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word from the lips of one of themselves. By a strong effort 1 arrested my steps at the entrance of the avenue, and turned them towards the church. I remembered again that the day was Sunday, and it was the hour for vespers. I reached the church door, and looked in upon the rustic congregation. The service went on and on in the low, pleasant monotone of the priest, and the answering chant of the people a simple country service, with neither music nor incense; but there was a repose in it which soothed me. After a while it ended, and the priest disappeared; but the congregation did not disperse immediately, as in our Protestant churches-many of them lingered at their prayers, and dropped away one by one, until the church was empty. After the last loiterer was gone, I saw M. Lalande coming down the aisle to me.
"You have been missed all day," he said, in his suavest tones.
Again the extreme difficulty of speaking of strange things in a foreign tongue seemed to lock my lips; but I had taken my resolution during the prayers, and laying my hand upon his arm, I pointed to the confessional in its dusky corner.
"A murder was confessed there to you last night," I said, my voice growing hoarse and husky, and having an unfamiliar sound to my own ear. He recoiled from me, and sank upon the seat from which I had risen, his face white as the marble images overhead, and his lips moving, but no syllable coming from them.
"It is true," I continued; "I have verified it; the crime has been committed. The little child lies unburied where he was murdered."
"Good God!" groaned the priest, covering his face with his hands. We were both silent. I do not know what he felt; and yet, if he were a true man, who could say that even I, with all my lost love, suffered more than the priest, who believed himself charged with the souls of the culprits? I know, that as we sat there side by side, in the grey gloom of the church, we passed through a martyrdom of anguish. At length the priest lifted up his head, and raising his eyes to the crucifix upon the altar, he made the sign of the cross, with a gleam that might almost be called a smile, upon his face.
"What must be done ?" I cried, yet dreading to hear what he might have to say.
"The little one must be buried in sacred ground," he answered, in a tone of pathetic tenderness. "I was going there this night alone. Will you help me, my friend ?"
I felt a sudden relief at this unexpected answer. The evening was
returning, and it was a long way to the moorland; yet it seemed better to be thus occupied, than to enter idly into the interminable hours of the coming night. In a short time I was driving the curé -silent to me, but whispering his prayers to himself-along the path I had taken in the morning. All the day had been as some jarring and inexplicable interlude let into the even harmony of my life, and I wondered to what pitch of discord it could rise. We left the carriage upon the border of the moor, and marched across the black morass in a straight line towards the pollard-trees, the moon shining down brightly upon us from the cloudless sky. We bore our burden back with us—the little corpse which should have been smoothed to its last sleep by the gentlest of hands; and in the dead of the night, which was never quite dark, my companion and I dug a tiny grave under the church walls, and buried it there-the priest and I alone with the murdered child; and he whispered a few prayers over it from memory, and we covered up the grave swiftly and stealthily, just as the morning began to quicken in the sky. Then we sat down to rest in the porch, and it was no longer possible for silence to be maintained between us.
"What is to be done ?" he asked, in his turn, but without looking me in the face; "what do you mean to do ?"
"What can I do?" I cried; "I cannot become the accuser of Désirée, yet I can never see her face again. You are the best judge. I leave her with you. You must decide."
There was an inexplicable expression upon the priest's face; a subtle light rippled across it, as when the surface of some dark and deep tarn is stirred from below, and seems to grow brighter from itself. It was a lightning flash of triumph darting across the thick darkness. I was in no mood to conjecture what schemes his busy brain was weaving, but I felt that this man had hitherto looked upon me as a rival and opponent. I added, as if speaking to myself, "The crime must not go unpunished."
"It will not pass unpunished," he repeated, sighing heavily; "leave the guilty to God and their priest. Their souls are given to me, and I would fain save them."
