The Golden Dog/Chapter LII
Chapter LII: The Lamp of Repentigny
Closely veiled, acknowledging no one, looking at no one, and not themselves recognized by any, but clinging to each other for mutual support, Amelie and Heloise traversed swiftly the streets that led to the Convent of the Ursulines.
At the doors, and in the porches and galleries of the old-fashioned houses, women stood in groups, discussing eagerly the wild reports that were flying to and fro through the city, and looking up and down the streets for further news of the tragedy in the market- place. The male part of the population had run off and gathered in excited masses around the mansion of the Golden Dog, which was suddenly shut up, and long streamers of black crape were hanging at the door.
Many were the inquisitive glances and eager whisperings of the good wives and girls as the two ladies, deeply veiled in black, passed by with drooping heads and handkerchiefs pressed against their faces, while more than one quick ear caught the deep, suppressed sobs that broke from their bosoms. No one ventured to address them, however, although their appearance caused no little speculation as to who they were and whither they were going.
Amelie and Heloise, almost fainting under their sorrow, stood upon the broad stone step which formed the threshold that separated the world they were entering into from the world they were leaving.
The high gables and old belfry of the Monastrey stood bathed in sunlight. The figure of St. Joseph that dominated over the ancient portal held out his arms and seemed to welcome the trembling fugitives into the house with a gesture of benediction.
The two ladies paused upon the stone steps. Amelie clasped her arm round Heloise, whom she pressed to her bosom and said, "Think before you knock at this door and cross the threshold for the last time, Heloise! You must not do it for my sake, darling."
"No, Amelie," replied she sadly. "It is not wholly for your sake. Would I could say it were! Alas! If I remained in the world, I could even now pity Le Gardeur, and follow him to the world's end; but it must not--cannot be. Do not seek to dissuade me, Amelie, for it is useless."
"Your mind is made up, then, to go in with me, my Heloise?" said Amelie, with a fond, questioning look.
"Fully, finally, and forever!" replied she, with energy that left no room for doubt. "I long ago resolved to ask the community to let me die with them. My object, dear sister, is like yours: to spend my life in prayers and supplications for Le Gardeur, and be laid, when God calls me to his rest, by the side of our noble aunt, Mere Madelaine de Repentigny, whose lamp still burns in the Chapel of the Saints, as if to light you and me to follow in her footsteps."
"It is for Le Gardeur's sake I too go," replied Amelie; "to veil my face from the eyes of a world I am ashamed to see, and to expiate, if I can, the innocent blood that has been shed. But the sun shines very bright for those to whom its beams are still pleasant!" said she, looking around sadly, as if it were for the last time she bade adieu to the sun, which she should never again behold under the free vault of heaven.
Heloise turned slowly to the door of the Convent. "Those golden rays that shine through the wicket," said she, "and form a cross upon the pavement within, as we often observed with schoolgirl admiration, are the only rays to gladden me now. I care no more for the light of the sun. I will live henceforth in the blessed light of the lamp of Repentigny. My mind is fixed, and I will not leave you, Amelie. 'Where thou goest I will go, where thou lodgest I will lodge; thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God.'"
Amelie kissed her cousin tenderly. "So be it, then, Heloise. Your heart is broken as well as mine. We will pray together for Le Gardeur, beseeching God to pity and forgive."
Amelie knocked at the door twice before a sound of light footsteps was heard within. A veiled nun appeared at the little wicket and looked gravely for a moment upon the two postulantes for admission, repeating the formula usual on such occasions.
"What seek you, my sisters?"
"To come in and find rest, good Mere des Seraphins," replied Amelie, to whom the portiere was well known. "We desire to leave the world and live henceforth with the community in the service and adoration of our blessed Lord, and to pray for the sins of others as well as our own."
"It is a pious desire, and no one stands at the door and knocks but it is opened. Wait, my sisters, I will summon the Lady Superior to admit you."
The nun disappeared for a few minutes. Her voice was heard again as she returned to the wicket: "The Lady Superior deputes to Mere Esther the privilege, on this occasion, of receiving the welcome postulantes of the house of Repentigny."
