The Village Rector
Honore de Balzac
Part 5 out of 5
I stayed; but after he had gone I had no strength left,--a girl with a
child and no husband! The worst of creatures was better than I. I
don't know what would have become of me had I stayed to hear a word
against my boy or his father; I should have gone mad; I might have
killed myself. My father or my mother in a moment of anger might have
reproached me. I am too sensitive to bear a quarrel or an insult,
gentle as I am. I have had my punishment in not seeing my child, I who
have never passed a day without thinking of him in all these years! I
wished to be forgotten, and I have been. No one thought of me,--they
believed me dead; and yet, many a time, I thought of leaving all just
to come here for a day and see my child."
"Your child--see, here he is."
Catherine then saw Benjamin, and began to tremble violently.
"Benjamin," said Madame Graslin, "come and kiss your mother."
"My mother!" cried Benjamin, surprised. He jumped into Catherine's
arms and she pressed him to her breast with almost savage force. But
the boy escaped her and ran off crying out: "I'll go and fetch /him/."
Madame Graslin made Catherine, who was almost fainting, sit down. At
this moment she saw Monsieur Bonnet and could not help blushing as she
met a piercing look from her confessor, which read her heart.
"I hope," she said, trembling, "that you will consent to marry
Farrabesche and Catherine at once. Don't you recognize Monsieur
Bonnet, my dear? He will tell you that Farrabesche, since his
liberation has behaved as an honest man; the whole neighborhood thinks
well of him, and if there is a place in the world where you may live
happy and respected it is at Montegnac. You can make, by God's help, a
good living as my farmers; for Farrabesche has recovered citizenship."
"That is all true, my dear child," said the rector.
Just then Farrabesche appeared, pulled along by his son. He was pale
and speechless in presence of Catherine and Madame Graslin. His heart
told him actively benevolent the one had been, and how deeply the
other had suffered in his absence. Veronique led away the rector, who,
on his side, was anxious to talk with her alone.
As soon as they were far enough away not to be overheard, Monsieur
Bonnet looked fixedly at Veronique; she colored and dropped her eyes
like a guilty person.
"You degrade well-doing," he said, sternly.
"How?" she asked, raising her head.
"Well-doing," he replied, "is a passion as superior to that of love as
humanity is superior to the individual creature. Now, you have not
done this thing from the sole impulse and simplicity of virtue. You
have fallen from the heights of humanity to the indulgence of the
individual creature. Your benevolence to Farrabesche and Catherine
carries with it so many memories and forbidden thoughts that it has
lost all merit in the eyes of God. Tear from your heart the remains of
the javelin evil planted there. Do not take from your actions their
true value. Come at last to that saintly ignorance of the good you do
which is the grace supreme of human actions."
Madame Graslin had turned away to wipe the tears that told the rector
his words had touched the bleeding wound that was still unhealed in
Farrabesche, Catherine, and Benjamin now came up to thank their
benefactress, but she made them a sign to go away and leave her alone
with the rector.
"See how that grieves them," she said to him as they sadly walked
away. The rector, whose heart was tender, recalled them by a sign.
"You shall be completely happy," she then said, giving to Farrabesche
a paper which she was holding in her hand. "Here is the ordinance
which gives you back your rights of citizenship and exempts you from
Farrabesche respectfully kissed the hand held toward him and looked at
Veronique with an eye both tender and submissive, calm and devoted,
the expression of a devotion which nothing could ever change, the look
of a dog to his master.
"If Jacques has suffered, madame," said Catherine, her fine eyes
lighting with pleasure, "I hope I can give him enough happiness to
make up for his pain, for, no matter what he has done, he is not bad."
Madame Graslin turned away her head; she seemed overcome by the sight
of that happy family. The rector now left her to enter the church,
whither she dragged herself presently on the arm of Monsieur
After breakfast every one, even the aged people of the village,
assembled to see the beginning of the great work. From the slope
leading up to the chateau, Monsieur Grossetete and Monsieur Bonnet,
between whom was Veronique, could see the direction of the four first
cuttings marked out by piles of gathered stones. At each cutting five
laborers were digging out and piling up the good loam along the edges;
clearing a space about eighteen feet wide, the width of each road. On
either side, four other men were digging the ditches and also piling
up the loam at the sides to make a bank. Behind them, as the banks
were made, two men were digging holes in which others planted trees.
In each of these divisions, thirty old paupers, a score of women, and
forty or more girls and children were picking up stones, which special
laborers piled in heaps along the roadside so as to keep a record of
the quantity gathered by each group. Thus the work went on rapidly,
with picked workmen full of ardor. Grossetete promised Madame Graslin
to send her some trees and to ask her other friends to do the same;
for the nurseries of the chateau would evidently not suffice to supply
such an extensive plantation. Toward the close of the day, which was
to end in a grand dinner at the chateau, Farrabesche requested Madame
Graslin to grant him an audience for a few moments.
"Madame," he said, presenting himself with Catherine, "you were so
good as to offer me the farm at the chateau. By granting me so great a
favor I know you intended to put me in the way of making my fortune.
But Catherine has ideas about our future which we desire to submit to
you. If I were to succeed and make money there would certainly be
persons envious of my good fortune; a word is soon said; I might have
quarrels,--I fear them; besides, Catherine would always be uneasy. In
short, too close intercourse with the world will not suit us. I have
come therefore to ask you to give us only the land at the opening of
the Gabou on the commons, with a small piece of the woodland behind
the Roche-Vive. In July you will have a great many workmen here, and
it would be very easy then to build a farmhouse in a good position on
the slope of the hill. We should be happy there. I will send for
Guepin. My poor comrade will work like a horse; perhaps I could marry
him here. My son is not a do-nothing either. No one would put us out
of countenance; we could colonize this corner of the estate, and I
should make it my ambition to turn it into a fine farm for you.
Moreover, I want to propose as farmer of your great farm near the
chateau a cousin of Catherine, who has money and would therefore be
more capable than I could be of managing such a large affair as that
farm. If it please God to bless your enterprise, in five years from
now you will have five or six thousand horned beasts or horses on that
plain below, and it wants a better head than mine to manage them."
Madame Graslin agreed to his request, doing justice to the good sense
From the time the work on the plain began, Veronique's life assumed
the regularity of country existence. In the morning she heard mass,
took care of her son, whom she idolized, and went to see her laborers.
After dinner she received her friends from Montegnac in the little
salon to the right of the clock-tower. She taught Roubaud, Clousier,
and the rector to play whist, which Gerard knew already. The rubbers
usually ended at nine o'clock, after which the company withdrew. This
peaceful life had no other events to mark it than the success of the
various parts of the great enterprise.
In June the torrent of the Gabou went dry, and Gerard established his
headquarters in the keeper's house. Farrabesche had already built his
farmhouse, which he called Le Gabou. Fifty masons, brought from Paris,
joined the two mountains by a wall twenty feet thick, with a
foundation twelve feet deep and heavily cemented. The wall, or dam,
rose nearly sixty feet and tapered in until it was not more than ten
feet thick at the summit. Gerard backed this wall on the valley side
with a cemented slope, about twelve feet wide at its base. On the side
toward the commons a similar slope, covered with several feet of
arable earth, still further supported this great work, which no rush
of water could possibly damage. The engineer provided in case of
unusual rains an overflow at a proper height. The masonry was inserted
into the flank of each mountain until the granite or the hard-pan was
reached, so that the water had absolutely no outlet at the sides.
This dam was finished by the middle of August. At the same time Gerard
was preparing three canals in the principal valleys, and none of these
works came up to his estimated costs. The chateau farm could now be
finished. The irrigation channels through the plain, superintended by
Fresquin, started from the canal made by nature along the base of the
mountains on the plain side, through which culverts were cut to the
irrigating channels. Water-gates were fitted into those channels, the
sides of which the abundance of rock had enabled them to stone up, so
as to keep the flow of water at an even height along the plain.
Every Sunday after mass, Veronique, the engineer, the rector, the
doctor, and the mayor walked down through the park to see the course
of the waters. The winter of 1832 and 1833 was extremely rainy. The
water of the three streams which had been directed to the torrent,
swollen by the water of the rains, now formed three ponds in the
valley of the Gabou, carefully placed at different levels so as to
create a steady reserve in case of a severe drought. At certain places
where the valley widened Gerard had taken advantage of a few hillocks
to make islands and plant them with trees of varied foliage. These
vast operations completely changed the face of the country; but five
or six years were of course needed to bring out their full character.
"The country was naked," said Farrabesche, "and madame has clothed
Since these great undertakings were begun, Veronique had been called
"Madame" throughout the whole neighborhood. When the rains ceased in
June, 1833, they tried the irrigating channels through the planted
fields, and the young verdure thus nourished soon showed the superior
qualities of the /marciti/ of Italy and the meadows of Switzerland.
The system of irrigation, modelled on that of the farms in Lombardy,
watered the earth evenly, and kept the surface as smooth as a carpet.
The nitre of the snow dissolving in these channels no doubt added much
to the quality of the herbage. The engineer hoped to find in the
products of succeeding years some analogy with those of Switzerland,
to which this nitrous substance is, as we know, a source of perpetual
The plantations along the roads, sufficiently moistened by the water
allowed to run through the ditches, made rapid growth. So that in
1838, six years after Madame Graslin had begun her enterprise, the
stony plain, regarded as hopelessly barren by twenty generations, was
verdant, productive, and well planted throughout. Gerard had built
five farmhouses with their dependencies upon it, with a thousand acres
to each. Gerard's own farm and those of Grossetete and Fresquin, which
received the overflow from Madame's domains, were built on the same
plan and managed by the same methods. The engineer also built a
charming little house for himself on his own property. When all was
completely finished, the inhabitants of Montegnac, instigated by the
present mayor, who was anxious to retire, elected Gerard to the
mayoralty of the district.
