HotFreeBooks.com
Mysteries of Paris, V3
by Eugene Sue
Previous Part     1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9  10
Home - Random Browse

She was obliged to sacrifice herself to her noble scruples, to the ineffaceable remembrance of her shame; she has done it valiantly; she has renounced the splendors of the world; she has descended from the steps of a throne to kneel, clothed in sackcloth, upon the pavement of a church; she crossed her hands upon her breast, bowed her angelic head, and her beautiful fair locks, which I loved so much, and which I preserve as a treasure, fell, cut off by the sharp iron. Oh! my friend, you know our heart-rending emotion at this mournful and solemn moment; this emotion is, even now, as poignant as at the time. In writing these words to you, I weep like a child.

* * * * *

I saw her this morning; although she seemed to me less pale than usual, and declares she does not suffer, her health makes me anxious. Alas! when, under the veil and band which surround her noble forehead, I see her attenuated features, which have the cold whiteness of marble, and which make her large blue eyes seem larger still, I cannot help dreaming over the gentle and pure splendor with which her beauty sparkled at our marriage. Never did she look so charming. Our happiness seemed to radiate from her beautiful countenance. As I told you, I saw her this morning; she has not been informed that Princess Juliana voluntarily resigns in her favor the dignity of abbess; to-morrow, therefore, on the day of her profession, our child will be elected abbess, as there is a unanimous desire among the noble ladies of the community to confer upon her this dignity. Since the beginning of her novitiate, there has been but one opinion of her piety, charity, and religious exactness in fulfilling all the duties of her order, whose austerities she exaggerates most unfortunately. She has exercised in this convent the influence which she exercises everywhere without attempting to do so, and in ignorance of the fact which increases her power. Her conversation this morning confirmed my doubts. She has not found in the solitude of the cloister, and in the severe practice of monastic duties, repose and forgetfulness. She congratulated herself, however, upon her resolution, which she considers the accomplishment of an imperious duty; but she suffers continually, for she is not formed for those mystical contemplations, in the midst of which certain people, forgetting all affection, all earthly remembrances, are lost in ascetic delights. No; Fleur-de-Marie believes, prays, submits herself to the rigorous and harsh observance of her order; she pours out the most evangelical consolations, the most humble cares upon the poor sick women who are taken care of in the hospital of the abbey. She has even refused the assistance of a lay sister for the moderate care of that cold and bare cell where we remarked, with such sad astonishment, you remember, my dear friend, the dried branches of her little rose-bush, suspended beneath her crucifix. She is, indeed, the cherished example, the venerated model of the community. But she confessed to me this morning, while bitterly reproaching herself for this weakness, that she is not so much absorbed by the duties and austerities of a religious life as to prevent the past from constantly appearing before her, not only as it was, but as it might have been.

"I blame myself for it, my father," said she to me, with that calm and gentle resignation which you know belongs to her, "I blame myself, but I cannot help often thinking that if God had spared me the degradation which has withered forever my future life, I might have lived always near you, beloved by the husband of your choice, In spite of myself, my life is divided between these grievous regrets and the frightful recollections of the city; in vain I pray to God to free me from these frightful recollections, to fill my heart alone with pious love for Him, with holy hopes; in short, to take me entirely to Himself, since I wish to give myself entirely to Him. He does not grant my prayers—undoubtedly because earthly thoughts render me unworthy to enter into communion with Him."

"But then," cried I, seized with a foolish glimmering of hope, "there is still time—to day your novitiate ends; but it is not until to morrow that your solemn profession will take place; you are still free—renounce this rude and austere life, which does not afford you the consolation you expected; if you must suffer, come and suffer in our arms: let our tenderness assuage your sorrows."

