The Cardinal was still in his room alone with the boy Manuel, when Madame Patoux, standing at her door under the waving tendrils of the |creeping jenny| and shading her eyes from the radiance of the sun, saw her children approaching with Fabien Doucet between them.
|Little wretches that they are!| she murmured -- |Once let them get an idea into their heads and nothing will knock it out! Now I shall have to tell Monseigneur that they are here, -- what an impertinence it seems! -- and yet he is so gentle, and has such a good heart that perhaps he will not mind . . .|
Here she broke off her soliloquy as the children came up, Babette eagerly demanding to know where the Cardinal was. Madame Patoux set her arms akimbo and surveyed the little group of three half- pityingly, half derisively.
|The Cardinal has not left his room since breakfast,| she answered -- |He is playing Providence already to a poor lad lost in the streets, and for that matter lost in the world, without father or mother to look after him, -- he was found in Notre Dame last night, -- |
|Why, mother,| interrupted Henri -- |how could a boy get into Notre Dame last night? When Babette and I went there, nobody was in the church at all, -- and we left one candle burning all alone in the darkness, -- and when we came out the Suisse swore at us for having gone in, and then locked the door.|
|Well, if one must be so exact, the boy was not found actually in Notre Dame, obstinate child,| returned his mother impatiently -- |It happened at midnight, -- the good Cardinal heard someone crying and went to see who it was. And he found a poor boy outside the Cathedral weeping as if his heart were breaking, and leaning his head against the hard door for a pillow. And he brought him back and gave him his own bed to sleep in; -- and the lad is with him now.|
Little Fabien Doucet, leaning on his crutch, looked up with interest.
|Is he lame like me?| he asked.
|No, child,| replied Madame compassionately -- |He is straight and strong. In truth a very pretty boy.|
Fabien sighed. Babette made a dash forward.
|I will go and see him!| she said -- |And I will call Monseigneur.|
|Babette! How dare you! Babette!|
But Babette had scurried defiantly past her mother, and breathless with a sense of excitement and disobedience intermingled, had burst into the Cardinal's room without knocking. There on the threshold she paused, -- somewhat afraid at her own boldness, -- and startled too at the sight of Manuel, who was seated near the window opposite the Cardinal, and who turned his deep blue eyes upon her with a look of enquiry. The Cardinal himself rose and turned to greet her, and as the wilful little maid met his encouraging glance and noted the benign sweetness of his expression she trembled, -- and losing nerve, began to cry.
|Monseigneur . . . Monseigneur . . .| she stammered.
|Yes, my child, -- what is it?| said the Cardinal kindly -- |Do not be afraid, -- I am at your service. You have brought the little friend you spoke to me of yesterday?|
Babette peeped shyly at him through her tears, and drooping her head, answered with a somewhat smothered |Yes.|
|That is well, -- I will go to him at once,| -- and the Cardinal paused a moment looking at Manuel, who as if responding to his unuttered wish, rose and approached him -- |And you, Manuel -- you will also come. You see, my child,| went on the good prelate addressing Babette, the while he laid a gently caressing hand on her hair -- |Another little friend has come to me who is also very sad, -- and though he is not crippled or ill, he is all alone in the world, which is, for one so young, a great hardship. You must be sorry for him too, as well as for your own poor playmate.|
But Babette was seized with an extraordinary timidity, and had much ado to keep back the tears that rose in her throat and threatened to break out in a burst of convulsive sobbing. She did not know in the least what was the matter with her, -- she was only conscious of an immense confusion and shyness which were quite new to her ordinarily bold and careless nature. Manuel's face frightened yet fascinated her; he looked, she thought, like the beautiful angel of the famous stained glass |Annunciation| window in the crumbling old church of St. Maclou. She dared not speak to him, -- she could only steal furtive glances at him from under the curling length of her dark tear-wet lashes, -- and when the Cardinal took her by the hand and descended the staircase with her to the passage where the crippled Fabien waited, she could not forbear glancing back every now and then over her shoulder at the slight, supple, almost aerial figure of the boy, who, noiselessly, and with a light gliding step, followed. And now Madame Patoux came forward; -- a bulky, anxious figure of gesticulation and apology.
|Alas, Monseigneur!| she began plaintively -- |It is too shameful that your quiet should be disturbed in this way, but if you could only know the obstinacy of these children! Ah yes! -- if you knew all, you would pity their parents! -- you would indeed! And this is the unhappy little creature they have brought to you, Monseigneur, -- a sad sight truly! -- and afflicted sorely by the will of God, -- though one could hardly say that God was anywhere about when he fell, poor baby, from his mother's cart and twisted his body awry, -- one would rather think the devil was in the business, asking your pardon, Monseigneur; for surely the turning of a human creature into a useless lump has little of good, or divine kindness in it! Now make thy best bow to the Cardinal,| went on Madame with a gasp for breath in her voluble speech, addressing the little cripple -- | And it is a pity them hast no time to confess thy sins and take the Sacrament before so holy a man lay hands on thee!|
But at these words Cardinal Bonpre turned to her with a reproving gesture.