In 1840 the departure of the first herd of cattle sent from Montegnac
to the Paris markets was made the occasion of a rural fete. The farms
of the plain raised fine beasts and horses; for it was found, after
the land was cleaned up, that there were seven inches of good soil
which the annual fall of leaves, the manure left by the pasturage of
animals, and, above all, the melting of the snows contained in the
valley of the Gabou, increased in fertility.
It was in this year that Madame Graslin found it necessary to obtain a
tutor for her son, who was now eleven years of age. She did not wish
to part with him, and yet she was anxious to make him a thoroughly
well-educated man. Monsieur Bonnet wrote to the Seminary. Madame
Graslin, on her side, said a few words as to her wishes and the
difficulty of obtaining the right person to Monsieur Dutheil, recently
appointed arch-bishop. The choice of such a man, who would live nine
years familiarly in the chateau, was a serious matter. Gerard had
already offered to teach mathematics to his friend Francis; but he
could not, of course, take the place of a regular tutor. This question
agitated Madame Graslin's mind, and all the more because she knew that
her health was beginning to fail.
The more prosperous grew her dear Montegnac, the more she increased
the secret austerities of her life. Monseigneur Dutheil, with whom she
corresponded regularly, found at last the man she wanted. He sent her
from his late diocese a young professor, twenty-five years of age,
named Ruffin, whose mind had a special vocation for the art of
teaching. This young man's knowledge was great, and his nature was one
of deep feeling, which, however, did not preclude the sternness
necessary in the management of youth. In him religion did not in any
way hamper knowledge; he was also patient, and extremely agreeable in
appearance and manner. "I make you a fine present, my dear daughter,"
wrote the prelate; "this young man is fit to educate a prince;
therefore I think you will be glad to arrange the future with him, for
he can undoubtedly be a spiritual father to your son."
Monsieur Ruffin proved so satisfactory to Madame Graslin's faithful
friends that his arrival made no change in the various intimacies that
grouped themselves around this beloved idol, whose hours and moments
were claimed by each with jealous eagerness.
By the year 1843 the prosperity of Montegnac had increased beyond all
expectation. The farm of the Gabou rivalled the farms of the plain,
and that of the chateau set an example of constant improvement to all.
The five other farms, increasing in value, obtained higher rent,
reaching the sum of thirty thousand francs for each at the end of
twelve years. The farmers, who were beginning to gather in the fruits
of their sacrifices and those of Madame Graslin, now began to improve
the grass of the plains, sowing seed of better quality, there being no
longer any occasion to fear drought.
During this year a man from Montegnac started a diligence between the
chief town of the arrondissement and Limoges, leaving both places each
day. Monsieur Clousier's nephew sold his office and obtained a license
as notary in Montegnac. The government appointed Fresquin collector of
the district. The new notary built himself a pretty house in the upper
part of Montegnac, planted mulberries in the grounds, and became after
a time assistant-mayor to his friend Gerard.
The engineer, encouraged by so much success, now conceived a scheme of
a nature to render Madame Graslin's fortune colossal,--she herself
having by this time recovered possession of the income which had been
mortgaged for the repayment of the loan. Gerard's new scheme was to
make a canal of the little river, and turn into it the superabundant
waters of the Gabou. This canal, which he intended to carry into the
Vienne, would form a waterway by which to send down timber from the
twenty thousand acres of forest land belonging to Madame Graslin in
Montegnac, now admirably managed by Colorat, but which, for want of
transportation, returned no profit. A thousand acres could be cut over
each year without detriment to the forest, and if sent in this way to
Limoges, would find a ready market for building purposes.
This was the original plan of Monsieur Graslin himself, who had paid
very little attention to the rector's scheme relating to the plain,
being much more attracted by that of turning the little river into a
A DEATH BLOW
At the beginning of the following year, in spite of Madame Graslin's
assumption of strength, her friends began to notice symptoms which
foreshadowed her coming death. To all the doctor's remarks, and to the
inquiries of the most clear-sighted of her friends, Veronique made the
invariable answer that she was perfectly well. But when the spring
opened she went round to visit her forests, farms, and beautiful
meadows with a childlike joy and delight which betrayed to those who
knew her best a sad foreboding.
Finding himself obliged to build a small cemented wall between the dam
of the Gabou and the park of Montegnac along the base of the hill
called especially La Correze, Gerard took up the idea of enclosing the
whole forest and thus uniting it with the park. Madame Graslin agreed
to this, and appointed thirty thousand francs a year to this work,
which would take seven years to accomplish and would then withdraw
that fine forest from the rights exercised by government over the non-
enclosed forests of private individuals. The three ponds of the Gabou
would thus become a part of the park. These ponds, ambitiously called
lakes, had each its island.
This year, Gerard had prepared, in collusion with Grossetete, a
surprise for Madame Graslin's birthday. He had built a little
hermitage on the largest of the islands, rustic on the outside and
elegantly arranged within. The old banker took part in the conspiracy,
in which Farrabesche, Fresquin, Clousier's nephew, and nearly all the
well-to-do people in Montegnac co-operated. Grossetete sent down some
beautiful furniture. The clock tower, copied from that at Vevay, made
a charming effect in the landscape. Six boats, two for each pond, were
secretly built, painted, and rigged during the winter by Farrabesche
and Guepin, assisted by the carpenter of Montegnac.
When the day arrived (about the middle of May) after a breakfast
Madame Graslin gave to her friends, she was taken by them across the
park--which was finely laid out by Gerard, who, for the last five
years, had improved it like a landscape architect and naturalist--to
the pretty meadow of the valley of the Gabou, where, at the shore of
the first lake, two of the boats were floating. This meadow, watered
by several clear streamlets, lay at the foot of the fine ampitheatre
where the valley of the Gabou begins. The woods, cleared in a
scientific manner, so as to produce noble masses and vistas that were
charming to the eye, enclosed the meadow and gave it a solitude that
was grateful to the soul. Gerard had reproduced on an eminence that
chalet in the valley of Sion above the road to Brieg which travellers
admire so much; here were to be the dairy and the cow-sheds of the
chateau. From its gallery the eye roved over the landscape created by
the engineer which the three lakes made worthy of comparison with the
beauties of Switzerland.
The day was beautiful. In the blue sky, not a cloud; on earth, all the
charming, graceful things the soil offers in the month of May. The
trees planted ten years earlier on the banks--weeping willows, osier,
alder, ash, the aspen of Holland, the poplars of Italy and Virginia,
hawthorns and roses, acacias, birches, all choice growths arranged as
their nature and the lay of the land made suitable--held amid their
foliage a few fleecy vapors, born of the waters, which rose like a
slender smoke. The surface of the lakelet, clear as a mirror and calm
as the sky, reflected the tall green masses of the forest, the tops of
which, distinctly defined in the limpid atmosphere, contrasted with
the groves below wrapped in their pretty veils. The lakes, separated
by broad causeways, were three mirrors showing different reflections,
the waters of which flowed from one to another in melodious cascades.
These causeways were used to go from lake to lake without passing
round the shores. From the chalet could be seen, through a vista among
the trees, the thankless waste of the chalk commons, resembling an
open sea and contrasting with the fresh beauty of the lakes and their
When Veronique saw the joyousness of her friends as they held out
their hands to help her into the largest of the boats, tears came into
her eyes and she kept silence till they touched the bank of the first
causeway. As she stepped into the second boat she saw the hermitage
with Grossetete sitting on a bench before it with all his family.
"Do they wish to make me regret dying?" she said to the rector.
"We wish to prevent you from dying," replied Clousier.
"You cannot make the dead live," she answered.
Monsieur Bonnet gave her a stern look which recalled her to herself.
"Let me take care of your health," said Roubaud, in a gentle,
persuasive voice. "I am sure I can save to this region its living
glory, and to all our friends their common tie."
Veronique bowed her head, and Gerard rowed slowly toward the island in
the middle of the lake, the largest of the three, into which the
overflowing water of the first was rippling with a sound that gave a
voice to that delightful landscape.
"You have done well to make me bid farewell to this ravishing nature
on such a day," she said, looking at the beauty of the trees, all so
full of foliage that they hid the shore. The only disapprobation her
friends allowed themselves was to show a gloomy silence; and
Veronique, receiving another glance from Monsieur Bonnet, sprang
lightly ashore, assuming a lively air, which she did not relinquish.
Once more the hostess, she was charming, and the Grossetete family
felt she was again the beautiful Madame Graslin of former days.
"Indeed, you can still live, if you choose!" said her mother in a
At this gay festival, amid these glorious creations produced by the
resources of nature only, nothing seemed likely to wound Veronique,
and yet it was here and now that she received her death-blow.
The party were to return about nine o'clock by way of the meadows, the
road through which, as lovely as an English or an Italian road, was
the pride of its engineer. The abundance of small stones, laid aside
when the plain was cleared, enabled him to keep it in good order; in
fact, for the last five years it was, in a way, macadamized. Carriages
were awaiting the company at the opening of the last valley toward the
plain, almost at the base of the Roche-Vive. The horses, raised at
Montegnac, were among the first that were ready for the market. The
manager of the stud had selected a dozen for the stables of the
chateau, and their present fine appearance was part of the programme
of the fete. Madame Graslin's own carriage, a gift from Grossetete,
was drawn by four of the finest animals, plainly harnessed.
