot of fine jonquils, which she had brought from her convent.—"These are the first jonquils I have seen this year, and finer I never beheld! Whom shall I trust to take them to Mad. de Fleury this evening?—It must be some one who will not stop to stare about on the way, but who will be very, very careful—some one in whom I can place perfect dependence."
"It must be Victoire, then," cried every voice.
"Yes, she deserves it to-day particularly," said Annette, eagerly; "because she was not angry with Babet, when she did what was enough to put any body in a passion. Sister Frances, you know this cherry-tree which you grafted for Victoire last year, and that was yesterday so full of blossoms—now you see, there is not a blossom left!—Babet plucked them all this morning to make a nosegay."
"But she did not know," said Victoire, "that pulling off the blossoms would prevent my having any cherries."
"Oh, I am very sorry I was so foolish," said Babet; "Victoire did not even say a cross word to me."
"Though she was excessively anxious about the cherries," pursued Annette, "because she intended to have given the first she had to Mad. de Fleury."
"Victoire, take the jonquils—it is but just," said Sister Frances. "How I do love to hear them all praise her!—I knew what she would be from the first."
With a joyful heart Victoire took the jonquils, promised to carry them with the utmost care, and not to stop to stare on the way. She set out to Mad. de Fleury's hotel, which was in La Place de Louis Quinze. It was late in the evening, the lamps were lighting, and as Victoire crossed the Pont de Louis Seize, she stopped to look at the reflection of the lamps in the water, which appeared in succession, as they were lighted, spreading as if by magic along the river. While Victoire leaned over the battlements of the bridge, watching the rising of these stars of fire, a sudden push from the elbow of some rude passenger precipitated her pot of jonquils into the Seine. The sound it made in the water was thunder to the ear of Victoire; she stood for an instant vainly hoping it would rise again, but the waters had closed over it for ever.
"Dans cet etat affreux, que faire? Mon devoir."
Victoire courageously proceeded to Mad. de Fleury's, and desired to see her.
"D'abord c'est impossible—madame is dressing to go to a concert;" said Francois. "Cannot you leave your message?"
"Oh, no," said Victoire; "it is of great consequence—I must see her myself; and she is so good, and you too, Monsieur Francois, that I am sure you will not refuse."
"Well, I remember one day you found the seal of my watch, which I dropped at your school-room door—one good turn deserves another. If it is possible, it shall be done—I will inquire of madame's woman."—"Follow me up stairs," said he, returning in a few minutes; "madame will see you."
She followed him Up the large staircase, and through a suite of apartments sufficiently grand to intimidate her young imagination.
"Madame est dans son cabinet. Entrez—mais entrez done, entrez toujours."
Mad. de Fleury was more richly dressed than usual; and her image was reflected in the large looking-glass, so that at the first moment Victoire thought she saw many fine ladies, but not one of them the lady she wanted.
"Well, Victoire, my child, what is the matter?"
"Oh, it is her voice!—I know you now, madame, and I am not afraid—not afraid even to tell you how foolish I have been. Sister Frances trusted me to carry for you, madame, a beautiful pot of jonquils, and she desired me not to stop on the way to stare; but I did stop to look at the lamps on the bridge, and I forgot the jonquils, and somebody brushed by me, and threw them into the river—and I am very sorry I was so foolish."
"And I am very glad that you are so wise as to tell the truth, without attempting to make any paltry excuses. Go home to Sister Frances, and assure her that I am more obliged to her for making you such an honest girl than I could be for a whole bed of jonquils."
Victoire's heart was so full that she could not speak—she kissed Mad. de Fleury's hand in silence, and then seemed to be lost in contemplation of her bracelet.
"Are you thinking, Victoire, that you should be much happier, if you had such bracelets as these?—Believe me, you are mistaken if you think so; many people are unhappy, who wear fine bracelets; so, my child, content yourself."
"Myself! Oh, madam, I was not thinking of myself—I was not wishing for bracelets, I was only thinking that—"
"That it is a pity you are so very rich; you have every thing in this world that you want, and I can never be of the least use to you—all my life I shall never be able to do you any good—and what," said Victoire, turning away to hide her tears, "what signifies the gratitude of such a poor little creature as I am?"
"Did you never hear the fable of the lion and the mouse, Victoire?"
"Then I will tell it to you."
Victoire looked up with eyes of eager expectation—Francois opened the door to announce that the Marquis de M—— and the Comte de S—— were in the saloon; but Mad. de Fleury stayed to tell Victoire her fable—she would not lose the opportunity of making an impression upon this child's heart.
