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the grandeur and beauty of selfsacrifice; but even these would not bear the test of the new light thrown upon them by the tall crucifix standing before me in the sanctuary. The question at issue was to be solved during the few next weeks. That after the publication of this one novel, I should become a servant of God, a true Christian, and write magnificent things in support of religion, was no longer a doubt; but it was impossible to forego the start this book would give me in my literary career, or the pecuniary advantages it promised to afford.
With an established reputation as an authoress, I could do incalculably more good by my writings than an unknown person; and with the sum I was to receive for it, I would set on foot some good work. "There can be no doubt about this," I said over and over again to myself during a sleepless night. "There will be no occasion to speak on the subject to Father when I go to confession. He could not form an opinion on the subject unless he read the manuscript, and he would not have time to do that; nor even if he did, would he be able to judge of its effect on people of the world. It is much more moral than any of the recent celebrated novels, and I think some things in it would do positive good to some persons. I will accuse my self of my many sins, of my long neglect of religion, of my ingratitude to God. I need not mention what is not a sin. But is it not a sin to write bad books? But mine is not a bad book, not at all a bad book. Father— would think so. But he knows nothing about novels. Could I modify some of the scenes? It would spoil the whole story; that one scene which I had most doubts about, M. C. had said would make the fortune of a book: it was so original." Such were the inward arguments which went on through
out the whole of that night, which drove away sleep from my eyes and rest from my soul. O, how extraordinary it seemed to me on the following day, when the preacher, appearing to answer my most secret thoughts, related as it were my own case in my astonished hearing! Still more strange was it when St. Ignatius wrote the "Spiritual Exercises" three hundred years ago, he should have thought of a state of mind so similar to my own at that moment. The person who is left a legacy, and, doubtful if it will help or impede his salvation, does not put the question fairly to the test, does not resolve to refuse it if the latter should be the case-who was it but myself? And he who offers to surrender everything to God, save the one thing which it costs him too great an effort to give up; who, like the man called by our Lord, bargains to go and pay the last duties to an earthly object of affection before he yields himself completely to his Makerwho again was it but myself? I saw it, I felt it, and still I wavered. How near I was turning a deaf ear to grace! How great was the temptation, how fierce the struggle! But grace would not forego its hold on my miserable heart; and Providence sent me a message that day besides that of the preacher.
On that very day when I was going to confession, still undetermined to make it full, entire, and unreserved, still shrinking from the probing of my conscience which it so greatly needed, I happened to call at the Hospice to speak to one of the Sisters of St. Joseph, a simple soul who used to give me sweetmeats when I was a child, and who looked as young and as kind as she did ten years before.
She said that they were very busy upstairs, that a poor girl was dying in St. Catharine's ward. Perhaps I remembered her. She was the sister of Isidore, who used to sing
in the choir. This was the boy to whom I had proposed to be Paul in the days when I wanted to be Virginia.
"What is she dying of?" I asked. "Of consumption," the sister answered." Poor child, she went to be a servant at N., fell into sin, and led a bad life; then her health failed, and she came here to die. Every one knows her sad story, or I would not have mentioned it. Her mother is broken-hearted."
"Poor Martha!" I exclaimed. "May I go up to see her?"
"Yes," the sister said, and took me upstairs. "There she is," she added, and left me with her.
It was a sad sight, that young face with the stamp of death upon it; but what was sadder still, was that of the gray-haired mother by the side of the bed. They were such respectable people, and their children had been so well brought up. I could see in that mother's face a sorrow deeper than that of the approaching death of her child. Whilst I was speaking to them, a lady came up whom I had seen several times in church. She spoke a few words to the sick girl, whose languid eyes brightened as she bent over her. I saw the mother kissing her gown by stealth, and felt myself, when her voice fell on my ears, as if there was music in it-the music of another world. She whom I met by that dying bed was to be my good angel. She was to show me the way in which I have found peace which passes all understanding, and that joy with which a stranger intermeddles not. What
took place between us that evening was to go on for life-the influence of a strong and holy soul over one who has rested under its shadow with childlike love and trust. We left the Hospice together, that lady and I. We made acquaintance as a matter of course; the only thing I do not recollect is, which of us spoke first to the other. We went
and sat on one of the benches of the terrace, and conversed for a long time. She told me Martha's story. The scandal of it had been public, but the humble penitence of the repentant sinner was little known. She is a true penitent," my companion said. "The other day she told me to speak of her fall wherever it could be of use, and to warn girls of her age against hurtful reading. She traces her ruin to the day when she read by stealth in her mistress's room a story which confused her ideas of right and wrong, and weakened her horror of sin. How little people think of what a book may do for good or for evil! and when once it has gone forth, how irreparable is that evil!" My eyes were fixed on the opposite hills; they were filling with tears. I could not restrain them. She looked at me inquiringly; she took my hand. She said something, I know not what, but just what my soul needed at that moment; and then to that stranger, whose name even I did not know, I opened my heart. I told her what my childhood at D. had been, and my subsequent life in Paris, and that the little old-fashioned house in the Impasse des Capucins belonged to me; that I had meant to sell it, but that now I did not know what I should do; that the mission had made me miserable. And then I mentioned my book, and said how strange it was she should have spoken of Martha and her story, and now she knew the reason of my tears. I was afraid about my book.