The portiere retired from the wicket. The heavy door swung noiselessly back, opening the way into a small antechamber, floored with smooth flags, and containing a table and a seat or two. On either side of the interior door of the antechamber was a turnstile or tourelle, which enabled the inmates within to receive anything from the outside world without being themselves seen. Amelie and Heloise passed through the inner door, which opened as of its own accord, as they approached it with trembling steps and troubled mien.
A tall nun, of commanding figure but benign aspect, received the two ladies with the utmost affection, as well-known friends.
Mere Esther wore a black robe sweeping the ground. It was bound at the waist by a leathern girdle. A black veil fell on each side of the snowy fillet that covered her forehead, and half covered the white wimple upon her neck and bosom.
At the first sight of the veil thrown over the heads of Amelie and Heloise, and the agitation of both, she knew at once that the time of these two girls, like that of many others, had come. Their arrival was a repetition of the old, old story, of which her long experience had witnessed many instances.
"Good mother," exclaimed Amelie, throwing her arms around the nun, who folded her tenderly to her bosom, although her face remained calm and passionless, "we are come at last! Heloise and I wish to live and die in the monastery. Good Mother Esther, will you take us in?"
"Welcome both!" replied Mere Esther, kissing each of them on the forehead. "The virgins who enter in with the bridegroom to the marriage are those whose lamps are burning! The lamp of Repentigny is never extinguished in the Chapel of Saints, nor is the door of the monastery ever shut against one of your house."
"Thanks, good mother! But we bring a heavy burden with us. No one but God can tell the weight and the pain of it!" said Amelie sadly.
"I know, Amelie, I know; but what says our blessed Lord? 'Come unto me all ye that are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest.'"
"I seek not rest, good mother," replied she sadly, "but a place for penance, to melt Heaven with prayers for the innocent blood that has been shed to-day, that it be not recorded forever against my brother. Oh, Mere Esther, you know my brother, Le Gardeur; how generous and kind he was! You have heard of the terrible occurrence in the market-place?"
"Yes, I have heard," said the nun. "Bad news reaches us ever soonest. It fills me with amazement that one so noble as your brother should have done so terrible a deed."
"Oh, Mere Esther!" exclaimed Amelie eagerly, "it was not Le Gardeur in his senses who did it. No, he never knowingly struck the blow that has killed me as well as the good Bourgeois! Alas! he knew not what he did. But still he has done it, and my remaining time left on earth must be spent in sackcloth and ashes, beseeching God for pardon and mercy for him."
"The community will join you in your prayers, Amelie," replied the Mere.
Esther stood wrapt in thought for a few moments. "Heloise!" said she, addressing the fair cousin of Amelie, "I have long expected you in the monastery. You struggled hard for the world and its delights, but God's hand was stronger than your purposes. When He calls, be it in the darkest night, happy is she who rises instantly to follow her Lord!"
"He has indeed called me, O mother! and I desire only to become a faithful servant of His tabernacle forever. I pray, good Mere Esther, for your intercession with the Mere de la Nativite. The venerable Lady Superior used to say we were dowerless brides, we of the house of Lotbiniere."
"But you shall not be dowerless, Heloise!" burst out Amelie. "You shall enter the convent with as rich a dowry as ever accompanied an Ursuline."
"No, Amelie; if they will not accept me for myself, I will imitate my aunt, the admirable queteuse, who, being, like me, a dowerless postulante, begged from house to house throughout the city for the means to open to her the door of the monastery.
"Heloise," replied Mere Esther, "this is idle fear. We have waited for you, knowing that one day you would come, and you will be most welcome, dowered or not!"
"You are ever kind, Mere Esther, but how could you know I should come to you?" asked Heloise with a look of inquiry.
"Alas, Heloise, we know more of the world and its doings than is well for us. Our monastery is like the ear of Dionysius: not a whisper in the city escapes it. Oh, darling, we knew you had failed in your one great desire upon earth, and that you would seek consolation where it is only to be found, in the arms of your Lord."