It is whilst the mind is warm that the deepest impressions can be made. Seizing the happy moment sometimes decides the character and the fate of a child. In this respect what advantages have the rich and great in educating the children of the poor! they have the power which their rank, and all its decorations, obtain over the imagination. Their smiles are favours; their words are listened to as oracular; they are looked up to as beings of a superior order. Their powers of working good are almost as great, though not quite so wonderful, as those formerly attributed to beneficent fairies.
"Knowledge for them unlocks her useful page, And virtue blossoms for a better age."—BARBAULD.
A few days after Mad. de Fleury had told Victoire the fable of the lion and the mouse, she was informed by Sister Frances that Victoire had put the fable into verse. It was wonderfully well done for a child of nine years old, and Mad. de Fleury was tempted to praise the lines; but, checking the enthusiasm of the moment, she considered whether it would be advantageous to cultivate her pupil's talent for poetry. Excellence in the poetic art cannot be obtained without a degree of application for which a girl in her situation could not have leisure. To encourage her to become a mere rhyming scribbler, without any chance of obtaining celebrity or securing subsistence, would be folly and cruelty. Early prodigies, in the lower ranks of life, are seldom permanently successful; they are cried up one day, and cried down the next. Their productions rarely have that superiority which secures a fair preference in the great literary market. Their performances are, perhaps, said to be—wonderful, all things considered, &c. Charitable allowances are made; the books are purchased by associations of complaisant friends or opulent patrons; a kind of forced demand is raised, but this can be only temporary and delusive. In spite of bounties and of all the arts of protection, nothing but what is intrinsically good will long be preferred, when it must be purchased. But granting that positive excellence is attained, there is always danger that for works of fancy the taste of the public may suddenly vary; there is a fashion in these things; and when the mode changes, the mere literary manufacturer is thrown out of employment; he is unable to turn his hand to another trade, or to any but his own peculiar branch of the business. The powers of the mind are often partially cultivated in these self-taught geniuses. We often see that one part of their understanding is nourished to the prejudice of the rest—the imagination, for instance, at the expense of the judgment: so that, whilst they have acquired talents for show, they have none for use. In the affairs of common life, they are utterly ignorant and imbecile—or worse than imbecile. Early called into public notice, probably before their moral habits are formed, they are extolled for some play of fancy or of wit, as Bacon calls it, some juggler's trick of the intellect; they immediately take an aversion to plodding labour, they feel raised above their situation; possessed by the notion that genius exempts them, not only from labour, but from vulgar rules of prudence, they soon disgrace themselves by their conduct, are deserted by their patrons, and sink into despair, or plunge into profligacy.
[Footnote 1: To these observations there are honourable exceptions.]
Convinced of these melancholy truths, Mad. de Fleury was determined not to add to the number of those imprudent or ostentatious patrons, who sacrifice to their own amusement and vanity the future happiness of their favourites. Victoire's verses were not handed about in fashionable circles, nor was she called upon to recite them before a brilliant audience, nor was she produced in public as a prodigy; she was educated in private, and by slow and sure degrees, to be a good, useful, and happy member of society. Upon the same principles which decided Mad. de Fleury against encouraging Victoire to be a poetess, she refrained from giving any of her little pupils accomplishments unsuited to their situation. Some had a fine ear for music, others showed powers of dancing; but they were taught neither dancing nor music—talents which in their station were more likely to be dangerous than serviceable. They were not intended for actresses or opera-girls, but for shop-girls, mantua-makers, work-women, and servants of different sorts; consequently they were instructed in things which would be most necessary and useful to young women in their rank of life. Before they were ten years old, they could do all kinds of plain needlework, they could read and write well, and they were mistresses of the common rules of arithmetic. After this age, they were practised by a writing-master in drawing out bills neatly, keeping accounts, and applying to every-day use their knowledge of arithmetic. Some were taught by a laundress to wash, and get up fine linen and lace; others were instructed by a neighbouring traiteur in those culinary mysteries with which Sister Frances was unacquainted. In sweetmeats and confectionaries she yielded to no one; and she made her pupils as expert as herself. Those who were intended for ladies' maids were taught mantua-making, and had lessons from Mad. de Fleury's own woman in hair-dressing.
Amongst her numerous friends and acquaintances, and amongst the shopkeepers whom she was in the habit of employing, Mad. de Fleury had means of placing and establishing her pupils suitably and advantageously: of this both they and their parents were aware, so that there was a constant and great motive operating continually to induce them to exert themselves, and to behave well. This reasonable hope of reaping the fruits of their education, and of being immediately rewarded for their good conduct; this perception of the connexion between what they are taught and what they are to become, is necessary to make young people assiduous: for want of attending to these principles, many splendid establishments have failed to produce pupils answerable to the expectations which had been formed of them.