After dinner the happy party went to take coffee in a little wooden
kiosk, made like those on the Bosphorus, and placed on a point of the
island from which the eye could reach to the farther lake beyond. From
this spot Madame Graslin thought she saw her son Francis near the
nursery-ground formerly planted by Farrabesche. She looked again, but
did not see him; and Monsieur Ruffin pointed him out to her, playing
on the bank with Grossetete's children. Veronique became alarmed lest
he should meet with some accident. Not listening to remonstrance, she
ran down from the kiosk, and jumping into a boat, began to row toward
her son. This little incident caused a general departure. Monsieur
Grossetete proposed that they should all follow her and walk on the
beautiful shore of the lake, along the curves of the mountainous
bluffs. On landing there Madame Graslin saw her son in the arms of a
woman in deep mourning. Judging by the shape of her bonnet and the
style of her clothes, the woman was a foreigner. Veronique was
startled, and called to her son, who presently came toward her.
"Who is that woman?" she asked the children round about her; "and why
did Francis leave you to go to her?"
"The lady called him by name," said a little girl.
At that instant Madame Sauviat and Gerard, who had outstripped the
rest of the company, came up.
"Who is that woman, my dear child?" asked Madame Graslin as soon as
Francis reached her.
"I don't know," he answered; "but she kissed me as you and grandmamma
kissed me--she cried," whispered Francis in his mother's ear.
"Shall I go after her?" asked Gerard.
"No!" said Madame Graslin, with an abruptness that was not usual in
With a delicacy for which Veronique was grateful, Gerard led away the
children and went back to detain the rest of the party, leaving Madame
Sauviat, Madame Graslin, and Francis alone.
"What did she say to you?" asked Madame Sauviat of her grandson.
"I don't know; she did not speak French."
"Couldn't you understand anything she said?" asked Veronique.
"No; but she kept saying over and over,--and that's why I remember it,
--/My dear brother/!"
Veronique took her mother's arm and led her son by the hand, but she
had scarcely gone a dozen steps before her strength gave way.
"What is the matter? what has happened?" said the others, who now came
up, to Madame Sauviat.
"Oh! my daughter is in danger!" said the old woman, in guttural tones.
It was necessary to carry Madame Graslin to her carriage. She signed
to Aline to get into it with Francis, and also Gerard.
"You have been in England," she said to the latter as soon as she
recovered herself, "and therefore no doubt you speak English; tell me
the meaning of the words, /my dear brother/."
On being told, Veronique exchanged a look with Aline and her mother
which made them shudder; but they restrained their feelings.
The shouts and joyous cries of those who were assisting in the
departure of the carriages, the splendor of the setting sun as it lay
upon the meadows, the perfect gait of the beautiful horses, the
laughter of her friends as they followed her on horseback at a gallop,
--none of these things roused Madame Graslin from her torpor. Her
mother ordered the coachman to hasten his horses, and their carriage
reached the chateau some time before the others. When the company were
again assembled, they were told that Veronique had gone to her rooms
and was unable to see any one.
"I fear," said Gerard to his friends, "that Madame Graslin has had
some fatal shock."
"Where? how?" they asked.
"To her heart," he answered.
The following day Roubaud started for Paris. He had seen Madame
Graslin, and found her so seriously ill that he wished for the
assistance and advice of the ablest physician of the day. But
Veronique had only received Roubaud to put a stop to her mother and
Aline's entreaties that she would do something to benefit her; she
herself knew that death had stricken her. She refused to see Monsieur
Bonnet, sending word to him that the time had not yet come. Though all
her friends who had come from Limoges to celebrate her birthday wished
to be with her, she begged them to excuse her from fulfilling the
duties of hospitality, saying that she desired to remain in the
deepest solitude. After Roubaud's departure the other guests returned
to Limoges, less disappointed than distressed; for all those whom
Grossetete had brought with him adored Veronique. They were lost in
conjecture as to what might have caused this mysterious disaster.
One evening, two days after the departure of the company, Aline
brought Catherine to Madame Graslin's apartment. La Farrabesche
stopped short, horrified at the change so suddenly wrought in her
mistress, whose face seemed to her almost distorted.
"Good God, madame!" she cried, "what harm that girl has done! If we
had only foreseen it, Farrabesche and I, we would never have taken her
in. She has just heard that madame is ill, and sends me to tell Madame
Sauviat she wants to speak to her."
"Here!" cried Veronique. "Where is she?"
"My husband took her to the chalet."
"Very good," said Madame Graslin; "tell Farrabesche to go elsewhere.
Inform that lady that my mother will go to her; tell her to expect the
As soon as it was dark Veronique, leaning on her mother's arm, walked
slowly through the park to the chalet. The moon was shining with all
its brilliancy, the air was soft, and the two women, visibly affected,
found encouragement, of a sort, in the things of nature. The mother
stopped now and then, to rest her daughter, whose sufferings were
poignant, so that it was well-nigh midnight before they reached the
path that goes down from the woods to the sloping meadow where the
silvery roof of the chalet shone. The moonlight gave to the surface of
the quiet water, the tint of pearls. The little noises of the night,
echoing in the silence, made softest harmony. Veronique sat down on
the bench of the chalet, amid this beauteous scene of the starry
night. The murmur of two voices and the footfall of two persons still
at a distance on the sandy shore were brought by the water, which
sometimes, when all is still, reproduces sounds as faithfully as it
reflects objects on the surface. Veronique recognized at once the
exquisite voice of the rector, and the rustle of his cassock, also the
movement of some silken stuff that was probably the material of a
"Let us go in," she said to her mother.
Madame Sauviat and her daughter sat down on a crib in the lower room,
which was intended for a stable.
"My child," they heard the rector saying, "I do not blame you,--you
are quite excusable; but your return may be the cause of irreparable
evil; she is the soul of this region."
"Ah! monsieur, then I had better go away to-night," replied the
stranger. "Though--I must tell you--to leave my country once more is
death to me. If I had stayed a day longer in that horrible New York,
where there is neither hope, nor faith, nor charity, I should have
died without being ill. The air I breathed oppressed my chest, food
did not nourish me, I was dying while full of life and vigor. My
sufferings ceased the moment I set foot upon the vessel to return. I
seemed to be already in France. Oh! monsieur, I saw my mother and one
of my sisters-in-law die of grief. My grandfather and grandmother
Tascheron are dead; dead, my dear Monsieur Bonnet, in spite of the
prosperity of Tascheronville,--for my father founded a village in Ohio
and gave it that name. That village is now almost a town, and a third
of all the land is cultivated by members of our family, whom God has
constantly protected. Our tillage succeeded, our crops have been
enormous, and we are rich. The town is Catholic, and we have managed
to build a Catholic church; we do not allow any other form of worship,
and we hope to convert by our example the many sects which surround
us. True religion is in a minority in that land of money and selfish
interests, where the soul is cold. Nevertheless, I will return to die
there, sooner than do harm or cause distress to the mother of our
Francis. Only, Monsieur Bonnet, take me to-night to the parsonage that
I may pray upon /his/ tomb, the thought of which has brought me here;
the nearer I have come to where /he/ is, the more I felt myself
another being. No, I never expected to feel so happy again as I do
"Well, then," said the rector, "come with me now. If there should come
a time when you might return without doing injury, I will write to
you, Denise; but perhaps this visit to your birthplace will stop the
homesickness, and enable you to live over there without suffering--"
"Oh! to leave this country, now so beautiful! What wonders Madame
Graslin has done for it!" she exclaimed, pointing to the lake as it
lay in the moonlight. "All this fine domain will belong to our dear
"You shall not go away, Denise," said Madame Graslin, who was standing
at the stable door.
Jean-Francois Tascheron's sister clasped her hands on seeing the
spectre which addressed her. At that moment the pale Veronique,
standing in the moonlight, was like a shade defined upon the darkness
of the open door-way. Her eyes alone shone like stars.
"No, my child, you shall not leave the country you have come so far to
see again; you shall be happy here, or God will refuse to help me; it
is He, no doubt, who has brought you back."
She took the astonished Denise by the hand, and led her away by a path
toward the other shore of the lake, leaving her mother and the rector,
who seated themselves on the bench.
"Let her do as she wishes," said Madame Sauviat.
A few moments later Veronique returned alone, and was taken back to
the chateau by her mother and Monsieur Bonnet. Doubtless she had
formed some plan which required secrecy, for no one in the
neighborhood either saw Denise or heard any mention of her.
Madame Graslin took to her bed that day and never but once left it
again; she went from bad to worse daily, and seemed annoyed and
thwarted that she could not rise,--trying to do so on several
occasions, and expressing a desire to walk out into the park. A few
days, however, after the scene we have just related, about the
beginning of June, she made a violent effort, rose, dressed as if for
a gala day, and begged Gerard to give her his arm, declaring that she
was resolved to take a walk. She gathered up all her strength and
expended it on this expedition, accomplishing her intention in a
paroxysm of will which had, necessarily, a fatal reaction.
"Take me to the chalet, and alone," she said to Gerard in a soft
voice, looking at him with a sort of coquetry. "This is my last
excursion; I dreamed last night the doctors arrived and captured me."
"Do you want to see your woods?" asked Gerard.
"For the last time, yes," she answered. "But what I really want," she
added, in a coaxing voice, "is to make you a singular proposition."
She asked Gerard to embark with her in one of the boats on the second
lake, to which she went on foot. When the young man, surprised at her
intention, began to move the oars, she pointed to the hermitage as the
object of her coming.
"My friend," she said, after a long pause, during which she had been
contemplating the sky and water, the hills and shores, "I have a
strange request to make of you; but I think you are a man who would
obey my wishes--"
"In all things, sure that you can wish only what is good."
"I wish to marry you," she answered; "if you consent you will
accomplish the wish of a dying woman, which is certain to secure your
"I am too ugly," said the engineer.
"The person to whom I refer is pretty; she is young, and wishes to
live at Montegnac. If you will marry her you will help to soften my
last hours. I will not dwell upon her virtues now; I only say her
nature is a rare one; in the matter of grace and youth and beauty, one
look will suffice; you are now about to see her at the hermitage. As
we return home you must give me a serious yes or no."