"It is true, mother; I had but one desire upon earth, and it is crushed; one little bird that nestled a while in my bosom, and it has flown away. The event of to-day has stricken me and Amelie alike, and we come together to wear out the stones of your pavement praying for the hapless brother of Amelie."
"And the object of Heloise's faithful love!" replied the nun with tender sympathy. "Oh! how could Le Gardeur de Repentigny refuse a heart like yours, Heloise, for the sake of that wild daughter of levity, Angelique des Meloises?
"But come, I will conduct you to the venerable Lady Superior, who is in the garden conversing with Grand'mere St. Pierre, and your old friend and mistress, Mere Ste. Helene."
The news of the tragedy in the market-place had been early carried to the Convent by the ubiquitous Bonhomme Michael, who was out that day on one of his multifarious errands in the service of the community.
The news had passed quickly through the Convent, agitating the usually quiet nuns, and causing the wildest commotion among the classes of girls, who were assembled at their morning lessons in the great schoolroom. The windows were clustered with young, comely heads, looking out in every direction, while nuns in alarm streamed from the long passages to the lawn, where sat the venerable Superior, Mere Migeon de la Nativite, under a broad ash-tree, sacred to the Convent by the memories that clustered around it. The Ste. Therese of Canada, Mere Marie de l'Incarnation, for lack of a better roof, in the first days of her mission, used to gather around her under that tree the wild Hurons as well as the young children of the colonists, to give them their first lessons in religion and letters.
Mere Esther held up her finger warningly to the nuns not to speak, as she passed onward through the long corridors, dim with narrow lights and guarded by images of saints, until she came into an open square flagged with stones. In the walls of this court a door opened upon the garden into which a few steps downwards conducted them.
The garden of the monastery was spacious and kept with great care. The walks meandered around beds of flowers, and under the boughs of apple-trees, and by espaliers of ancient pears and plums.
The fruit had long been gathered in, and only a few yellow leaves hung upon the autumnal trees, but the grass was still green on the lawn where stood the great ash-tree of Mere Marie de l'Incarnation. The last hardy flowers of autumn lingered in this sheltered spot.
In these secluded alleys the quiet recluses usually walked and meditated in peace, for here man's disturbing voice was never heard.
But to-day a cluster of agitated nuns gathered around the great ash- tree, and here and there stood groups of black and white veils; some were talking, while others knelt silently before the guardian of the house, the image of St. Joseph, which overlooked this spot, considered particularly sacred to prayer and meditation.
The sight of Mere Esther, followed by the well-known figures of Amelie and Heloise, caused every head to turn with a look of recognition; but the nuns were too well disciplined to express either surprise or curiosity in the presence of Mere Migeon, however much they felt of both. They stood apart at a sign from the Lady Superior, leaving her with a nun attendant on each side to receive Mere Esther and her two companions.
Mere Migeon de la Nativite was old in years, but fresh in looks and alert in spirit. Her features were set in that peculiar expression of drooping eyelids and placid lips which belongs to the Convent, but she could look up and flash out on occasion with an air of command derived from high birth and a long exercise of authority as Superior of the Ursulines, to which office the community had elected her as many trienniums as their rules permitted.
Mere Migeon had been nearly half a century a nun, and felt as much pride as humility in the reflection. She liked power, which, however, she exercised wholly for the benefit of her subjects in the Convent, and wore her veil with as much dignity as the Queen her crown. But, if not exempt from some traces of human infirmity, she made amends by devoting herself night and day to the spiritual and temporal welfare of the community, who submitted to her government with extreme deference and unquestioning obedience.
Mere Migeon had directed the two sorrowing ladies to be brought into the garden, where she would receive them under the old tree of Mere Marie de l'Incarnation.
She rose with affectionate eagerness as they entered, and embraced them one after the other, kissing them on the cheek; "her little prodigals returning to the house of their father and mother, after feeding on the husks of vanity in the gay world which was never made for them."