During seven years that Mad. de Fleury persevered uniformly on the same plan, only one girl forfeited her protection—a girl of the name of Manon; she was Victoire's cousin, but totally unlike her in character.
When very young, her beautiful eyes and hair caught the fancy of a rich lady, who took her into her family as a sort of humble playfellow for her children. She was taught to dance and to sing: she soon excelled in these accomplishments, and was admired, and produced as a prodigy of talent. The lady of the house gave herself great credit for having discerned, and having brought forward, such talents. Manon's moral character was in the mean time neglected. In this house, where there was a constant scene of hurry and dissipation, the child had frequent opportunities and temptations to be dishonest. For some time she was not detected; her caressing manners pleased her patroness, and servile compliance with the humours of the children of the family secured their good-will. Encouraged by daily petty successes in the art of deceit, she became a complete hypocrite. With culpable negligence, her mistress trusted implicitly to appearances; and without examining whether she were really honest, she suffered her to have free access to unlocked drawers and valuable cabinets. Several articles of dress were missed from time to time; but Manon managed so artfully, that she averted from herself all suspicion. Emboldened by this fatal impunity, she at last attempted depredations of more importance. She purloined a valuable, snuff-box—was detected in disposing of the broken parts of it at a pawnbroker's, and was immediately discarded in disgrace; but by her tears and vehement expressions of remorse, she so far worked upon the weakness of the lady of the house, as to prevail upon her to conceal the circumstance that occasioned her dismissal. Some months afterwards Manon, pleading that she was thoroughly reformed, obtained from this lady a recommendation to Mad. de Fleury's school. It is wonderful that people, who in other respects profess and practise integrity, can be so culpably weak as to give good characters to those who do not deserve them: this is really one of the worst species of forgery. Imposed upon by this treacherous recommendation, Mad. de Fleury received into the midst of her innocent young pupils one who might have corrupted their minds secretly and irrecoverably. Fortunately a discovery was made in time of Manon's real disposition. A mere trifle led to the detection of her habits of falsehood. As she could not do any kind of needlework, she was employed in winding cotton; she was negligent, and did not in the course of the week wind the same number of balls as her companions; and to conceal this, she pretended that she had delivered the proper number to the woman, who regularly called at the end of the week for the cotton. The woman persisted in her account; the children in theirs; and Manon would not retract her assertion. The poor woman gave up the point; but she declared that she would the next time send her brother to make up the account, because he was sharper than herself, and would not be imposed upon so easily. The ensuing week the brother came, and he proved to be the very pawnbroker to whom Manon formerly offered the stolen box: he knew her immediately; it was in vain that she attempted to puzzle him, and to persuade him that she was not the same person. The man was clear and firm. Sister Frances could scarcely believe what she heard. Struck with horror, the children shrunk back from Manon, and stood in silence. Mad. de Fleury immediately wrote to the lady who had recommended this girl, and inquired into the truth of the pawnbroker's assertions. The lady, who had given Manon a false character, could not deny the facts, and could apologize for herself only by saying, that "she believed the girl to be partly reformed, and that she hoped, under Mad. de Fleury's judicious care, she would become an amiable and respectable woman."
Mad. de Fleury, however, wisely judged, that the hazard of corrupting all her pupils should not be incurred for the slight chance of correcting one, whose had habits were of such long standing. Manon was expelled from this happy little community—even Sister Frances, the most mild of human beings, could never think of the danger to which they had been exposed without expressing indignation against the lady who recommended such a girl as a fit companion for her blameless and beloved pupils.
"Alas! regardless of their doom, The little victims play: No sense have they of ills to come, No care beyond to-day."—GRAY.
Good legislators always attend to the habits, and what is called the genius, of the people they have to govern. From youth to age, the taste for whatever is called une fete pervades the whole French nation. Mad. de Fleury availed herself judiciously of this powerful motive, and connected it with the feelings of affection more than with the passion for show. For instance, when any of her little people had done any thing particularly worthy of reward, she gave them leave to invite their parents to a fete prepared for them by their children, assisted by the kindness of Sister Frances.
One day—it was a holiday obtained by Victoire's good conduct—all the children prepared in their garden a little feast for their parents. Sister Frances spread the table with a bountiful hand, the happy fathers and mothers were waited upon by their children, and each in their turn heard with delight from the benevolent nun some instance of their daughter's improvement. Full of hope for the future, and of gratitude for the past, these honest people ate and talked, whilst in imagination they saw their children all prosperously and usefully settled in the world. They blessed Mad. de Fleury in her absence, and they wished ardently for her presence.