66 Will you let me read it?" she asked.
I hesitated; but a wild hope occurred to me that she might, after all, think the good predominated over the evil, and then all would be right. Already I felt a confidence in her I could hardly account for. She came back with me to my house. As I was opening the garden-gate, Father came out of
the church, and seeing my companion, he came up to us. His manner of addressing her showed me at once that my confidence was well placed. He inquired after several persons she had promised to visit, and then turning to me, he said,
"Malle. R. is my right hand during the mission. When I look at her, I often think of that lay brother we read of who sat at the foot of the pulpit, and did more by his prayers than the preacher by his sermons."
She shook her head with a smile, and we went into the house together. The missioner had mentioned the name of her aunt, and I found it was one well known to me. Mdlle. R. was spending some months at D., to take care of this sick relative. It was not her constant home. How often I have thanked God that she was there during the mission! We talked on till it was time to go to church, and after the service was over she carried away with her my manuscript. The meditations on the life of our Lord were going on; each day we conversed upon them. She had a way of speaking of Jesus Christ and of the Blessed Virgin which was new to me; she seemed to live in a sort of intimacy with them. I could not help feeling as if she had caught the spirit of their lives. Her manner was simple, her dress plain, her countenance calm and gentle; I could not look at her without thinking of our Blessed Lady. Three days passed, and she had said nothing to me about my book. I thought that perhaps she would not read it till the mission was over. Friday came, and the meditation on our Lord's death on the cross. I cannot describe what that hour wrought in my soul. It was not a discourse the preacher uttered, but a prayer. He knelt down before the crucifix, and there he prayed with us and for us in accents such as I had never heard
from human lips. These pleadings seemed to bring me so near the divine presence in the tabernacle that it appeared almost tangible. My heart felt breaking with love and sorrow, and what had seemed impossible to me before now seemed to grow easy. What was the world and its praise, what success, what fame, what earth and its pleasures, in comparison of that love stronger than death which I began to understand at the foot of the cross that night? The work was done, the battle fought, the victory won! A great calm filled my soul. Mdlle. R. was waiting for me in my room. She had in her hand my manuscript. I saw tears rolling down her cheeks. She was feeling for the pain she was about to give me. I went up to her, and as I took from her what had been to me more precious almost than life, I said,
"Do you think there is any merit, any talent in it? That it shows, as I have been told, genius?"
"If it was not so," she answered, "it would not be the dangerous book I think it is. My judgment is worth little in comparison with the other opinions you have had with regard to its literary merit and probable success. My own impression also is, that it would be fatally successful."
She paused, as if praying inwardly for words in which to plead the cause of God and of my soul against Satan and my pride.
I threw my arms around her neck and cried, "O, thank God there is then something to sacrifice, something to forego, small as it is, for Him who died for me!" And in one instant I had lighted a candle, removed the paper ornaments from the inside of the chimney, thrust my book between the dogs, and set fire to it. "I have no copy of it," I exclaimed. "There, it is gone forever. Now I can go to confession to-night with
My friend for by that time she was my true and dear friendwatched the shrivelling sheets of manuscript which were gradually turning to ashes, and said with deep emotion:
"This is one of those acts which our Lord often rewards in no ordinary manner. Pray that he may let you know his will in your regard."
From that moment I never ceased to thank God for the danger I had escaped. When I thought how bitter, instead of sweet, my repentance would have been, had I turned to him after I had published that book; how through life I should have been haunted by the thought of the irremediable evil the work of my brain and my pen might still be doing, even whilst all the powers of my soul were striving in a contrary direction, I could only wonder at the mercy which had combined so many providential circumstances to save me from that misery.