|I pray you do not call me holy, my daughter,| he said earnestly, the old shadows of pain and prote gathering in his eyes, |Nothing can make me more sorrowful than to hear such an epithet applied to one who is so full of errors and sins as myself. Try to look upon me just as I am, -- merely an old man, nearing the grave, with nothing of merit in me beyond the desire to serve our Lord and obey His commands, -- a desire which is far stronger than the practical force to obey it. Much that I would do I cannot; and in much that I attempt I fail. Come to me, my child.|
Here, interrupting himself, he bent down, and putting his arms tenderly round Fabien, lifted him bodily, crutch and all, and carried him into the next room, and as he did so, the young Manuel glided in before him, and stood beside his chair, his blue eyes shining with a soft and eager light of interest, and a little smile lifting the delicate upper curve of his lips as he looked on. Fabien meanwhile, perched on the Cardinal's knee, and held close in the Cardinal's arms, was not at all frightened, -- he simply sat, contented, gazing up confidingly at the pale venerable face above him. Henri and Babette, having as they considered, got their way, stayed at the door half afraid to enter, and their mother peered over their heads at the little scene in mingled awe and curiosity.
|My poor child,| then said the Cardinal gently -- |I want you to understand quite clearly how sorry I am for you, and how willingly I would do anything in the world to make you a strong, well, and happy boy. But you must not fancy that I can cure you. I told your little friends yesterday that I was not a saint, such as you read about in story-books, -- and that I could not work miracles, because I am not worthy to be so filled with the Divine Spirit as to heal with a touch like the better servants of our Blessed Lord. Nevertheless I firmly believe that if God saw that it was good for you to be strong and well, He would find ways to make you so. Sometimes sickness and sorrow are sent to us for our advantage, -- sometimes even death comes to us for our larger benefit, though we may not understand how it is so till afterwards. But in Heaven everything will be made clear; and even our griefs will be turned into joys, -- do you understand?|
|Yes,| murmured Fabien gravely, but two large tears welled up in his plaintive eyes as the faint glimmer of hope he had encouraged as to the possibility of his being miraculously cured by the touch of a saintly Cardinal, expired in the lonely darkness of his little afflicted soul.
|That is well,| continued the Cardinal kindly -- |And now, since it is so difficult for you to kneel, you shall stay where you are in my arms, -- so!| -- and he set him on his knee in a position of even greater comfort than before, |You shall simply shut your eyes, and clasp your little hands together as I put them here,| -- and as he spoke he crossed the child's hands on his silver crucifix-|And I will ask our Lord to come and make you well, -- for of myself I can do nothing.|
At these words Henri and Babette glanced at each other questioningly, and then as if simultaneously moved by some inexplicable emotion, dropped on their knees, -- their mother, too stout and unwieldy to do this with either noiselessness or satisfaction to herself, was contented to bend her head as low as she could get it. Manuel remained standing. Leaning against the Cardinal's chair, his eyes fixed on the crippled Fabien, he had the aspect of a young Angel of compassion, whose sole immortal desire was to lift the burden of sorrow and pain from the lives of suffering humanity. And after a minute or two passed in silent meditation, the Cardinal laid his hands tenderly on Fabien's fair curly head and prayed aloud.
|Oh merciful Christ! Most pitying and gentle Redeemer! -- to Whom in the days of Thy sacred life on earth, the sick and suffering and lame and blind were brought, and never sent away unhealed or uncomforted; consider, we beseech Thee, the sufferings of this Thy little child, deprived of all the joys which Thou hast made so sweet for those who are strong and straight in their youth, and who have no ailment to depress their courage or to quench the ardour of their aspiring souls. Look compassionately upon him, oh gentle King and Master of all such children! -- and even as Thou wert a child Thyself, be pleased to heal him of his sad infirmity. For, if Thou wilt, Thou canst make this bent body straight and these withered muscles strong, -- from death itself Thou canst ordain life, and nothing is impossible to Thee! But above all things, gracious Saviour, we do pray Thee so to lift and strengthen this child's soul, that if it is destined he should still be called upon to bear his present pain and trouble, grant to him such perfection in his inward spirit that he may prove worthy to be counted among Thy angels in the bright Hereafter. To Thy care, and to Thy comfort, and to Thy healing, great Master, we commend him, trusting him entirely to Thy mercy, with perfect resignation to Thy Divine Will. For the sake and memory of Thy most holy childhood mercifully help and bless this child! Amen!|
A deep silence ensued. Only the slow ticking of the big old- fashioned clock in Madame Patoux's kitchen, which was next door to the room they were all in, could be distinctly heard. Henri and Babette were the first to stir. They got up from their knees, brushed the dust of the floor from their clothes, and stared curiously at Fabien. Was a miracle going to happen? Fabien, however- -still resting against the Cardinal's breast, with his meagre little hands clasped tight on the Cardinal's crucifix, kept his eyes solemnly shut and gave no sign, till the Cardinal himself gently moved him and set him down. Then he glanced around him bewilderingly, tottered, and would have fallen had he not been given his little crutch for support. Very pathetic was the smile which then quivered on his pale lips, -- very doleful was the shake of his head as he prepared to hobble away.