"The sun is setting, and Mad. de Fleury is not yet come," cried Victoire; "she said she would be here this evening—What can be the matter?"
"Nothing is the matter, you may be sure," said Babet; "but that she has forgotten us—she has so many things to think of."
"Yes; but I know she never forgets us," said Victoire; "and she loves so much to see us all happy together, that I am sure it must be something very extraordinary that detains her."
Babet laughed at Victoire's fears: but presently even she began to grow impatient; for they waited long after sunset, expecting every moment that Mad. de Fleury would arrive. At last she appeared, but with a dejected countenance, which seemed to justify Victoire's foreboding. When she saw this festive company, each child sitting between her parents, and all at her entrance looking up with affectionate pleasure, a faint smile enlivened her countenance for a moment; but she did not speak to them with her usual ease. Her mind seemed pre-occupied by some disagreeable business of importance. It appeared that it had some connexion with them; for as she walked round the table with Sister Frances, she said with a voice and look of great tenderness, "Poor children! how happy they are at this moment!—Heaven only knows how soon they may be rendered, or may render themselves, miserable!"
None of the children could imagine what this meant; but their parents guessed that it had some allusion to the state of public affairs. About this time some of those discontents had broken out, which preceded the terrible days of the Revolution. As yet, most of the common people, who were honestly employed in earning their own living, neither understood what was going on, nor foresaw what was to happen. Many of their superiors were not in such happy ignorance—they had information of the intrigues that were forming; and the more penetration they possessed, the more they feared the consequences of events which they could not control. At the house of a great man, with whom she had dined this day, Mad. de Fleury had heard alarming news. Dreadful public disturbances, she saw, were inevitable; and whilst she trembled for the fate of all who were dear to her, these poor children had a share in her anxiety. She foresaw the temptations, the dangers, to which they must be exposed, whether they abandoned, or whether they abided by, the principles their education had instilled. She feared that the labour of years would perhaps be lost in an instant, or that her innocent pupils would fall victims even to their virtues.
Many of these young people were now of an age to understand and to govern themselves by reason; and with these she determined to use those preventive measures which reason affords. Without meddling with politics, in which no amiable or sensible woman can wish to interfere, the influence of ladies in the higher ranks of life may always be exerted with perfect propriety, and with essential advantage to the public, in conciliating the inferior classes of society, explaining to them their duties and their interests, and impressing upon the minds of the children of the poor, sentiments of just subordination and honest independence. How happy would it have been for France, if women of fortune and abilities had always exerted their talents and activity in this manner, instead of wasting their powers in futile declamations, or in the intrigues of party!
"E'en now the devastation is begun, And half the business of destruction done."
Madame de Fleury was not disappointed in her pupils. When the public disturbances began, these children were shocked by the horrible actions they saw. Instead of being seduced by bad example, they only showed anxiety to avoid companions of their own age, who were dishonest, idle, or profligate. Victoire's cousin Manon ridiculed these absurd principles, as she called them; and endeavoured to persuade Victoire that she would be much happier if she followed the fashion.
"What! Victoire, still with your work-bag on your arm, and still going to school with your little sister, though you are but a year younger than I am, I believe!—thirteen last birthday, were not you?—Mon Dieu! Why, how long do you intend to be a child? and why don't you leave that old nun, who keeps you in leading-strings?—I assure you, nuns, and schoolmistresses, and schools, and all that sort of thing, are out of fashion now—we have abolished all that—we are to live a life of reason now—and all soon to be equal, I can tell you; let your Mad. de Fleury look to that, and look to it yourself; for with all your wisdom, you might find yourself in the wrong box by sticking to her, and that side of the question.—Disengage yourself from her, I advise you, as soon as you can.—My dear Victoire! believe me, you may spell very well—but you know nothing of the rights of man, or the rights of woman."
"I do not pretend to know any thing of the rights of men, or the rights of women," cried Victoire; "but this I know, that I never can or will be ungrateful to Mad. de Fleury. Disengage myself from her! I am bound to her for ever, and I will abide by her till the last hour I breathe."
"Well, well! there is no occasion to be in a passion—I only speak as a friend, and I have no more time to reason with you; for I must go home, and get ready my dress for the ball to-night."
"Manon, how can you afford to buy a dress for a ball?"