Shaking sadly her head, she answered me, with that inflexible justness of reasoning which has so often struck us. "It is true, my dear father, the solitude of this cloister is sad for me—for me, already accustomed to your kindness every moment. It is true, I am pursued with bitter regrets and grievous recollections; but, at least, I have the consciousness of fulfilling a duty; I understand, I know, that everywhere but here I should be out of place; I should again be in that cruelly false position in which I have already suffered so much both for myself and for you—for I, too, am proud. Your daughter shall be such as she ought to be; shall do what she ought to do; shall suffer what she ought to suffer. To-morrow all will know from what a slough you have rescued me; in seeing the repentant at the foot of the cross, they will, perhaps, pardon the past in consideration of my present humility. It would not be so, my dear father, if they saw me, as a few months ago, shining in the midst of the splendors of your court. Besides, to satisfy the just and severe demands of the world, will satisfy myself; and I am grateful to God, with all the power of my soul, when I think that He alone can offer to your daughter an asylum and position worthy of her and of you; a position, in short, which shall not form a sad contrast to my former degradation, and in which I can deserve the only respect which is due to me, that which is granted to repentance and sincere humility." Alas! Clemence, what could I reply to that? Fatality! Fatality! for this unfortunate child is endowed, so to speak, with an inexorable logic in all that concerns the sensitiveness of the heart and one's honor. With such a mind and soul, one cannot think of palliating or hiding false positions—we must suffer the imperious consequences. I left her, as usual, with a breaking heart. Without founding the least hope upon this interview, which will be the last before her profession, I said to myself "To-day she might renounce the cloister." But you see, my dear friend, her will is irrevocable, and I must indeed agree with her, and repeat her words:

"God alone can offer her an asylum and a position worthy of her and of me."

Once more, her resolution is admirably logical, and suited to the position in society in which we are placed. With Fleur-de-Marie's exquisite sensibility, no other condition was possible for her. But I have often told you, my friend, if sacred duties, more sacred still than those of family, did not detain me in the midst of a people who love me, and to whom I stand, in a slight degree, in the place of Providence, I should go away with you, my daughter, Henry, and Murphy, to live happily and obscurely in some unknown retreat. Then, far from the imperious laws of a society which is powerless to cure the evils which it has caused, we might hare forced this unhappy child into happiness and forgetfulness. While here, in the midst of splendor, of ceremony, as restrained as this, it was impossible. But still, once more, fatality! fatality! I cannot abdicate my power without compromising the happiness of this people, who rely upon me. Brave and worthy people! how little do they know how much their happiness costs me! Adieu, a tender adieu, my beloved Clemence. It is a consolation to me to see you as afflicted as myself at the fate of my child, for thus I can say our sorrow, and there is no egotism in my suffering. Sometimes I ask myself, with fear, what would become of me without you, in the midst of such grievous circumstances? Often these thoughts make me still more sad at Fleur-de-Marie's fate; for you remain to me, you. But for her who is there? Adieu, a sad adieu, my dear, good angel of unhappy days. Come back soon; this absence weighs upon you as well as me. My life and love to you! soul and heart to you! R.

I send you this letter by a courier; in case of any unexpected change, I will despatch to you another immediately after the sad ceremony. A thousand wishes and hopes to your father for the establishment of his health. I forgot to give you intelligence of poor Henry; his state of health is better, and no longer gives us such anxiety. His excellent father, himself ill, has recovered strength to take care of Henry, to watch over him; a miracle of paternal love—which does not astonish us—the rest of us.

Thus, my dear friend, to-morrow—to-morrow—fatal and unpropitious day for me.

Yours forever, R.

Abbey of St. Hermangilda, 4 o'clock in the morning.

Calm yourself, dear Clemence, calm yourself; although the hour in which I write this letter, and the place whence it is dated, might alarm you. Thanks to Heaven, the danger is past, but the crisis was terrible. Yesterday, after having written to you, agitated by a fatal presentiment, in recalling to myself the paleness and appearance of suffering in my daughter, the state of weakness in which she had languished for some time, remembering, in short, that she was to pass in prayer, in a large, icy-cold church, almost all the night before her profession, I sent Murphy and David to the abbey to ask the Princess Juliana to permit them to remain, until to-morrow, in the outer house which Henry usually inhabited. Thus, my daughter could have prompt assistance, and I could have intelligence if, as I feared, strength should fail her to accomplish this rigorous, I will not say cruel, obligation to remain a January night in prayer in the excessive cold. I had also written to Fleur-de-Marie, that while I respected the exercise of her religious duties, I begged her to take care of her health, and to pass the evening in prayer in her cell, and not in the church. This is the letter she sent in reply.