Hearing this confidence, Gerard unconsciously quickened his oars,
which made Madame Graslin smile. Denise, who was living alone, away
from all eyes, at the hermitage, recognized Madame Graslin and
immediately opened the door. Veronique and Gerard entered. The poor
girl could not help a blush as she met the eyes of the young man, who
was greatly surprised at her beauty.
"I hope Madame Farrabesche has not let you want for anything?" said
"Oh no! madame, see!" and she pointed to her breakfast.
"This is Monsieur Gerard, of whom I spoke to you," went on Veronique.
"He is to be my son's guardian, and after my death you shall live
together at the chateau until his majority."
"Oh! madame, do not talk in that way!"
"My dear child, look at me!" replied Veronique, addressing Denise, in
whose eyes the tears rose instantly. "She has just arrived from New
York," she added, by way of introduction to Gerard.
The engineer put several questions about the new world to the young
woman, while Veronique, leaving them alone, went to look at the third
and more distant lake of the Gabou. It was six o'clock as Veronique
and Gerard returned in the boat toward the chalet.
"Well?" she said, looking at him.
"You have my promise."
"Though you are, I know, without prejudices," she went on, "I must not
leave you ignorant of the reason why that poor girl, brought back here
by homesickness, left the place originally."
"A false step?"
"Oh, no!" said Veronique. "Should I offer her to you if that were so?
She is the sister of a workman who died on the scaffold--"
"Ah! Tascheron," he said, "the murderer of old Pingret."
"Yes, she is the sister of a murderer," said Madame Graslin, in a
bitter tone; "you are at liberty to take back your promise and--"
She did not finish, and Gerard was obliged to carry her to the bench
before the chalet, where she remained unconscious for some little
time. When she opened her eyes Gerard was on his knees before her and
he said instantly:--
"I will marry Denise."
Madame Graslin took his head in both hands and kissed him on the
forehead; then, seeing his surprise at so much gratitude, she pressed
his hand and said:
"Before long you will know the secret of all this. Let us go back to
the terrace, for it is late; I am very tired, but I must look my last
on that dear plain."
Though the day had been insupportably hot, the storms which during
this year devastated parts of Europe and of France but respected the
Limousin, had run their course in the basin of the Loire, and the
atmosphere was singularly clear. The sky was so pure that the eye
could seize the slightest details on the horizon. What language can
render the delightful concert of busy sounds produced in the village
by the return of the workers from the fields? Such a scene, to be
rightly given, needs a great landscape artist and also a great painter
of the human face. Is there not, by the bye, in the lassitude of
Nature and that of man a curious affinity which is difficult to grasp?
The depressing heat of a dog-day and the rarification of the air give
to the least sound made by human beings all its signification. The
women seated on their doorsteps and waiting for their husbands (who
often bring back the children) gossip with each other while still at
work. The roofs are casting up the lines of smoke which tell of the
evening meal, the gayest among the peasantry; after which, they sleep.
All actions express the tranquil cheerful thoughts of those whose
day's work is over. Songs are heard very different in character from
those of the morning; in this the peasants imitate the birds, whose
warbling at night is totally unlike their notes at dawn. All nature
sings a hymn to rest, as it sang a hymn of joy to the coming sun. The
slightest movements of living beings seem tinted then with the soft,
harmonious colors of the sunset cast upon the landscape and lending
even to the dusty roadways a placid air. If any dared deny the
influence of this hour, the loveliest of the day, the flowers would
protest and intoxicate his senses with their penetrating perfumes,
which then exhale and mingle with the tender hum of insects and the
amorous note of birds.
The brooks which threaded the plain beyond the village were veiled in
fleecy vapor. In the great meadows through which the high-road ran,--
bordered with poplars, acacias, and ailanthus, wisely intermingled and
already giving shade,--enormous and justly celebrated herds of cattle
were scattered here and there, some still grazing, others ruminating.
Men, women, and children were ending their day's work in the hay-
field, the most picturesque of all the country toils. The night air,
freshened by distant storms, brought on its wings the satisfying odors
of the newly cut grass or the finished hay. Every feature of this
beautiful panorama could be seen perfectly; those who feared a coming
storm were finishing in haste the hay-stacks, while others followed
with their pitchforks to fill the carts as they were driven along the
rows. Others in the distance were still mowing, or turning the long
lines of fallen grass to dry it, or hastening to pile it into cocks.
The joyous laugh of the merry workers mingling with the shouts of the
children tumbling each other in the hay, rose on the air. The eye
could distinguish the pink, red, or blue petticoats, the kerchiefs,
and the bare legs and arms of the women, all wearing broad-brimmed
hats of a coarse straw, and the shirts and trousers of the men, the
latter almost invariably white. The last rays of the sun were
filtering through the long lines of poplars planted beside the
trenches which divided the plain into meadows of unequal size, and
caressing the groups of horses and carts, men, women, children, and
cattle. The cattlemen and the shepherd-girls were beginning to collect
their flocks to the sound of rustic horns.
The scene was noisy, yet silent,--a paradoxical statement, which will
surprise only those to whom the character of country life is still
unknown. From all sides came the carts, laden with fragrant fodder.
There was something, I know not what, of torpor in the scene.
Veronique walked slowly and silently between Gerard and the rector,
who had joined her on the terrace.
Through the openings made by the rural lanes running down below the
terrace to the main street of Montegnac Gerard and Monsieur Bonnet
could see the faces of men, women, and children turned toward them;
watching more particularly, no doubt, for Madame Graslin. How much of
tenderness and gratitude was expressed on those faces! How many
benedictions followed Veronique's footsteps! With what reverent
attention were the three benefactors of a whole community regarded!
Man was adding a hymn of gratitude to the other chants of evening.
While Madame Graslin walked on with her eyes fastened on the long,
magnificent green pastures, her most cherished creation, the priest
and the mayor did not take their eyes from the groups below, whose
expression it was impossible to misinterpret; pain, sadness, and
regret, mingled with hope, were plainly on all those faces. No one in
Montegnac or its neighborhood was ignorant that Monsieur Roubaud had
gone to Paris to bring the best physician science afforded, or that
the benefactress of the whole district was in the last stages of a
fatal illness. In all the markets through a circumference of thirty
miles the peasants asked those of Montegnac,--
"How is your good woman now?"
The great vision of death hovered over the land, and dominated that
rural picture. Afar, in the fields, more than one reaper sharpening
his scythe, more than one young girl, her arms resting on her fork,
more than one farmer stacking his hay, seeing Madame Graslin, stood
mute and thoughtful, examining that noble woman, the blessing of the
Correze, seeking some favorable sign or merely looking to admire her,
impelled by a feeling that arrested their work.
"She is out walking; therefore she must be better."
These simple words were on every lip.
Madame Graslin's mother, seated on the iron bench which Veronique had
formerly placed at the end of the terrace, studied every movement of
her daughter; she watched her step in walking, and a few tears rolled
from her eyes. Aware of the secret efforts of that superhuman courage,
she knew that Veronique at that moment was suffering the tortures of a
horrible agony, and only maintained herself erect by the exercise of
her heroic will. The tears--they seemed almost red--which forced their
way from those aged eyes, and furrowed that wrinkled face, the
parchment of which seemed incapable of softening under any emotion,
excited those of young Graslin, whom Monsieur Ruffin had between his
"What is the matter, my boy?" said the tutor, anxiously.
"My grandmother is crying," he answered.
Monsieur Ruffin, whose eyes were on Madame Graslin as she came toward
them, now looked at Madame Sauviat, and was powerfully struck by the
aspect of that old head, like that of a Roman matron, petrified with
grief and moistened with tears.
"Madame, why did you not prevent her from coming out?" said the tutor
to the old mother, august and sacred in her silent grief.
As Veronique advanced majestically with her naturally fine and
graceful step, Madame Sauviat, driven by despair at the thought of
surviving her daughter, allowed the secret of many things that
awakened curiosity to escape her.
"How can she walk like that," she cried, "wearing a horrible horsehair
shirt, which pricks into her skin perpetually?"
The words horrified the young man, who was not insensible to the
exquisite grace of Veronique's movements; he shuddered as he thought
of the constant and terrific struggle of the soul to maintain its
empire thus over the body.
"She has worn it thirteen years,--ever since she ceased to nurse the
boy," said the old woman. "She has done miracles here, but if her
whole life were known they ought to canonize her. Since she came to
Montegnac no one has ever seen her eat, and do you know why? Aline
serves her three times a day a piece of dry bread, and vegetables
boiled in water, without salt, on a common plate of red earth like
those they feed the dogs on. Yes, that's how the woman lives who has
given new life to this whole canton. She kneels to say her prayers on
the edge of that hair-shirt. She says she could not have that smiling
air you know she always has unless she practised these austerities. I
tell you this," added the old woman, sinking her voice, "so that you
may repeat it to the doctor that Monsieur Roubaud has gone to fetch.
If they could prevent my daughter from continuing these penances,
perhaps they might still save her, though death has laid its hand upon
her head. See for yourself! Ah! I must be strong indeed to have borne
so many things these fifteen years."
The old woman took her grandson's hand and passed it over her forehead
and cheeks as if the child's touch shed a healing balm there; then she
kissed it with an affection the secret of which belongs to
grandmothers as much as it belongs to mothers.