He rose up weariedly, inviting me to accompany him to his house beside the church. In all my life I never slept as I slept that day-sleeping for sorrow, like the disciples in the garden of the agony. It was a heavy, dreamless sleep, so like unto death, that when I awoke I felt shudderingly that I had been down to the
gates of the grave. I arose from it another man. Désirée was no more to me than a murderess, stained with her brother's blood. I longed with an unutterable longing to be at home, to grasp my father's hand, and to look into my mother's eyes. In the evening M. Lalande drove me to Falaise, and waited to see me off by the first train in the morning.
"You have done well to leave vengeance to God," he said, as we parted. "I will explain your sudden departure to M. Clauzel. Write to him kindly when you reach home. He is an old man, and already broken by trouble."
I reached home, and saw my own people again; but they wondered at the change which had been wrought in me in Normandy, and I could explain it to none of them. It was neither madness nor illness which befell me, but a malady of both mental and bodily suffering, yet in neither case amounting to disease, overmastered me for a time. My secret and my sorrow were almost too heavy a burden to be borne.
I received a letter not long after my return, written in heartbroken terms by M. Clauzel. His daughter, he said, and her fostermother, were about to enter a convent of the most rigorous rule, and M. Lalande was hurrying on the profession with the utmost haste. Once having taken the vows, Désirée would be lost to him, as she could nover more leave the convent walls, even to be present at his deathbed; and the old man urged me to return to Normandy, and prevent the sacrifice. Only I, he said, could prevail with her; neither prayers, nor tears, nor threats from him availed anything. If my parents still withheld their consent to our marriage, I could at least induce her to give up the fatal resolution so far as to remain with him until his death, which could not be, he added, far distant.
I could only answer that M. Lalande and his daughter knew best what sacrifice duty required of her, and that my parents would not hear me speak of a return to Normandy after so long an absence. Do what I would, the letter was cold and formal; and I never heard from the old man again. But in the course of the year our house received the intelligence that M. Clauzel was dead, and his mills had passed into other hands.
A month or two ago, being in Paris, I met M. Lalande accidentally. He had not much to say to me, except that he was still the spiritual director of Désirée Clauzel, who was no longer known in the world by that name; and that her soul, by sore penances and bitter mortifications,
was being slowly purged from its stain. Her foster-mother had been dead for some months, and she was left to bear the burden of her sin alone, having given her whole life as an atonement for it.
Did I act rightly? Was I justified in leaving her in the hands of her priest, or ought I to have betrayed a secret of the confessional in delivering her and the murderess over to the judgment of the civil law?
The Last of Lilian.
AH! Lilian, those laughing eyes
Betray'd you, though you seem'd dejected;
You tried to feign some slight surprise,
When talking autumn rambles over,
You won't forbid my morning whiff,
Late London's round of balls and hock
And, maybe, teas at five o'clock
A new philosophy have taught us.
Is it the same with you as me?
Is life still circumscribed and narrow
No tender thoughts of Cousin C.,
That day when Eton played with Harrow?
Were flower-shows and Zoo's in vain,
In spite of all tradition teaches ?
Can you recall, unscared by pain,
That pic-nic under Burnham Beeches ?
Well, leading questions are not fair-
My contrasts were sublime, but hazy;
Good-bye! we're nearly quits I think,
Black care may ride beyond your rumble, And though I tottered near the brink, Perhaps you saved me from a tumble. Good-bye! but if in after years
You wake to find your love supplanted, Please own, amidst these laughing tears,
You saw a heart-which was not wanted.
Bright birds their farewell carols trill,
Wild flow'rets in the earth are sleeping; Red roses die beneath the hill,
Gold dew the russet leaves are weeping; And Lilian must follow fleet,
And fade from me with summer's glory; Have pity on me, lady sweet,
And hear me tell the old, old story.
I've track'd the sea of love before,
And sailed with care, and helter-skelter,
I've longed to near a quiet shore,
But never felt so near to shelter;
My bark by tempests idly tost,
Has made courageous pilots shudder;
If no one aids me, I am lost,
Come, darling, will you take the rudder?
CLEMENT W. SCOTT.