"My dear father, I thank you deeply, and with all my heart, for this new and tender proof of your interest; have no anxiety, I believe I am in the way of accomplishing my duty. Your daughter, my dear father, can show neither fear nor weakness. Such are the rules; I must conform to them. If some physical sufferings result from it, with joy do I offer them to God! You will approve it, I hope; you, who have always practiced renunciation and duty with so much courage. Farewell, my dear father. I will not say I am going to pray for you, when I pray to God, I always pray for you, for it is impossible to prevent mingling you with the divinity I implore; you have been to me on earth what God, if I deserve it, will be to me in heaven.

"Deign this evening to bless in thought your daughter, my dear father. To-morrow she will be the bride of the Lord.

"She kisses your hand with pious respect.

"SISTER AMELIA."

This letter, which I could not read without shedding tears, reassured me, however, but little; I, too, must pass a sad evening. Night having come, I went to shut myself up in the pavilion which I have had built not far from the monument erected to my father's memory, in expiation of that fatal night.

Toward one o'clock in the morning, I heard Murphy's voice; I shuddered with alarm; he had come in haste from the convent. How shall I tell you, my friend? As I had foreseen, the unfortunate child, notwithstanding her courage and strong will, had not strength to accomplish entirely the barbarous custom, which it had been Impossible for the Princess Juliana to dispense with, as the rules on this subject were precise. At eight o'clock in the evening, Fleur-de-Marie kneeled down on the stone pavement in the church. Until midnight she continued praying. But at this hour, overcome by her weakness, the horrible cold, and her emotion, for she wept long and silently, she fainted. Two nuns, who by the Princess Juliana's order had watched with her, took her up, and carried her to her cell.

David was immediately called. Murphy came in a carriage to seek me; I flew to the convent; I was received by Princess Juliana. She told me that David feared the sight of me would make too great an impression upon my daughter; that her fainting, from which she had recovered, presented nothing very alarming, having been only caused by great weakness. At first a horrible dread seized me. I feared they wished to hide from me some great misfortune, or, at least, to prepare me to hear it; but the superior said to me, "I assure you, my lord, Princess Amelia is out of danger, a simple cordial which Dr. David gave her has restored her strength." I could not doubt what the abbess affirmed; I believed her, and awaited intelligence from my daughter with sad impatience.

At the end of a quarter of an hour David returned. Thanks to Heaven, she was better; and she had desired to continue her watching and prayers in the church, consenting only to kneel upon a cushion. And as I resisted, and was indignant that the superior should have granted her request, adding that I formally opposed myself to it, he replied to me that it would have been dangerous to contradict the wishes of my daughter at a time when she was under the influence of a strong nervous emotion; and, besides, he had agreed with Princess Juliana that the poor child should quit the church at the hour of matins to take a little repose, and prepare for the ceremony.

"She is now in church, then?" said I to him.

"Yes, my lord, but in half an hour she will have quitted it."

I caused myself to be conducted to the north gallery, from which the whole choir of the church can be seen. There, in the midst of the darkness of this vast church, only illuminated by the pale light of the lamp from the chancel, I saw her near the grating on her knees, her hands joined, and praying with fervor. I also knelt, and thought of my child.

Three o'clock struck; two sisters who were seated, but who had not moved their eyes from her, went and whispered to her. In a few moments she made a sign, got up, and crossed the church with a firm step—although, my friend, when she passed under the lamp, her countenance appeared to me as white as the long veil which floated around her.