Veronique was now only a few feet from the bench, in company with
Clousier, the rector, and Gerard. Illuminated by the glow of the
setting sun, she shone with a dreadful beauty. Her yellow forehead,
furrowed with long wrinkles massed one above the other like layers of
clouds, revealed a fixed thought in the midst of inward troubles. Her
face, devoid of all color, entirely white with the dead, greenish
whiteness of plants without light, was thin, though not withered, and
bore the signs of terrible physical sufferings produced by mental
anguish. She fought her soul with her body, and /vice versa/. She was
so completely destroyed that she no more resembled herself than an old
woman resembles her portrait as a girl. The ardent expression of her
eyes declared the despotic empire exercised by a devout will over a
body reduced to what religion requires it to be. In this woman the
soul dragged the flesh as the Achilles of profane story dragged
Hector; for fifteen years she dragged it victoriously along the stony
paths of life around the celestial Jerusalem she hoped to enter, not
by a vile deception, but with acclamation. No solitary that ever lived
in the dry and arid deserts of Africa was ever more master of his
senses than was Veronique in her magnificent chateau, among the soft,
voluptuous scenery of that opulent land, beneath the protecting mantle
of that rich forest, whence science, the heir of Moses' wand, had
called forth plenty, prosperity, and happiness for a whole region. She
contemplated the results of twelve years' patience, a work which might
have made the fame of many a superior man, with a gentle modesty such
as Pontorno has painted in the sublime face of his "Christian Chastity
caressing the Celestial Unicorn." The mistress of the manor, whose
silence was respected by her companions when they saw that her eyes
were roving over those vast plains, once arid, and now fertile by her
will, walked on, her arms folded, with a distant look, as if to some
far horizon, on her face.
THE LAST STRUGGLE
Suddenly she stopped, a few feet from her mother, who looked at her as
the mother of Christ must have looked at her son upon the cross. She
raised her hand, and pointing to the spot where the road to Montegnac
branched from the highway, she said, smiling:--
"See that carriage with the post-horses; Monsieur Roubaud is returning
to us. We shall now know how many hours I have to live."
"Hours?" said Gerard.
"Did I not tell you I was taking my last walk?" she replied. "I have
come here to see for the last time this glorious scene in all its
splendor!" She pointed first to the village where the whole population
seemed to be collected in the church square, and then to the beautiful
meadows glowing in the last rays of the setting sun. "Ah!" she said,
"let me see the benediction of God in the strange atmospheric
condition to which we owe the safety of our harvest. Around us, on all
sides, tempests, hail, lightning, have struck incessantly and
pitilessly. The common people think thus, why not I? I do so need to
see in this a happy augury for what awaits me after death!"
The child stood up and took his mother's hand and laid it on his head.
Veronique, deeply affected by the action, so full of eloquence, took
up her son with supernatural strength, seating him on her left arm as
though he were still an infant at her breast, saying, as she kissed
"Do you see that land, my son? When you are a man, continue there your
"Madame," said the rector, in a grave voice, "a few strong and
privileged beings are able to contemplate their coming death face to
face, to fight, as it were, a duel with it, and to display a courage
and an ability which challenge admiration. You show us this terrible
spectacle; but perhaps you have too little pity for us; leave us at
least the hope that you may be mistaken, and that God will allow you
to finish that which you have begun."
"All I have done is through you, my friends," she said. "I have been
useful, I can be so no longer. All is fruitful around us now; nothing
is barren and desolated here except my heart. You well know, my dear
rector, that I can only find peace and pardon /there/."
She stretched her hand toward the cemetery. Never had she said as much
since the day of her arrival, when she was taken with sudden illness
at the same spot. The rector looked attentively at his penitent, and
the habit of penetration he had long acquired made him see that in
those simple words he had won another triumph. Veronique must have
made a mighty effort over herself to break her twelve years' silence
with a speech that said so much. The rector clasped his hands with a
fervent gesture that was natural to him as he looked with deep emotion
at the members of this family whose secrets had passed into his heart.
Gerard, to whom the words "peace and pardon" must have seemed strange,
was bewildered. Monsieur Ruffin, with his eyes fixed on Veronique, was
stupefied. At this instant the carriage came rapidly up the avenue.
"There are five of them!" cried the rector, who could see and count
"Five!" exclaimed Gerard. "Can five know more than two?"
"Ah," cried Madame Graslin suddenly, grasping the rector's arm, "the
/procureur-general/ is among them! What is he doing here?"
"And papa Grossetete, too!" cried Francis.
"Madame," said the rector, supporting Veronique, and leading her apart
a few steps, "show courage; be worthy of yourself."
"But what can he want?" she replied, leaning on the balustrade.
"Mother!" (the old woman ran to her daughter with an activity that
belied her years.) "I shall see him again," she said.
"As he comes with Monsieur Grossetete," said the rector, "he can have
none but good intentions."
"Ah! monsieur, my child will die!" cried Madame Sauviat, seeing the
effect of the rector's words on her daughter's face. "How can her
heart survive such emotions? Monsieur Grossetete has always hitherto
prevented that man from seeing Veronique."
Madame Graslin's face was on fire.
"Do you hate him so much?" said the Abbe Bonnet.
"She left Limoges to escape the sight of him, and to escape letting
the whole town into her secrets," said Madame Sauviat, terrified at
the change she saw on Madame Graslin's features.
"Do you not see that he will poison my few remaining hours? When I
ought to be thinking of heaven he will nail me to earth," cried
The rector took her arm and constrained her to walk aside with him.
When they were alone he stopped and gave her one of those angelic
looks with which he was able to calm the violent convulsions of the
"If it is really so," he said, "as your confessor, I order you to
receive him, to be kind and affectionate to him, to quit that garment
of wrath, and forgive him as God will forgive you. Can there still be
the remains of passion of a soul I believed to be purified. Burn this
last incense on the altar of your penitence, or else your repentance
is a lie."
"There was still that effort to make--and it is made," she answered,
wiping her eyes. "The devil lurked in that last fold of my heart, and
God, no doubt, put into Monsieur de Grandville's mind the thought that
brings him here. Ah! how many times must God strike me?" she cried.
She stopped, as if to say a mental prayer; then she returned to Madame
Sauviat and said in a low voice:
"My dear mother, be kind and gentle to Monsieur de Grandville."
The old woman clasped her hands with a feverish shudder.
"There is no longer any hope," she said, seizing the rector's hand.
The carriage, announced by the postilion's whip, was now coming up the
last slope; the gates were opened, it entered the courtyard, and the
travellers came at once to the terrace. They were the illustrious
Archbishop Dutheil, who was on his way to consecrate Monseigneur
Gabriel de Rastignac, the /procureur-general/, Monsieur de Grandville,
Monsieur Grossetete, Monsieur Roubaud, and one of the most celebrated
physicians in Paris, Horace Bianchon.
"You are very welcome," said Veronique, advancing toward them,--"you
particularly," she added, offering her hand to Monsieur de Grandville,
who took it and pressed it.
"I counted on the intervention of Monseigneur and on that of my friend
Monsieur Grossetete to obtain for me a favorable reception," said the
/procureur-general/. "It would have been a life-long regret to me if I
did not see you again."
"I thank those who brought you here," replied Veronique, looking at
the Comte de Grandville for the first time in fifteen years. "I have
felt averse to you for a very long time, but I now recognize the
injustice of my feelings; and you shall know why, if you can stay till
the day after to-morrow at Montegnac." Then turning to Horace Bianchon
and bowing to him, she added: "Monsieur will no doubt confirm my
apprehensions. God must have sent you, Monseigneur," she said, turning
to the archbishop. "In memory of our old friendship you will not
refuse to assist me in my last moments. By whose mercy is it that I
have about me all the beings who have loved and supported me in life?"
As she said the word /loved/ she turned with a gracious look to
Monsieur de Grandville, who was touched to tears by this mark of
feeling. Silence fell for a few moments on every one. The doctors
wondered by what occult power this woman could still keep her feet,
suffering as she must have suffered. The other three men were so
shocked at the ravages disease had suddenly made in her that they
communicated their thoughts by their eyes only.
"Allow me," she said, with her accustomed grace, "to leave you now
with these gentlemen; the matter is urgent."
She bowed to her guests, gave an arm to each of the doctors, and
walked toward the chateau feebly and slowly, with a difficulty which
told only too plainly of the coming catastrophe.
"Monsieur Bonnet," said the archbishop, looking at the rector, "you
have accomplished a miracle."
"Not I, but God, Monseigneur," he replied.
"They said she was dying," said Monsieur Grossetete, "but she is dead;
there is nothing left of her but spirit."
"A soul," said Gerard.
"And yet she is still the same," cried the /procureur-general/.
"A stoic after the manner of the Porch philosophers," said the tutor.
They walked in silence the whole length of the balustrade, looking at
the landscape still red with the declining light.
"To me who saw this scene thirteen years ago," said the archbishop,
pointing to the fertile plain, the valley, and the mountains of
Montegnac, "this miracle is as extraordinary as that we have just
witnessed. But how comes it that you allow Madame Graslin to walk
about? She ought to be in her bed."
"She was there," said Madame Sauviat; "for ten days she did not leave
it; but to-day she insisted on getting up to take a last look at the
"I can understand that she wanted to bid farewell to her great
creation," said Monsieur de Grandville; "but she risked expiring on
"Monsieur Roubaud told us not to thwart her," said Madame Sauviat.
"What a stupendous work! what a miracle has been accomplished!" said
the archbishop, whose eyes were roving over the scene before him. "She
has literally sown the desert! But we know, monsieur," he added,
turning to Gerard, "that your scientific knowledge and your labors
have a large share in it."
"They have been only the workmen," replied the mayor. "Yes, the hands
only; she has been the thought."
Madame Sauviat here left the group, to hear, if possible, the decision
of the doctors.
"We need some heroism ourselves," said Monsieur de Grandville to the
rector and the archbishop, "to enable us to witness this death."
"Yes," said Monsieur Grossetete, who overheard him, "but we ought to
do much for such a friend."
After several turns up and down the terrace, these persons, full of
solemn thoughts, saw two farmers approaching them, sent as a
deputation from the village, where the inhabitants were in a state of
painful anxiety to know the sentence pronounced by the physician from
"They are still consulting, and as yet we know nothing, my friends,"
said the archbishop.