"We will kill the fatted calf in honor of your return, Amelie. Will we not, Mere Esther?" said the Lady Superior, addressing Amelie rather than Heloise.
"Not for me, reverend Mere; you shall kill no fatted calf, real or symbolical, for me!" exclaimed Amelie. "I come only to hide myself in your cloister, to submit myself to your most austere discipline. I have given up all. Oh, my Mere, I have given up all! None but God can know what I have given up forever!"
"You were to have married the son of the Bourgeois, were you not, Amelie?" asked the Superior, who, as the aunt of Varin, and by family ties connected with certain leading spirits of the Grand Company, had no liking for the Bourgeois Philibert; her feelings, too, had been wrought upon by a recital of the sermon preached in the marketplace that morning.
"Oh, speak not of it, good Mere! I was betrothed to Pierre Philibert, and how am I requiting his love? I should have been his wife, but for this dreadful deed of my brother. The Convent is all that is left to me now."
"Your aunt called herself the humble handmaid of Mary, and the lamp of Repentigny will burn all the brighter trimmed by a daughter of her noble house," answered Mere Migeon.
"By two daughters, good Mere! Heloise is equally a daughter of our house," replied Amelie, with a touch of feeling.
Mere Esther whispered a few words in the ear of the Superior, advising her to concede every request of Amelie and Heloise, and returned to the wicket to answer some other hasty call from the troubled city.
Messengers despatched by Bonhomme Michael followed one another at short intervals, bringing to the Convent exact details of all that occurred in the streets, with the welcome tidings at last that the threatened outbreak had been averted by the prompt interposition of the Governor and troops. Comparative quietness again reigned in every quarter of the city.
Le Gardeur de Repentigny had voluntarily surrendered himself to the guard and given up his sword, being overwhelmed with remorse for his act. He had been placed, not in irons as he had demanded, but as a prisoner in the strong ward of the Castle of St. Louis.
"I pray you, reverend Mere Superior," said Amelie, "permit us now to go into the Chapel of Saints to lay our hearts, as did our kinswoman, Madelaine de Repentigny, at the feet of our Lady of Grand Pouvoir."
"Go, my children, and our prayers shall go with you," replied the Superior; "the lamp of Repentigny will burn brighter than ever to- night to welcome you."
The Chapel of Saints was held in reverence as the most sacred place in the monastery. It contained the shrines and relics of many saints and martyrs. The devout nuns lavished upon it their choicest works of embroidery, painting, and gilding, in the arts of which they were eminent. The old Sacristaine was kneeling before the altar as Amelie and Heloise entered the Chapel.
An image of the Virgin occupied a niche in the Chapel wall, and before it burned the silver lamp of Repentigny which had been hung there two generations before, in memory of the miraculous call of Madelaine de Repentigny and her victory over the world.
The high-bred and beautiful Madelaine had been the delight and pride of Ville Marie. Stricken with grief by the death of a young officer to whom she was affianced, she retired to Quebec, and knelt daily at the feet of our Lady of Pouvoir, beseeching her for a sign if it was her will that she should become an Ursuline.
The sign was given, and Madelaine de Repentigny at once exchanged her gay robes for the coarse black gown and veil, and hung up this votive lamp before the Madonna as a perpetual memorial of her miraculous call.
Seven generations of men have passed away since then. The house of Repentigny has disappeared from their native land. Their name and fame lie buried in oblivion, except in that little Chapel of the Saints where their lamp still burns brightly as ever. The pious nuns of St. Ursule, as the last custodians of the traditions of New France, preserve that sole memorial of the glories and misfortunes of the noble house,--the lamp of Repentigny.
Amelie and Heloise remained long in the Chapel of Saints, kneeling upon the hard floor as they prayed with tears and sobs for the soul of the Bourgeois and for God's pity and forgiveness upon Le Gardeur.
To Amelie's woes was added the terrible consciousness that, by this deed of her brother, Pierre Philibert was torn from her forever. She pictured to herself his grief, his love, his despair, perhaps his vengeance; and to add to all, she, his betrothed bride, had forsaken him and fled like a guilty thing, without waiting to see whether he condemned her.