I also went out of the gallery, intending first to go to meet her, but feared a new emotion would prevent her from taking a few moments' repose. I sent David to learn how she was; he came back to tell me she felt better, and intended to try to sleep a little. I remained at the abbey, for the ceremony which will take place to-morrow.

I think now, my friend, it is useless to send you this incomplete letter. I shall finish it to-morrow by relating the events of that sad day. Until then farewell, my friend. I am worn out with grief. Pity me.



CHAPTER VII

THE THIRTEENTH OF JANUARY.

Rudolph to Clemence.

Thirteenth of January—an anniversary now doubly dreadful! My friend, we are losing her forever! All is over—all! Listen to the story! It is indeed true, there is an atrocious pleasure in relating a horrible grief.

Yesterday I bewailed the chance which retained you away from me. To-day, Clemence, I congratulate myself that you are not here; you would suffer too much. This morning—I had hardly slept through the night—I was awakened by the sound of the bells; I groaned with terror; it seemed to me funereal, a funereal knell. In fact, my daughter is dead to us—dead: do you hear, Clemence, from this day you must begin to wear mourning for her in your heart—in your heart, so filled with maternal affection for her. Is our child buried under the marble of a tomb or under the vaults of a cloister—for us, what is the difference? From this day, do you understand, Clemence, we must regard her as dead. Besides, she is so very weak; her health, impaired by so much sorrow, by so many shocks, is so feeble. Why not that other death, still more complete? Fate is not weary. And then, besides, after my letter yesterday, you may understand that it would perhaps be more happy for her if she were dead.

DEAD! The four letters have a singular appearance, do you not think so? when one writes them in reference to an idolized daughter, a daughter so fair, so charming, of such angelic goodness, scarcely eighteen, and yet dead to the world! Indeed, for us and for her, why vegetate in suffering in the gloomy tranquillity of this cloister! Of what importance that she lives, if she is lost to us—she might have loved life so much—what a fatality has attended her! What I am saying is horrible! there is a barbarous egotism in paternal love. At noon her profession took place with solemn pomp. Hidden behind the curtains of our gallery, I was present at it. I felt, over again, but with still more intensity, all those poignant emotions which we suffered at her novitiate.

A singular thing, she is adored: it is generally believed that she is drawn toward a religious life by an irresistible call; her profession might be looked upon as a happy event for her, and yet, on the contrary, an overpowering sadness weighs down the whole assembly. At the end of the church, among the people, I saw two officers of my guard, old hardy soldiers, hold down their heads and weep. There seemed to be in the act a sad presentiment. If there was foundation for it, it has been but half realized. The profession terminated, our child was brought back into the hall of the chapter, where the nomination of the new abbess was to take place. Thanks to my privilege as sovereign, I went into this hall to await the return of Fleur-de-Marie. She soon entered. Her emotion, her weakness was so great, that two sisters supported her. I was alarmed, less even by her paleness and the deep alteration of her features than by the expression of her smile: it seemed to me marked by a sort of secret satisfaction. Clemence, I say to you, perhaps soon we shall need all our courage—much courage-I feel so to speak, within me that our child is struck with death! After all, her life would be so unhappy. Here is the second time that, in thinking the death of my daughter possible, I have said that death would put an end to her cruel existence. This idea is a horrible symptom; but if sorrow must strike us, it is better to be prepared, is it not, Clemence? To prepare one's self for such a misfortune, to taste little by little beforehand that slow anguish, it is an unheard-of refinement of grief. It is a thousand times more dreadful than to have the blow fall unexpectedly; at least the stupor, the annihilation would spare one a part of this cutting anguish. But the customs of compassion prescribe to us a preparation. Probably I should never act otherwise myself, my poor friend, if I had to acquaint you with the sad event of which I speak to you. Thus be alarmed, if you observe that I speak to you of her with the delicacy, the caution of desperate sadness, after having announced to you that I do not feel serious inquietude respecting her health. Yes, be alarmed, if I speak to you as I am writing now, for though I left her, to finish this letter, an hour ago in a tolerably calm state, I repeat it to you, Clemence, I seem to feel within me that she suffers more than she appears to do. Heaven grant that I deceive myself, and that I take for presentiments the despairing sadness which this melancholy ceremony inspires. Fleur-de-Marie then entered the large hall of the chapel. All the stalls were occupied by the nuns. She went modestly to take the lowest place on the left, supporting herself on the arm of one of the sisters, for she still seemed very weak. At the upper end of the hall the Princess Juliana was seated, the grand prioress beside her; on the other hand, a second dignitary, holding in her hand the golden cross, the symbol of the authority of the abbess.