As he spoke, Monsieur Roubaud appeared coming toward them, and they
all hurried to meet him.
"Well?" said the mayor.
"She cannot live forty-eight hours longer," replied Monsieur Roubaud.
"During my absence the disease has fully developed; Monsieur Bianchon
does not understand how it was possible for her to have walked. Such
phenomenal exhibitions of strength are always caused by great mental
exaltation. So, gentlemen," said the doctor to the priests, "she
belongs to you now; science is useless, and my illustrious fellow-
physician thinks you have barely time enough for your last offices."
"Let us go now and say the prayers for the forty hours," said the
rector to his parishioners, turning to leave the terrace. "His Grace
will doubtless administer the last sacraments."
The archbishop bowed his head; he could not speak; his eyes were full
of tears. Every one sat down, or leaned against the balustrade,
absorbed in his own thought. The church bells presently sent forth a
few sad calls, and then the whole population were seen hurrying toward
the porch. The gleam of the lighted tapers shone through the trees in
Monsieur Bonnet's garden; the chants resounded. No color was left in
the landscape but the dull red hue of the dusk; even the birds had
hushed their songs; the tree-frog alone sent forth its long, clear,
"I will go and do my duty," said the archbishop, turning away with a
slow step like a man overcome with emotion.
The consultation had taken place in the great salon of the chateau.
This vast room communicated with a state bedchamber, furnished in red
damask, in which Graslin had displayed a certain opulent magnificence.
Veronique had not entered it six times in fourteen years; the grand
apartments were quite useless to her, and she never received her
friends there. But now the effort she had made to accomplish her last
obligation, and to overcome her last repugnance had exhausted her
strength, and she was wholly unable to mount the stairs to her own
When the illustrious physician had taken the patient's hand and felt
her pulse he looked at Monsieur Roubaud and made him a sign; then
together they lifted her and carried her into the chamber. Aline
hastily opened the doors. Like all state beds the one in this room had
no sheets, and the two doctors laid Madame Graslin on the damask
coverlet. Roubaud opened the windows, pushed back the outer blinds,
and called. The servants and Madame Sauviat went in. The tapers in the
candelabra were lighted.
"It is ordained," said the dying woman, smiling, "that my death shall
be what that of a Christian should be--a festival!"
During the consultation she said:--
"The /procureur-general/ has done his professional duty; I was going,
and he has pushed me on."
The old mother looked at her and laid a finger on her lips.
"Mother, I shall speak," replied Veronique. "See! the hand of God is
in all this; I am dying in a red room--"
Madame Sauviat went out, unable to bear those words.
"Aline," she said, "she will speak! she will speak!"
"Ah! madame is out of her mind," cried the faithful maid, who was
bringing sheets. "Fetch the rector, madame."
"Your mistress must be undressed," said Bianchon to the maid.
"It will be very difficult to do it, monsieur; madame is wrapped in a
"What! in the nineteenth-century can such horrors be revived?" said
the great doctor.
"Madame Graslin has never allowed me to touch her stomach," said
Roubaud. "I have been able to judge of the progress of the disease
only from her face and her pulse, and the little information I could
get from her mother and the maid."
Veronique was now placed on a sofa while the bed was being made. The
doctors spoke together in a low voice. Madame Sauviat and Aline made
the bed. The faces of the two women were full of anguish; their hearts
were wrung by the thought, "We are making her bed for the last time--
she will die here!"
The consultation was not long. But Bianchon exacted at the outset that
Aline should, in spite of the patient's resistance, cut off the hair
shirt and put on a night-dress. The doctors returned to the salon
while this was being done. When Aline passed them carrying the
instrument of torture wrapped in a napkin, she said:--
"Madame's body is one great wound."
The doctors returned to the bedroom.
"Your will is stronger than that of Napoleon, madame," said Bianchon,
after asking a few questions, to which Veronique replied very clearly.
"You keep your mind and your faculties in the last stages of a disease
which robbed the Emperor of his brilliant intellect. From what I know
of you I think I ought to tell you the truth."
"I implore you to do so," she said. "You are able to estimate what
strength remains to me; and I have need of all my vigor for a few
"Think only of your salvation," replied Bianchon.
"If God has given me grace to die in possession of all my faculties,"
she said with a celestial smile, "be sure that this favor will be used
to the glory of his Church. The possession of my mind and senses is
necessary to fulfil a command of God, whereas Napoleon had
accomplished all his destiny."
The doctors looked at each other in astonishment at hearing these
words, said with as much ease as though Madame Graslin were still
presiding in her salon.
"Ah! here is the doctor who is to cure me," she said presently, when
the archbishop, summoned by Roubaud, entered the room.
She collected all her strength and rose to a sitting posture, in order
to bow graciously to Monsieur Bianchon, and beg him to accept
something else than money for the good news he gave her. She said a
few words in her mother's ear, and Madame Sauviat immediately led away
the doctors; then Veronique requested the archbishop to postpone their
interview till the rector could come to her, expressing a wish to rest
for a while. Aline watched beside her.
At midnight Madame Graslin awoke, and asked for the archbishop and
rector, whom Aline silently showed her close at hand, praying for her.
She made a sign dismissing her mother and the maid, and, at another
sign, the two priests came to the bedside.
"Monseigneur, and you, my dear rector," she said, "will hear nothing
you do not already know. You were the first, Monseigneur, to cast your
eyes into my inner self; you read there nearly all my past; and what
you read sufficed you. My confessor, that guardian angel whom heaven
placed near me, knows more; I have told him all. You, whose minds are
enlightened by the spirit of the Church, I wish to consult you as to
the manner in which I ought as a true Christian to leave this life.
You, austere and saintly spirits, think you that if God deigns to
pardon one whose repentance is the deepest, the most absolute, that
ever shook a human soul, think you that even then I have made my full
expiation here below?"
"Yes," said the archbishop; "yes, my daughter."
"No, my father, no!" she said rising in her bed, the lightning
flashing from her eyes. "Not far from here there is a grave, where an
unhappy man is lying beneath the weight of a dreadful crime; here in
this sumptuous home is a woman, crowned with the fame of benevolence
and virtue. This woman is blessed; that poor young man is cursed. The
criminal is covered with obloquy; I receive the respect of all. I had
the largest share in the sin; he has a share, a large share in the
good which has won for me such glory and such gratitude. Fraud that I
am, I have the honor; he, the martyr to his loyalty, has the shame. I
shall die in a few hours, and the canton will mourn me; the whole
department will ring with my good deeds, my piety, my virtue; but he
died covered with insults, in sight of a whole population rushing,
with hatred to a murderer, to see him die. You, my judges, you are
indulgent to me; yet I hear within myself an imperious voice which
will not let me rest. Ah! the hand of God, less tender than yours,
strikes me from day to day, as if to warn me that all is not expiated.
My sins cannot be redeemed except by a public confession. He is happy!
criminal, he gave his life with ignominy in face of earth and heaven;
and I, I cheat the world as I cheated human justice. The homage I
receive humiliates me; praise sears my heart. Do you not see, in the
very coming of the /procureur-general/, a command from heaven echoing
the voice in my own soul which cries to me: Confess!"
The two priests, the prince of the Church as well as the humble
rector, these two great lights, each in his own way, stood with their
eyes lowered and were silent. Deeply moved by the grandeur and the
resignation of the guilty woman, the judges could not pronounce her
"My child," said the archbishop at last, raising his noble head,
macerated by the customs of his austere life, "you are going beyond
the commandments of the Church. The glory of the Church is to make her
dogma conform to the habits and manners of each age; for the Church
goes on from age to age in company with humanity. According to her
present decision secret confession has taken the place of public
confession. This substitution has made the new law. The sufferings you
have endured suffice. Die in peace: God has heard you."
"But is not this desire of a guilty woman in conformity with the law
of the first Church, which has enriched heaven with as many saints and
martyrs and confessing souls as there are stars in the firmament?"
persisted Veronique, vehemently. "Who said: /Confess yourselves to one
another/? Was it not the disciples, who lived with the Saviour? Let me
confess my shame publicly on my knees. It will redeem my sin to the
world, to that family exiled and almost extinct through me. The world
ought to know that my benefactions are not an offering, but the
payment of a debt. Suppose that later, after my death, something tore
from my memory the lying veil which covers me. Ah! that idea is more
than I can bear, it is death indeed!"
"I see in this too much of calculation, my child," said the
archbishop, gravely. "Passions are still too strong in you; the one I
thought extinct is--"
"Oh! I swear to you, Monseigneur," she said, interrupting the prelate
and fixing her eyes, full of horror, upon him, "my heart is as
purified as that of a guilty and repentant woman can be; there is
nothing now within me but the thought of God."
"Monseigneur," said the rector in a tender voice, "let us leave
celestial justice to take its course. It is now four years since I
have strongly opposed this wish; it is the only difference that has
ever come between my penitent and myself. I have seen to the depths of
that soul, and I know this earth has no longer any hold there. Though
the tears, the remorse, the contrition of fifteen years relate to the
mutual sin of those two persons, believe me there are no remains of
earthly passion in this long and terrible bewailing. Memory no longer
mingles its flames with those of an ardent penitence. Yes, tears have
at last extinguished that great fire. I guarantee," he said,
stretching his hand over Madame Graslin's head, and letting his
moistened eyes be seen, "I guarantee the purity of that angelic soul.
And also I see in this desire the thought of reparation to an absent
family, a member of which God has brought back here by one of those
events which reveal His providence."
Veronique took the trembling hand of the rector and kissed it.
"You have often been very stern to me, dear pastor, but at this moment
I see where you keep your apostolic gentleness. You," she said,
looking at the archbishop, "you, the supreme head of this corner of
God's kingdom, be to me, in this moment of ignominy, a support. I must
bow down as the lowest of women, but you will lift me up pardoned and
--possibly--the equal of those who never sinned."