An hour ago Amelie had been the envy and delight of her gay bridesmaids. Her heart had overflowed like a fountain of wine, intoxicating all about her with joy at the hope of the speedy coming of her bridegroom. Suddenly the idols of her life had been shattered as by a thunderbolt, and lay in fragments around her feet.
The thought came upon her like the rush of angry wings. She knew that all was over between her and Pierre. The cloister and the veil were all that were left to Amelie de Repentigny.
"Heloise, dearest sister!" exclaimed she, "my conscience tells me I have done right, but my heart accuses me of wrong to Pierre, of falseness to my plighted vows in forsaking him; and yet, not for heaven itself would I have forsaken Pierre. Would that I were dead! Oh, what have I done, Heloise, to deserve such a chastisement as this from God?"
Amelie threw her arms around the neck of Heloise, and leaning her head on her bosom, wept long and without restraint, for none saw them save God.
"Listen!" said Heloise, as the swelling strain of the organ floated up from the convent chapel. The soft voices of the nuns mingled in plaintive harmony as they sang the hymn of the Virgin:
"Pia Mater! Fons amoris!
Me sentire vim doloris
Fac, ut tecum lugeam!"
Again came the soft pleading notes of the sacred hymn:
"Quando corpus morietur,
Fac ut animae donetur
Paradisi gloria! Amen!"
The harmony filled the ears of Amelie and Heloise, like the lap of the waves of eternity upon the world's shore. It died away, and they continued praying before Our Lady of Grand Pouvoir.
The silence was suddenly broken. Hasty steps traversed the little chapel. A rush of garments caused Amelie and Heloise to turn around, and in an instant they were both clasped in the passionate embrace of the Lady de Tilly, who had arrived at the Convent.
"My dear children, my poor, stricken daughters," exclaimed she, kissing them passionately and mingling her tears with theirs, "what have you done to be dashed to the earth by such a stroke of divine wrath?"
"Oh, aunt, pardon us for what we have done!" exclaimed Amelie, "and for not asking your consent, but alas! it is God's will and doing! I have given up the world; do not blame me, aunt!"
"Nor me, aunt!" added Heloise; "I have long known that the cloister was my sole heritage, and I now claim it."
"Blame you, darling! Oh, Amelie, in the shame and agony of this day I could share the cloister with you myself forever, but my work is out in the wide world, and I must not withdraw my hand!"
"Have you seen Le Gardeur? Oh, aunt! have you seen my brother?" asked Amelie, seizing her hand passionately.
"I have seen him, and wept over him," was the reply. "Oh, Amelie! great as is his offence, his crime, yes, I will be honest calling it such,--no deeper contrition could rend his heart had he committed all the sins forbidden in the Decalogue. He demands a court martial to condemn him at once to death, upon his own self-accusation and confession of the murder of the good Bourgeois."
"Oh, aunt, and he loved the Bourgeois so! It seems like a hideous dream of fright and nightmare that Le Gardeur should assail the father of Pierre Philibert, and mine that was to be!"
At this thought the poor girl flung herself upon the bosom of the Lady de Tilly, convulsed and torn by as bitter sobs as ever drew human pity.
"Le Gardeur! Le Gardeur! Good God! what will they do with him, aunt? Is he to die?" cried she imploringly, as with streaming eyes she looked up at her aunt.
"Listen, Amelie! Compose yourself and you shall hear. I was in the Church of Notre Dame des Victoires when I received the tidings. It was long before the messenger found me. I rose instantly and hastened to the house of the Bourgeois, where its good master lay dead in his bloody vesture. I cannot describe the sad sight, Amelie! I there learned that the Governor and La Corne St. Luc had been to the house of the Bourgeois and had returned to the Castle."
"Oh, aunt, did you see him? Did you see the good old Bourgeois? And you know he is dead?"
"Yes, Amelie, I saw him, and could have wished my eyesight blasted forever after. Do not ask me more."