A profound silence prevailed. The princess arose, took her cross in her hand, and said, with a serious tone and an expression of much emotion: "My dear daughters, my great age obliges me to confide to younger hands this emblem of my spiritual power;" and she showed her cross. "I am authorized to do it by a bull of our holy father. I will present, then, to the benediction of my Lord Archbishop of Oppenheim, and to the approbation of his royal highness the grand duke, our sovereign, and to yours, my dear daughters, the one of your number whom you have designated to succeed me. Our grand-prioress will make known to you the result of the election, and to the person whom you shall have elected I will deliver up my cross and ring."

I never moved my eyes from my daughter. Standing in her stall, her two hands crossed on her bosom, her eyes cast down, half enveloped in her white veil, and the long descending folds of her black robe, she remained immovable and thoughtful; she had never for a moment supposed that she could be chosen; her elevation had been only confided to me by the abbess. The grand-prioress took a register and read: "Each of our dear sisters having been, according to rule, invited, eight days since, to place their votes in the hands of our holy mother, and mutually to keep secret their choice until this moment, in the name of our holy mother I declare that one of you, my dear sisters, has, by her exemplary piety, by her evangelical virtues, merited the unanimous suffrage of the community; and this is our Sister Amelia, during her life-time the most high and puissant Princess of Gerolstein."

At these words, a sort of murmur of sweet surprise and happy satisfaction passed round the hall; the looks of all the nuns were fixed upon my daughter, with an expression of tender sympathy. Notwithstanding my all engrossing anxieties, I was myself deeply moved with this nomination, which, made separately and secretly, offered nevertheless a touching unanimity.

Fleur-de-Marie, astounded, became still more pale; her knees trembled so much that she was obliged to support herself with one hand on the side of the stall. The abbess Spoke again with a very clear but grave voice: "My dear daughters, is it indeed Sister Amelia whom you consider most worthy and most deserving of all of you? Is it indeed she whom you acknowledge as your spiritual superior? Let each of you in turn answer me, my dear daughters."

And each nun answered in a loud tone: "I have voluntarily and freely chosen, and I do choose Sister Amelia for my holy mother and superior."

Overpowered with an expressible emotion, my poor child fell on her knees, joined her hands, and so remained till every vote was given. Then the abbess, placing the cross and ring in the hands of the grand prioress, advanced toward my daughter, to take her by the hand and lead her to the seat of the abbess. My dear, my love, I have interrupted myself a moment, I must take courage and finish the relation of this heart-rending scene. "Rise, my dear daughter," said the abbess to her: "Come to take the place which belongs to you; your evangelical virtues, and not your rank, have gained it for you." Saying these words, the venerable princess bent toward my daughter to assist her to rise.

Fleur-de-Marie took a few trembling steps, then, arriving in the middle of the hall of the chapel, she stopped and said, with a voice the calmness and firmness of which astonished me:

"Pardon me, holy mother, I would speak to my sisters."

"Ascend first, my dear daughter, your seat as abbess," said the princess; "it is from thence that you must let them hear your voice."

"That place, holy mother, cannot be mine," replied Fleur-de-Marie, with a low and trembling voice.

"What do you say, my dear daughter?"

"Such a high dignity is not made for me, holy mother."

"But the voices of your sisters call you to it."