The archbishop was silent, weighing no doubt all the considerations
his practised eye perceived.
"Monseigneur," said the rector, "religion has had some heavy blows.
This return to ancient customs, brought about by the greatness of the
sin and its repentance, may it not be a triumph we have no right to
"But they will say we are fanatics! They will declare we have exacted
this cruel scene!"
And again the archbishop was silent and thoughtful.
At this moment Horace Bianchon and Roubaud entered the room, after
knocking. As the door opened Veronique saw her mother, her son, and
all the servants of the household on their knees praying. The rectors
of the two adjacent parishes had come to assist Monsieur Bonnet, and
also, perhaps, to pay their respects to the great prelate, for whom
the French clergy now desired the honors of the cardinalate, hoping
that the clearness of his intellect, which was thoroughly Gallican,
would enlighten the Sacred College.
Horace Bianchon returned to Paris; before departing, he came to bid
farewell to the dying woman and thank her for her munificence. Slowly
he approached, perceiving from the faces of the priests that the
wounds of the soul had been the determining cause of those of the
body. He took Madame Graslin's hand, laid it on the bed and felt the
pulse. The deep silence, that of a summer night in a country solitude,
gave additional solemnity to the scene. The great salon, seen through
the double doors, was lighted up for the little company of persons who
were praying there; all were on their knees except the two priests who
were seated and reading their brevaries. On either side of the grand
state bed were the prelate in his violet robes, the rector, and the
"She is agitated almost unto death," said Horace Bianchon, who, like
all men of great talent, sometimes used speech as grand as the
occasion that called it forth.
The archbishop rose as if some inward impulse drove him; he called to
Monsieur Bonnet, and together they crossed the room, passed through
the salon, and went out upon the terrace, where they walked up and
down for some moments. When they returned, after discussing this case
of ecclesiastical discipline, Roubaud met them.
CONFESSION AT THE GATES OF THE TOMB
At ten o'clock in the morning the archbishop, wearing his pontifical
robes, came into Madame Graslin's chamber. The prelate, as well as the
rector, had such confidence in this woman that they gave her no advice
or instructions as to the limits within which she ought to make her
Veronique now saw an assemblage of clergy from all the neighboring
districts. Monseigneur was assisted by four vicars. The magnificent
vessels she had bestowed upon her dear parish church were brought to
the house and gave splendor to the ceremony. Eight choristers in their
white and red surplices stood in two rows from the bed to the door of
the salon, each holding one of the large bronze-gilt candelabra which
Veronique had ordered from Paris. The cross and the church banner were
held on either side of the bed by white-haired sacristans. Thanks to
the devotion of her servants, a wooden altar brought from the sacristy
had been erected close to the door of the salon, and so prepared and
decorated that Monseigneur could say mass upon it.
Madame Graslin was deeply touched by these attentions, which the
Church, as a general thing, grants only to royal personages. The
folding doors between the salon and the dining-room were open, and she
could see a vista of the ground-floor rooms filled with the village
population. Her friends had thought of everything; the salon was
occupied exclusively by themselves and the servants of the household.
In the front rank and grouped before the door of the bedroom were her
nearest friends, those on whose discretion reliance could be placed.
MM. Grossetete, de Grandville, Roubaud, Gerard, Clousier, Ruffin, took
the first places. They had arranged among themselves that they should
rise and stand in a group, thus preventing the words of the repentant
woman from being heard in the farther rooms; but their tears and sobs
would, in any case, have drowned her voice.
At this moment and before all else in that audience, two persons
presented, to an observer, a powerfully affecting sight. One was
Denise Tascheron. Her foreign garments, of Quaker simplicity, made her
unrecognizable by her former village acquaintance. The other was quite
another personage, an acquaintance not to be forgotten, and his
apparition there was like a streak of lurid light. The /procureur-
general/ came suddenly to a perception of the truth; the part that he
had played to Madame Graslin unrolled itself before him; he divined it
to its fullest extent. Less influenced, as a son of the nineteenth
century, by the religious aspect of the matter, Monsieur de
Grandville's heart was filled with an awful dread; for he saw before
him, he contemplated the drama of that woman's hidden self at the
hotel Graslin during the trial of Jean-Francois Tascheron. That tragic
period came back distinctly to his memory,--lighted even now by the
mother's eyes, shining with hatred, which fell upon him where he
stood, like drops of molten lead. That old woman, standing ten feet
from him, forgave nothing. That man, representing human justice,
trembled. Pale, struck to the heart, he dared not cast his eyes upon
the bed where lay the woman he had loved so well, now livid beneath
the hand of death, gathering strength to conquer agony from the
greatness of her sin and its repentance. The mere sight of Veronique's
thin profile, sharply defined in white upon the crimson damask, caused
him a vertigo.
At eleven o'clock the mass began. After the epistle had been read by
the rector of Vizay the archbishop removed his dalmatic and advanced
to the threshold of the bedroom door.
"Christians, gather here to assist in the ceremony of extreme unction
which we are about to administer to the mistress of this house," he
said, "you who join your prayers to those of the Church and intercede
with God to obtain from Him her eternal salvation, you are now to
learn that she does not feel herself worthy, in this, her last hour,
to receive the holy viaticum without having made, for the edification
of her fellows, a public confession of the greatest of her sins. We
have resisted her pious wish, although this act of contrition was long
in use during the early ages of Christianity. But, as this poor woman
tells us that her confession may serve to rehabilitate an unfortunate
son of this parish, we leave her free to follow the inspirations of
After these words, said with pastoral unction and dignity, the
archbishop turned aside to give place to Veronique. The dying woman
came forward, supported by her old mother and the rector,--the mother
from whom she derived her body, the Church, the spiritual mother of
her soul. She knelt down on a cushion, clasped her hands, and seemed
to collect herself for a few moments, as if to gather from some source
descending from heaven the power to speak. At this moment the silence
was almost terrifying. None dared look at their neighbor. All eyes
were lowered. And yet the eyes of Veronique, when she raised them,
encountered those of the /procureur-general/, and the expression on
that blanched face brought the color to hers.
"I could not die in peace," said Veronique, in a voice of deep
emotion, "if I suffered the false impression you all have of me to
remain. You see in me a guilty woman, who asks your prayers, and who
seeks to make herself worthy of pardon by this public confession of
her sin. That sin was so great, its consequences were so fatal, that
perhaps no penance can atone for it. But the more humiliation I submit
to here on earth, the less I may have to dread the wrath of God in the
heavenly kingdom to which I am going. My father, who had great
confidence in me, commended to my care (now twenty years ago) a son of
this parish, in whom he had seen a great desire to improve himself, an
aptitude for study, and fine characteristics. I mean the unfortunate
Jean-Francois Tascheron, who thenceforth attached himself to me as his
benefactress. How did the affection I felt for him become a guilty
one? I think myself excused from explaining this. Perhaps it could be
shown that the purest sentiments by which we act in this world were
insensibly diverted from their course by untold sacrifices, by reasons
arising from our human frailty, by many causes which might appear to
dismiss the evil of my sin. But even if the noblest affections moved
me, was I less guilty? Rather let me confess that I, who by education,
by position in the world, might consider myself superior to the youth
my father confided to me, and from whom I was separated by the natural
delicacy of our sex,--I listened, fatally, to the promptings of the
devil. I soon found myself too much the mother of that young man to be
insensible to his mute and delicate admiration. He alone, he first,
recognized my true value. But perhaps a horrible calculation entered
my mind. I thought how discreet a youth would be who owed his all to
me, and whom the chances of life had put so far away from me, though
we were born equals. I made even my reputation for benevolence, my
pious occupations, a cloak to screen my conduct. Alas!--and this is
doubtless one of my greatest sins--I hid my passion under cover of the
altar. The most virtuous of my actions--the love I bore my mother, the
acts of devotion which were sincere and true in the midst of my wrong-
doing--all, all were made to serve the ends of a desperate passion,
and were links in the chain that held me. My poor beloved mother, who
hears me now, was for a long time, ignorantly, an accomplice in my
sin. When her eyes were opened, too many dangerous facts existed not
to give her mother's heart the strength to be silent. Silence with her
has been the highest virtue. Her love for her daughter has gone beyond
her love to God. Ah! I here discharge her solemnly from the heavy
burden of secrecy which she has borne. She shall end her days without
compelling either eyes or brow to lie. Let her motherhood stand clear
of blame; let that noble, sacred old age, crowned with virtue, shine
with its natural lustre, freed of that link which bound her indirectly
Tears checked the dying woman's voice for an instant; Aline gave her
salts to inhale.
"There is no one who has not been better to me than I deserve," she
went on,--"even the devoted servant who does this last service; she
has feigned ignorance of what she knew, but at least she was in the
secret of the penances by which I have destroyed the flesh that
sinned. I here beg pardon of the world for the long deception to which
I have been led by the terrible logic of society. Jean-Francois
Tascheron was not as guilty as he seemed. Ah! you who hear me, I
implore you to remember his youth, and the madness excited in him
partly by the remorse that seized upon me, partly by involuntary
seductions. More than that! it was a sense of honor, though a mistaken
honor, which caused the most awful of these evils. Neither of us could
endure our perpetual deceit. He appealed, unhappy man, to my own right
feeling; he sought to make our fatal love as little wounding to others
as it could be. We meant to hide ourselves away forever. Thus I was
the cause, the sole cause, of his crime. Driven by necessity, the
unhappy man, guilty of too much devotion to an idol, chose from all
evil acts the one which might be hereafter reparable. I knew nothing
of it till the moment of execution. At that moment the hand of God
threw down that scaffolding of false contrivances--I heard the cries;
they echo in my ears! I divined the struggle, which I could not stop,
--I, the cause of it! Tascheron was maddened; I swear it."