"But I must, aunt! Did you see--oh, why may I not yet utter his dear name?--did you see Pierre?"
"Yes, Amelie. Pierre came home unexpectedly while I was weeping over the dead corpse of his father. Poor Pierre! my own sorrows were naught to his silent grief! It was more terrible than the wildest outburst of passion I ever saw!"
"And what did he say? Oh, aunt, tell me all! Do not spare me one word, however bitter! Did he not curse you? Did he not curse me? And above all, Le Gardeur? Oh, he cursed us all; he heaped a blasting malediction upon the whole house of Repentigny, did he not?"
"Amelie, be composed! Do not look at me so wildly with these dear eyes, and I will tell you." Her aunt tried to soothe her with fond caresses.
"I will be composed! I am calm! Look now, aunt, I am calm!" exclaimed the grief-stricken girl, whose every nerve was quivering with wild excitement.
The Lady de Tilly and Heloise made her sit down, while each held forcibly a hand to prevent an access of hysteria. Mere Ste. Vierge rose and hastily left the chapel to fetch water.
"Amelie, the nobleness of Pierre Philibert is almost beyond the range of fallible mortals," said the Lady de Tilly. "In the sudden crash of all his hopes he would not utter a word of invective against your brother. His heart tells him that Le Gardeur has been made the senseless instrument of others in this crime."
"A thousand thanks, dearest aunt, for your true appreciation of Pierre! I know he deserves it all; and when the veil covers my head forever from the eyes of men, it will be my sole joy to reflect that Pierre Philibert was worthy, more than worthy, of my love! But what said he further, aunt? Oh, tell me all!"
"He rose from his knees beside the corpse of his father," continued the lady, "and seeing me kneeling, raised me and seated me in a chair beside him. He asked me where you were, and who was with you to support and comfort you in this storm of affliction. I told him, and he kissed me, exclaiming, 'Oh, aunt,--mother, what shall I do?'"
"Oh, aunt! did Pierre say that? Did he call you aunt and mother? And he did not curse me at all? Poor Pierre!" And she burst out into a flood of tears which nothing could control.
"Yes Amelie! His heart is bleeding to death with this dreadful sword-stroke of Le Gardeur's," said the Lady de Tilly, after waiting till she recovered somewhat.
"And will he not slay Le Gardeur? Will he not deem it his duty to kill my brother and his?" cried she. "He is a soldier and must!"
"Listen, Amelie. There is a divinity in Pierre that we see only in the noblest of men; he will not slay Le Gardeur. He is his brother and yours, and will regard him as such. Whatever he might have done in the first impulse of anger, Pierre will not now seek the life of Le Gardeur. He knows too well whence this blow has really come. He has been deeply touched by the remorse and self-accusation of Le Gardeur."
"I could kiss his feet! my noble Pierre! Oh, aunt, aunt! what have I not lost! But I was betrothed to him, was I not?" She started up with a shriek of mortal agony. "They never can recall that!" she cried wildly. "He was to have been mine! He is still mine, and forever will be mine! Death will reunite what in life is sundered! Will it not, aunt?"
"Yes; be composed, darling, and I will tell you more. Nay, do not look at me so, Amelie!" The Lady de Tilly stroked her cheek and kissed the dark eyes that seemed flaring out of their sockets with maddening excitement.
"When I had recovered strength enough to go to the Castle to see the Count, Pierre supported me thither. He dared not trust himself to see Le Gardeur, who from his prison sent message after message to him to beg death at his hand.
"I held a brief conference with the Governor, La Corne St. Luc, and a few gentlemen, who were hastily gathered together in the council- chamber. I pleaded long, not for pardon, not even for Le Gardeur could I ask for pardon, Amelie!" exclaimed the just and noble woman,--"but for a calm consideration of the terrible circumstances which had surrounded him in the Palace of the Intendant, and which had led directly to the catastrophe."
"And what said they? Oh, be quick, aunt! Is not Le Gardeur to be tried by martial law and condemned at once to death?"