"Permit me, holy mother, to make here on my knees a solemn confession; my sisters will see, and you also, holy mother, that the most humble condition is not humble enough for me."

"Your modesty misleads you my dear daughter," said the superior, with kindness, believing, in fact, that the unfortunate child was yielding to a feeling of exaggerated modesty; but I, I divined those confessions which Fleur-de-Marie was about to make. Dazed with horror, I cried out in a supplicating voice, "My child I conjure—"

At these words, to tell you, my friend all that I read in the profound look which Fleur-de Marie cast upon me, would be impossible. As you see directly, she had understood me—yes, she had understood that I should partake in the shame of this horrible revelation; she understood that, after such a revelation, I might be accused of falsehood, for I had a ways left it to be believed that Fleur-de-Marie had never left her mother.

At this thought the poor child believed herself guilty of the blackest ingratitude toward me. She had not strength to go on—she was silent, and held down her head from exhaustion.

"Yes once again, my dear daughter," resumed the abbess, "your modesty deceives you; the unanimity of your sisters' choice proves to you how worthy you are to take my place. If you have taken part in the pleasures of the world, your renouncing these pleasures is but the more meritorious. It is not her Royal Highness Princess Amelia who is chosen—it is Sister Amelia. For us, your life began when you entered this house of the Lord, and it is this example and holy life which we recompense. I say to you, moreover, my dear daughter, that if before entering this retreat your life had been as guilty as it has been, on the contrary, pure and praiseworthy, that the angelic virtues of which you have given us the example since your abode here would expiate and redeem, in the eyes of the Lord, any past life, however guilty it may have been. After this, my daughter, judge if your modesty ought not to be assured."

These words of the abbess were the more precious to Fleur-de-Marie, inasmuch as she believed the past ineffaceable. Unfortunately, this scene had deeply distressed her, and, though she affected calmness and firmness, it seemed to me that her countenance changed in an alarming manner. Twice she groaned as she passed her poor emaciated hand over her forehead.

"I think I have convinced you, my dear daughter," resumed the Princess Juliana, "and you would not cause your sisters a severe pain by refusing this mark of their conndence and their affection."

"No, holy mother," said she, with an expression which struck me, and with a voice becoming weaker and weaker, "I now think I may except it. But, as I feel greatly fatigued and somewhat ill, if you will permit it, holy mother, the ceremony of my consecration shall not take place for a few days."

"It shall be as you desire, my dear daughter; but while we wait till your office shall be blessed and consecrated, take this ring: come to your place; our dear sisters will render you their homage, according to the rules."

I saw at every moment her emotion increasing, her countenance changing more and more; finally, this scene was beyond her strength; she fainted before the procession of the sisters was finished. Judge of my terror; we carried her into the apartment of the abbess. David had not left the convent; he hastened and bestowed the first caress upon her. Oh, that he may not have deceived me: he assures me that this new accident was caused only by extreme weakness occasioned by the fastings, the fatigues, and the privation of sleep which my daughter has imposed upon herself during her novitiate. I believe him, because, in fact, her angelic features, though of a frightful paleness, did not betray any suffering; when she recovered her consciousness, I was even struck with the serenity which shone on her forehead. It seems to me that she was concealing the secret hope of an approaching deliverance. The superior having returned to the chapter to close the session, I remained alone with my daughter.

"My good father, can you forget my ingratitude? Can you forget that, at the moment I was about to make this painful confession, you asked me to spare you!"

"Oh! do not speak of it, I supplicate you."

"And I had not dreamed," continued she, with bitterness, "that in saying, in the face of all, from what an abyss of degradation you had drawn me, I was revealing a secret that you had kept out of tenderness to me; it was to accuse you publicly—you, my father—of a dissimulation to which you had resigned yourself only to secure to me a brilliant and honored existence. Oh! can you pardon me?"

