The Village Rector by Honore de Balzac
XIX. 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 verdure.
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 whisper.
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 her.
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 visit."
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 woman's gown.
"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 here."
"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 Francis."
"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 happiness."
"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 Veronique.
"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 knees.
"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.