"No, Amelie! The Count de la Galissoniere, with the advice of his wisest counsellors, among whom is your godfather and others, the dearest friends of both families, have resolved to send Le Gardeur to France by the Fleur de Lys, which sails to-morrow. They do this in order that the King may judge of his offence, as also to prevent the conflict that may arise between the contending factions in the Colony, should they try him here. This resolution may be wise, or not, I do not judge; but such is the determination of the Governor and Council, to which all must submit."
Amelie held her head between her palms for some moments. She was violently agitated, but she tried to consider, as best she might, the decision with regard to her brother.
"It is merciful in them," she said, "and it is just. The King will judge what is right in the sight of God and man. Le Gardeur was but a blind instrument of others in this murder, as blind almost as the sword he held in his hand. But shall I not see him, aunt, before he is sent away?"
"Alas, no! The Governor, while kind, is inexorable on one point. He will permit no one, after this, to see Le Gardeur, to express either blame or approval of his deed, or to report his words. He will forbid you and me and his nearest friends from holding any communication with him before he leaves the Colony. The Count has remitted his case to the King, and resolved that it shall be accompanied by no self-accusation which Le Gardeur may utter in his frantic grief. The Count does this in justice as well as mercy, Amelie."
"Then I shall never see my brother more in this world,--never!" exclaimed Amelie, supporting herself on the arm of Heloise. "His fate is decided as well as mine, and yours too, O Heloise."
"It may not be so hard with him as with us, Amelie," replied Heloise, whose bosom was agitated with fresh emotions at every allusion to Le Gardeur. "The King may pardon him, Amelie." Heloise in her soul hoped so, and in her heart prayed so.
"Alas! If we could say God pardoned him!" replied Amelie, her thoughts running suddenly in a counter-current. "But my life must be spent in imploring God's grace and forgiveness all the same, whether man forgive him or no."
"Say not my life, but our lives, Amelie. We have crossed the threshold of this house together for the last time. We go no more out to look upon a world fair and beautiful to see, but so full of disappointment and wretchedness to have experience of!"
"My daughters," exclaimed the Lady de Tilly, "another time we will speak of this. Harken, Amelie! I did not tell you that Pierre Philibert came with me to the gate of the Convent to see you. He would have entered, but the Lady Superior refused inexorably to admit him even to the parlor."
"Pierre came to the Convent,--to the Convent?" repeated Amelie with fond iteration, "and they would not admit him. Why would they not admit him? But I should have died of shame to see him. They were kind in their cruelty. Poor Pierre! he thinks me still worthy of some regard." She commenced weeping afresh.
"He would fain have seen you, darling," said her aunt. "Your flight to the Convent--he knows what it means--overwhelms him with a new calamity."
"And yet it cannot be otherwise. I dare not place my hand in his now, for it would redden it! But it is sweet amid my affliction to know that Pierre has not forgotten me, that he does not hate me, nay, that he still loves me, although I abandon the world and him who to me was the light of it. Why would they not admit him?"
"Mere Migeon is as hard as she is just, Amelie. I think too she has no love for the Philiberts. Her nephew Varin has all the influence of a spoilt son over the Lady Superior."
Amelie scarcely regarded the last remark of her aunt, but repeated the words, "Hard and just! Yes, it is true, and hardness and justice are what I crave in my misery. The flintiest couch shall be to me a bed of down, the scantiest fare a royal feast, the hardest penance a life of pleasure. Mere Migeon cannot be more hard nor more just to me than I would be to myself."
"My poor Amelie! My poor Heloise!" repeated the lady, stroking their hair and kissing them both alternately; "be it as God wills. When it is dark every prospect lies hid in the darkness, but it is there all the same, though we see it not; but when the day returns everything is revealed. We see naught before us now but the image of our Lady of Grand Pouvoir illumined by the lamp of Repentigny, but the sun of righteousness will yet arise with healing on his wings for us all! But oh, my children, let nothing be done hastily, rashly, or unbecoming the daughters of our honorable house."