Instead of answering her, I pressed my lips upon her forehead; she felt my tears flow. After having kissed my hands several times, she said to me, "Now I feel better, my good father, now that I am, as our rules says, here, and dead to the world. I should wish to make some dispositions in favor of several persons; but as all I posses is yours, will you authorize me, my good father?"

"Can you doubt it? but I beseech you," said I to her, "do not indulge these sad thoughts; by and by you shall employ yourself in this duty: you have time enough."

"Undoubtedly, my good father, I have yet much time to live," added she, with an accent that, I know not why, made me shudder. I looked at her most attentively; but no change in her features justified my uneasiness. "Yes, I have yet much time to live," resumed she, "but I must not occupy myself longer with terrestrial things, for to-day I renounce all which attached me to the world. I beseech you, do not refuse me."

"Direct me: I will do anything you wish."

"I should wish that my tender mother would always keep in the little back parlor, where she usually sits, my embroidery frame, with the tapestry I have begun in it."

"Your wishes shall be fulfilled, my child; your room has remained exactly as it was the day you left the palace; for everything belonging to you is an object of religious worships to us. Clemence will be deeply touched at your remembrance of her."

"As to you, my good father, take, I beg you, my large ebony chair, in which I have thought and dreamed so much."

"It shall be placed by the side of mine in my working cabinet, and I shall see you in it every day, seated beside me, as you so often used to sit." Could I tell her this, and restrain my tears?

"Now I should wish to leave some memorials of me to those who took so much interest in me when I was unfortunate. To Madame George I should like to give my writing-desk, of which I have lately made use. This gift will be appropriate," added she, with a sweet smile, "for it was she at the farm who began to teach me to write. As to the venerable curate of Bouqueval, who instructed me in religion, I destine for him the beautiful Christ in my oratory."

"Good, my child."

"I should like to send my bandeau of pearls to good little Rigolette. It is a simple ornament that she can wear on her beautiful black hair; and then, if it were possible, since you know where Martial and La Louve are, in Algiers, I should wish that the courageous woman, who once saved my life, should have my enameled cross. These different pledges of remembrance, my good father, I should wish to have sent to them from Fleure-de Marie."

"I will execute your wishes; have you forgotten none?"

"I believe not, my good father."

"Think carefully: among those who love you, is there not some one very unhappy—as unhappy as your mother and myself; some one finally who regrets as deeply as we do your entrance into the convent?"

The poor child understood me she pressed my hand; a slight blush colored for a moment her pale face.

Anticipating a question which she feared, undoubtedly, to ask me, I said to her, "He is better; they no longer fear for his life."

"And his father?"

"He feels the improvement in the health of his son—he, too, is better. And to Henry, what will you give? A remembrance from you will be such a dear, such a precious consolation to him."

"My father, offer him my praying-desk. Alas! I have often watered it with my tears, in begging of Heaven strength to forget Henry, since I was not worthy of his love."

"How happy he will be to see that you had a thought for him!"

"The Asylum for Orphans and young women abandoned by their relations, I should desire, my good father—"

Here Rudolph's letter was interrupted by the following words which were almost illegible: "Clemence, Murphy will finish this letter: I have no longer any mind—I am distracted. Oh, the thirteenth of January!!!"

The conclusion of this letter is the handwriting of Murphy, was thus conceived:

YOUR HIGHNESS,—In obedience to the orders of his royal highness, I complete this sad recital. The two letters of my lord must have prepared your royal highness for the overwhelming news which it remains to me to acquaint you with. It was three o'clock; my lord was employed in writing to your royal highness; I was waiting in a neighboring apartment until he should give me the letter, to forward it immediately by a courier. Suddenly I saw the Princess Juliana enter with an air of consternation. "Where is his royal highness?" said she to me, with a voice filled with emotion. "Princess, my lord is writing to the grand duchess the news of the day."

"Sir Walter, you must inform my lord—a terrible event. You are his friend, be so kind as to inform him; from you the blow will be less terrible."