"As you might, if you had common sense, Victoire—only by being a good citizen. I and a party of us denounced a milliner and a confectioner in our neighbourhood, who were horrible aristocrats; and of their goods forfeited to the nation we had, as was our just share, such delicious marangles, and charming ribands!—Oh, Victoire, believe me, you will never get such things by going to school, or saying your prayers either. You may look with as much scorn and indignation as you please, but I advise you to let it alone, for all that is out of fashion, and may moreover bring you into difficulties. Believe me, my dear Victoire, your head is not deep enough to understand these things—you know nothing of politics."
"But I know the difference between right and wrong, Manon: politics can never alter that, you know."
"Never alter that!—there you are quite mistaken," said Manon: "I cannot stay to convince you now—but this I can tell you, that I know secrets that you don't suspect."
"I do not wish to know any of your secrets, Manon," said Victoire, proudly.
"Your pride may be humbled, Citoyenne Victoire, sooner than you expect," exclaimed Manon, who was now so provoked by her cousin's contempt, that she could not refrain from boasting of her political knowledge. "I can tell you, that your fine friends will in a few days not be able to protect you. The Abbe Tracassier is in love with a dear friend of mine, and I know all the secrets of state from her—and I know what I know. Be as incredulous, as you please, but you will see that, before this week is at end, Monsieur de Fleury will be guillotined, and then what will become of you? Good morning, my proud cousin."
Shocked by what she had just heard, Victoire could scarcely believe that Manon was in earnest; she resolved, however, to go immediately and communicate this intelligence, whether true or false, to Mad. de Fleury. It agreed but too well with other circumstances, which alarmed this lady for the safety of her husband. A man of his abilities, integrity, and fortune, could not in such times hope to escape persecution. He was inclined to brave the danger; but his lady represented that it would not be courage, but rashness and folly, to sacrifice his life to the villany of others, without probability or possibility of serving his country by his fall.
M. de Fleury, in consequence of these representations, and of Victoire's intelligence, made his escape from Paris; and the very next day placards were put up in every street, offering a price for the head of Citoyen Fleury, suspected of incivisme.
Struck with terror and astonishment at the sight of these placards, the children read them as they returned in the evening from school; and little Babet in the vehemence of her indignation mounted a lamplighter's ladder, and tore down one of the papers. This imprudent action did not pass unobserved: it was seen by one of the spies of Citoyen Tracassier, a man who, under the pretence of zeal pour la chose publique, gratified without scruple his private resentments and his malevolent passions. In his former character of an abbe, and a man of wit, he had gained admittance into Mad. de Fleury's society. There he attempted to dictate both as a literary and religious despot. Accidentally discovering that Mad. de Fleury had a little school for poor children, he thought proper to be offended, because he had not been consulted respecting the regulations, and because he was not permitted, as he said, to take the charge of this little flock. He made many objections to Sister Frances, as being an improper person to have the spiritual guidance of these young people: but as he was unable to give any just reason for his dislike, Mad. de Fleury persisted in her choice, and was at last obliged to assert, in opposition to the domineering abbe, her right to judge and decide in her own affairs. With seeming politeness, he begged ten thousand pardons for his conscientious interference. No more was said upon the subject; and as he did not totally withdraw from her society till the revolution broke out, she did not suspect that she had any thing to fear from his resentment. His manners and opinions changed suddenly with the times; the mask of religion was thrown off; and now, instead of objecting to Sister Frances as not being sufficiently strict and orthodox in her tenets, he boldly declared, that a nun was not a fit person to be intrusted with the education of any of the young citizens—they should all be des eleves de la patrie. The abbe, become a member of the Committee of Public Safety, denounced Mad. de Fleury, in the strange jargon of the day, as "the fosterer of a swarm of bad citizens, who were nourished in the anticivic prejudices de l'ancien regime, and fostered in the most detestable superstitions, in defiance of the law." He further observed, that he had good reason to believe that some of these little enemies to the constitution had contrived and abetted M. de Fleury's escape. Of their having rejoiced at it in a most indecent manner, he said he could produce irrefragable proof. The boy who saw Babet tear down the placard was produced and solemnly examined; and the thoughtless action of this poor little girl was construed into a state crime of the most horrible nature. In a declamatory tone, Tracassier reminded his fellow-citizens, that in the ancient Grecian times of virtuous republicanism (times of which France ought to show herself emulous), an Athenian child was condemned to death for having made a plaything of a fragment of the gilding that had fallen from a public statue. The orator, for the reward of his eloquence, obtained an order to seize every thing in Mad. de Fleury's school-house, and to throw the nun into prison.