Here Veronique turned her eyes upon Monsieur de Grandville, and a sob
was heard to issue from Denise Tascheron's breast.
"He lost his mind when he saw what he thought his happiness destroyed
by unforeseen circumstances. The unhappy man, misled by his love, went
headlong from a delinquent act to crime--from robbery to a double
murder. He left my mother's house an innocent man, he returned a
guilty one. I alone knew that there was neither premeditation nor any
of the aggravating circumstances on which he was sentenced to death. A
hundred times I thought of betraying myself to save him; a hundred
times a horrible and necessary restraint stopped the words upon my
lips. Undoubtedly, my presence near the scene had contributed to give
him the odious, infamous, ignoble courage of a murderer. Were it not
for me, he would have fled. I had formed that soul, trained that mind,
enlarged that heart; I knew it; he was incapable of cowardice or
meanness. Do justice to that involuntarily guilty arm, do justice to
him, whom God, in his mercy, has allowed to sleep in his quiet grave,
where you have wept for him, suspecting, it may be, the extenuating
truth. Punish, curse the guilty creature before you! Horrified by the
crime when once committed, I did my best to hide my share in it.
Trusted by my father--I, who was childless--to lead a child to God, I
led him to the scaffold! Ah! punish me, curse me, the hour has come!"
Saying these words, her eyes shone with the stoic pride of a savage.
The archbishop, standing behind her, and as if protecting her with the
pastoral cross, abandoned his impassible demeanor and covered his eyes
with his right hand. A muffled cry was heard, as though some one were
dying. Two persons, Gerard and Roubaud, received and carried away in
their arms, Denise Tascheron, unconscious. That sight seemed for an
instant to quench the fire in Veronique's eyes; she was evidently
uneasy; but soon her self-control and serenity of martyrdom resumed
"You now know," she continued, "that I deserve neither praise or
blessing for my conduct here. I have led in sight of Heaven, a secret
life of bitter penance which Heaven will estimate. My life before men
has been an immense reparation for the evils I have caused; I have
marked my repentance ineffaceably on the earth; it will last almost
eternally here below. It is written on those fertile fields, in the
prosperous village, in the rivulets brought from the mountains to
water the plain once barren and fruitless, now green and fertile. Not
a tree will be cut for a hundred years to come but the people of this
region will know of the remorse that made it grow. My repentant soul
will still live here among you. What you will owe to its efforts, to a
fortune honorably acquired, is the heritage of its repentance,--the
repentance of her who caused the crime. All has been repaired so far
as society is concerned; but I am still responsible for that life,
crushed in its bud,--a life confided to me and for which I am now
required to render an account."
The flame of her eyes was veiled in tears.
"There is here, before me, a man," she continued, "who, because he did
his duty strictly, has been to me an object of hatred which I thought
eternal. He was the first inflictor of my punishment. My feet were
still too deep in blood, I was too near the deed, not to hate justice.
So long as that root of anger lay in my heart, I knew there was still
a lingering remnant of condemnable passion. I had nothing to forgive
that man, I have only had to purify that corner of my heart where Evil
lurked. However hard it may have been to win that victory, it is won."
Monsieur de Grandville turned a face to Veronique that was bathed in
tears. Human justice seemed at that moment to feel remorse. When the
confessing woman raised her head as if to continue, she met the
agonizing look of old man Grossetete, who stretched his supplicating
hands to her as if to say, "Enough, enough!" At the same instant a
sound of tears and sobs was heard. Moved by such sympathy, unable to
bear the balm of this general pardon, she was seized with faintness.
Seeing that her daughter's vital force was gone at last, the old
mother summoned the vigor of her youth to carry her away.
"Christians," said the archbishop, "you have heard the confession of
that penitent woman; it confirms the sentence of human justice. You
ought to see in this fresh reason to join your prayers to those of the
Church which offers to God the holy sacrifice of the mass, to implore
his mercy in favor of so deep a repentance."
The services went on. Veronique, lying on the bed, followed them with
a look of such inward contentment that she seemed, to every eye, no
longer the same woman. On her face was the candid and virtuous
expression of the pure young girl such as she had been in her parents'
home. The dawn of eternal life was already whitening her brow and
glorifying her face with its celestial tints. Doubtless she heard the
mystic harmonies, and gathered strength to live from her desire to
unite herself once more with God in the last communion. The rector
came beside the bed and gave her absolution. The archbishop
administered the sacred oils with a fatherly tenderness that showed to
all there present how dear the lost but now recovered lamb had been to
him. Then, with the sacred anointing, he closed to the things of earth
those eyes which had done such evil, and laid the seal of the Church
upon the lips that were once too eloquent. The ears, by which so many
evil inspirations had penetrated her mind, were closed forever. All
the senses, deadened by repentance, were thus sanctified, and the
spirit of evil could have no further power within her soul.
Never did assistants of this ceremony more fully understand the
grandeur and profundity of the sacrament than those who now saw the
acts of the Church justly following the confession of that dying
Thus prepared, Veronique received the body of Jesus Christ with an
expression of hope and joy which melted the ice of unbelief against
which the rector had so often bruised himself. Roubaud, confounded in
all his opinions, became a Catholic on the spot. The scene was
touching and yet awesome; the solemnity of its every feature was so
great that painters might have found there the subject of a
When this funeral part was over, and the dying woman heard the priests
begin the reading of the gospel of Saint John, she signed to her
mother to bring her son, who had been taken from the room by his
tutor. When she saw Francis kneeling by the bedside the pardoned
mother felt she had the right to lay her hand upon his head and bless
him. Doing so, she died.
Old Madame Sauviat was there, at her post, erect as she had been for
twenty years. This woman, heroic after her fashion, closed her
daughter's eyes--those eyes that had wept so much--and kissed them.
All the priests, followed by the choristers, surrounded the bed. By
the flaming light of the torches they chanted the terrible /De
Profundis/, the echoes of which told the population kneeling before
the chateau, the friends praying in the salon, the servants in the
adjoining rooms, that the mother of the canton was dead. The hymn was
accompanied with moans and tears. The confession of that grand woman
had not been audible beyond the threshold of the salon, and none but
loving ears had heard it.
When the peasants of the neighborhood, joining with those of
Montegnac, came, one by one, to lay upon their benefactress the
customary palm, together with their last farewell mingled with prayers
and tears, they saw the man of justice, crushed by grief, holding the
hand of the woman whom, without intending it, he had so cruelly but so
Two days later the /procureur-general/, Grossetete, the archbishop,
and the mayor, holding the corners of the black pall, conducted the
body of Madame Graslin to its last resting-place. It was laid in the
grave in deep silence; not a word was said; no one had strength to
speak; all eyes were full of tears. "She is now a saint!" was said by
the peasants as they went away along the roads of the canton to which
she had given prosperity,--saying the words to her creations as though
they were animate beings.
No one thought it strange that Madame Graslin was buried beside the
body of Jean-Francois Tascheron. She had not asked it; but the old
mother, as the last act of her tender pity, had requested the sexton
to make the grave there,--putting together those whom earth had so
violently parted, and whose souls were now reunited through repentance
Madame Graslin's will was found to be all that was expected of it. She
founded scholarships and hospital beds at Limoges solely for working-
men; she assigned a considerable sum--three hundred thousand francs in
six years--for the purchase of that part of the village called Les
Tascherons, where she directed that a hospital should be built. This
hospital, intended for the indigent old persons of the canton, for the
sick, for lying-in women if paupers, and for foundlings, was to be
called the Tascheron Hospital. Veronique ordered it to be placed in
charge of the Gray Sisters, and fixed the salaries of the surgeon and
the physician at four thousand francs for each. She requested Roubaud
to be the first physician of this hospital, placing upon him the
choice of the surgeon, and requesting him to superintend the erection
of the building with reference to sanitary arrangements, conjointly
with Gerard, who was to be the architect. She also gave to the village
of Montegnac an extent of pasture land sufficient to pay all its
taxes. The church, she endowed with a fund to be used for a special
purpose, namely: watch was to be kept over young workmen, and cases
discovered in which some village youth might show a disposition for
art, or science, or manufactures; the interest of the fund was then to
be used in fostering it. The intelligent benevolence of the testatrix
named the sum that should be taken for each of these encouragements.
The news of Madame Graslin's death, received throughout the department
as a calamity, was not accompanied by any rumor injurious to the
memory of this woman. This discretion was a homage rendered to so many
virtues by the hard-working Catholic population, which renewed in this
little corner of France the miracles of the "Lettres Edifiantes."
Gerard, appointed guardian of Francis Graslin, and obliged, by terms
of the will, to reside at the chateau, moved there. But he did not
marry Denise Tascheron until three months after Veronique's death. In
her, Francis found a second mother.
The following personages appear in other stories of the Human Comedy.
The Atheist's Mass
The Commission in Lunacy
A Distinguished Provincial at Paris
A Bachelor's Establishment
The Secrets of a Princess
The Government Clerks
A Study of Woman
Scenes from a Courtesan's Life
The Seamy Side of History
The Magic Skin
A Second Home
A Prince of Bohemia
Letters of Two Brides
The Muse of the Department
The Imaginary Mistress
The Middle Classes
In addition, M. Bianchon narrated the following:
Another Study of Woman
La Grande Breteche
The Government Clerks
Grandville, Vicomte de
A Second Home
A Daughter of Eve
Grossetete (younger brother of F. Grossetete)
The Muse of the Department
Navarreins, Duc de
A Bachelor's Establishment
The Muse of the Department
Jealousies of a Country Town
Scenes from a Courtesan's Life
The Magic Skin
The Gondreville Mystery
The Secrets of a Princess
Rastignac, Monseigneur Gabriel de
A Daughter of Eve
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