I understood everything; I thought it more prudent to take this sad revelation upon myself, the superior having added that the Princess Amelia was slowly sinking away, and that my lord must hasten to receive the last sighs of his daughter. I unfortunately had not time to take any precautions. I entered the saloon; his royal highness perceived my paleness. "You have come to acquaint me of some misfortune."

"An irreparable misfortune, my lord—courage."

"Ah, my presentiments!" cried he, and, without adding a word, he ran to the cloister. I followed him.

From the apartment of the superior, the Princess Amelia had been transported into her cell after her last interview with my lord. One of the sisters was watching by her; at the end of an hour she perceived that the voice of the Princess Amelia, who spoke to her at intervals, was becoming weaker, and that she was more distressed. The sister hastened to inform the superior; Dr. David was called; he hoped to remedy this new loss of strength by a cordial, but it was in vain; the pulse was scarcely perceptible; he saw, with despair, that reiterated emotions had probably exhausted the strength of the Princess Amelia; there remained no hope of saving her. It was then that my lord arrived. Princess Amelia had just received the last sacrament; a ray of intelligence still lingered about her; in one of her hands, crossed on her bosom, was the remains of her little rose-bush.

My lord fell on his knees by her pillow: he sobbed. "My daughter, my beloved child," cried he in a heart-rending tone.

The Princess Amelia heard him, turned her head gently toward him, opened her eyes, endeavored to smile, and said, with a feeble voice:

"My good father, pardon—Henry also—my good mother—forgive."

Such were her last words! After an hour of silent agony, she gave up her spirit to God.

When his daughter had yielded up her last sigh, my lord did not say a word; his calmness was frightful; he closed the eyes of the princess, kissed her forehead again and again, took piously the remains of the little rose-bush, and left the cell.

"I followed him; he returned to the house without the cloister, and showing me the letter that he had begun to write to your royal highness, and to which he in vain attempted to add some words, for his hand trembled convulsively, he said to me:

"It is impossible for me to write. I am distraught, my mind is gone. Write to the grand duchess that I no longer have a daughter!"

I have executed the orders of my lord. Permit me, as his oldest servant, to beseech your royal highness to hasten your return as soon as the health of the Count d'Orbigny will permit it. The presence of your royal highness alone can calm the despair of the prince. He wishes to watch every night by his daughter till the day when she shall be buried in the grand ducal chapel. I have accomplished my sad task, madame; be so kind as to excuse the incoherence of this letter, and accept the expression of respectful devotion with which I have the honor to be your loyal highness's very obedient servant,

WALTER MURPHY.

The night before the funeral service of the Princess Amelia, Clemence arrived at Gerolstein with her father. Rudolph was not alone the day of the funeral of Fleur-de-Marie.



THE END.



[Transcriber's Note: The following appeared in our print copy. Some are rare words or variant spellings; others are typographical errors. We have left these as in the print copy.

"Countes" in chapter 1 (elsewhere "Countess"); "Ruldoph" and "Ruldolph" ("Rudolph") in chapter 5; "amoment's" ("a moment's") in chapter 7; "ell" (probably for "cell") in chapter 8; "th" ("the") in chapter 8; "trangress" ("transgress") in chapter 8; "blackhole" ("black hole"; i.e., "prison cell") in chapter 9; "magsman" (Slang for "swindler") in chapter 9; "bootlining" ("boot lining") in chapter 10; "surprise" in "more and more surprise" ("surprised") in chapter 11; "burk" in the poetic quotation in chapter 12; "intead" ("instead") in chapter 12; "kindnss" ("kindness") in chapter 21; "corypheus" in chapter 22; "Rohefort" ("Rochefort") in chapter 25; "charcter" ("character") in chapter 29; "KAMINETN" and "KAMINETZ" both appear in the Epilogue; "timidily" in chapter 4 of the Epilogue; "Fraeulien" (for "Fraeulein") in chapter 4 of the Epilogue; "conndence" in chapter 7 of the Epilogue.]

THE END

Previous Part     1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9  10
Home - Random Browse