The Father, to whom I opened my heart fully before he left D., advised me to suspend my future plans for awhile, and to accept Mademoiselle R.'s invitation to return to Paris and spend some time in her house. No one, he said, would give me wiser and better counsel as to my future course. He commended strongly the sacrifice I had made; but at the same time said that for one intending to be a true Christian there could be no option in the matter.
"I feel it," I said; "I never will write another story.".
"Stop," he said. "Another story of the same kind you never will write again; but far be it from me to advise you never again to write a work of fiction. I have not
time to go into the question with you; it is a deep and a broad one. Holy men have differed as to the use of this powerful stimulus for the human mind, and arrived, in some instances, at contrary conclusions. With Mademoiselle R.'s help, you will consult a wise and prudent director, and on this and every point concerning your future life earnestly pray for God's guidance. This I will venture to say: that if, with the sole desire and end in view of promoting his glory and exciting souls to virtue, any one sits down to write, be it a grave or a gay work, be it story, be it poem, and as he begins breathes an ardent prayer that the divine blessing may rest on every word which falls from his pen, I do believe a merciful Providence will guard him from injuring and misleading others, and that our Lord will say of him, ‘He hath done a good work; he hath done it for my glory.''
I have but few words more to add. Before I left D., I wrote to M. C. and to Madame P., and told them the whole truth. His letter was like himself; he said he was sorry that an intellect which was meant to charm and benefit mankind was to be henceforward restrained and narrowed to suit the few who could see neither merit nor beauty outside an iron circle of dogmas, and the élan of an ardent imagination crushed by an ascetic mysticism inimical to human passions and feelings. At the same time, he could not, but say that there was something noble, great, and logical also, if once the premises were granted, in the absolute devotion to what one believed to be truth, and in the readiness to sacrifice a brilliant career to an inexorable sense of duty. I had shorn his remaining years, he said, of a source of great happiness, and had disappointed him in one, but not in the worse sense. He should still be interested in me, but could
not hope our intercourse would ever be what it had been for the last five years. I had acted rightly, according to my convictions. He respected me for it, and that bright flash of genius which had subsided in ashes, like the lightning in a dark sky, would ever remain in his memory as a proof of the strange power of a religion which can command such sacrifices.
I never ceased to correspond with him, and had the joy of knowing that on his death-bed he had sent for a priest and said to him, "Ever since that little N. burnt her book, I have thought there must be something real in Christianity."
Madame P. wrote that she was very sorry I had become ultramontane and clerical, and that she was afraid her house and society would no longer suit me; which was indeed the case. We continued to see each other from time to time whilst I was in Paris, but with little satisfaction on either side.
Mdlle. R., my good angel as I have always considered her, introduced me to the Père de R., and under their joint guidance, that of a father and a friend, my new life began. I soon discovered that, though I had no vocation for the cloister, I was called to devote myself by a special consecration to God's service, and the sanctification of every day and hour, through the employment of whatever talents I possessed, in the sphere, in the place, and in the occupations which Providence assigned me. This lit tle house was not sold; and after two years' residence with Mdlle. R., and by her advice, I took up my abode here in the Impasse des Capucins, and devoted myself chiefly, as you know, to literary work. The charities of this place, the hospice, the schools, the ladies' association for visiting the poor, have been the recreations rather than the labors of my life. It is at that desk I have toiled. This may
seem strange; but composition even in its lightest forms is labor, and especially so when, under a light form, it has an important object in view; when imagination has to be exercised, and at the same time kept in check; when the effort to persuade is accompanied by the fear of repelling, and an invisible hand seems to control the pen, which we feel to be God's instrument, not the mere servant of our own fancy. Yes, I have worked here in sight of that crucifix. This little room has been my cell, my spiritual home. I have found here that happiness which the world cannot give or take away. God has so far blessed my efforts that my books are read all over France, and have, I hope, done some good in their way. I have had the unspeakable joy of hearing that they have sometimes been the means of awakening or reviving faith, of kindling holy desires, and strengthening souls under trial. St. Cyprien with all its holy associations is the holy of holies to my soul. Last year a mission was once more preached within its walls by a Jesuit father. As the Spiritual Exercises, now so familiar to me, pursued their course, from the fundamental truths with which they begin to the glorious meditation on divine love with which they end, I recalled one by one the graces which flowed from that retreat to which I owe so much. Every year I spend some weeks in Paris with Mdlle. R. and her friends. During my last visit we were speaking one day of that miracle of mercy worked at that time in my behalf.
"Can you trace it to any cause?" she asked me.
"Only to this," I replied: "that in my most careless and worldly days I could never look on an image of the Blessed Virgin without emotion, or omit to invoke her."
When Mdlle. N. had finished her