|Thank you very much, Monseigneur,| he murmured gently -- |I felt almost cured while you were praying, -- but I am afraid it is no use! You see there are so many miserable people in the world, -- many cripples, too, -- I am not the only one. Our Lord must have enough to do if He is asked to heal them all! But I am sure you have done everything you can for me, and I am grateful to you, Monseigneur. Good-bye!|
|Good-bye, my child!| and the Cardinal, strongly moved by the sight of the little helpless twisted figure, and painfully impressed too by the sense of his own entire powerlessness to remove the cause of the trouble, bent down and kissed him -- |Believe me, if the giving of my own life could make you strong, you should have that life willingly. May God bless and heal you!|
At that moment Manuel moved from the place he had kept near the Cardinal's chair. With a light, eager step forward, he went up to the little cripple, and putting his arms round him kissed him on the forehead.
|Good-bye, dear little brother!| he said smiling -- |Do not be sad! Have patience! In all the universe, among all the millions and millions of worlds, there is never a pure and unselfish prayer that the great good God does not answer! Be sure of that! Take courage, dear little brother! You will soon be well!|
Fabien stared, half amazed, at the gentle young face that shone upon him with such an expression of hope and tenderness.
|You are very kind,| he said -- |And you are just a boy yourself, -- so you can perhaps guess how it must feel not to be like other boys who can run and leap and walk for miles and miles through the fields and the green shady forests where the birds sing, -- and where there is so much to see and think about, -- when one is lame one cannot go far you know -- and then there is my mother -- she is very sad about me, -- and it will be hard for her if I live to be a man and still can do nothing to help her . . .|
His weak voice broke, and two large tears filled his eyes and brimmed over, trickling slowly down his pale cheeks. Manuel took his hand and pressed it encouragingly.
|Do not cry!| he said gently -- |Believe in what I say -- that you will soon be quite well. The Cardinal has prayed for you as only good men CAN pray, -- without one selfish thought, in faith and deep humility,- -such prayers draw angels down! Be patient -- be brave! Believe in the best and the best will come!|
His words rang out with a sweet convincing clearness, and even Cardinal Bonpre felt a sense of comfort as he listened. The little cripple smiled through his tears.
|Oh, yes,| he murmured -- |I WILL hope and I WILL believe! I am always sure God is near us, though my mother thinks He must be very far away. Yes, -- I will be as brave as I can. You are very good to me, -- I know you understand just how I feel, and I thank you very much. I hope you will be happy yourself some day. Good-bye!| Then, turning to Henri and Babette he asked, |Shall we go now?|
Henri's brows were drawn together in a dark frown.
|I suppose so,| he replied -- |I suppose there's nothing more to be done?| This, with a somewhat sarcastic air of inquiry directed at the Cardinal, who met his bold bright glance, mildly and half compassionately.
|Nothing more my child| -- he answered -- |Did you expect a miracle? I told you from the first that I was no saint, -- I can do no good unless our Lord wills it.|
|The Pope believes in miracles| -- said Henri, flushing as he spoke with the heat of a sudden angry emotion -- |But only those that are performed on his own behalf! HE thinks that God's chief business is to look after HIM!|
A silence ensued, -- whether of horror or embarrassment could hardly be determined. The Cardinal said nothing, -- Babette trembled a little, -- what a dreadful boy Henri really was, she thought! -- Madame Patoux shut up her eyes in horror, crossed herself devoutly as against some evil spirit, and was about to speak, when Henri, nothing daunted, threw himself into the breach again, and turned with a fiery vehemence of appeal towards the young and thoughtful- looking Manuel.
|It's just as I say!| he declared hotly -- |The Pope is taken as much care of as if he were a peach wrapped in wadding! Was Christ taken care of? No, -- He suffered all sorts of hardships and at last was crucified! The Pope shuts himself up in the Vatican with millions and millions of money's worth, while thousands of people around him in Italy alone, are starving and miserable. Christ would not allow such a thing. Christ said 'Sell half that thou hast and give to the poor' -- now the Pope doesn't sell half, nor a quarter, nor a bit of a quarter! He takes all he can get and keeps it! And yet God is supposed to work miracles for an old man like that! -- Oh I know all about it! Boys read the newspapers as well as grown men!|
|Henri!| gasped Madame Patoux, extending her fat arm and hand with a solemn gesture of reproach -- |Henri, thou art mad . . . wicked . . .|
But Henri went on unheedingly, still addressing Manuel.
|Now you are a boy, and I daresay you can read and think, -- you are about my age I suppose. And you are left all alone in the world, with nobody to care for you, -- well, do you think that is well- arranged? -- And do you think there is any sense in believing in a God who does such a lot of cruel things? And when He won't help us ever so little? How can people be good if they keep on praying and praying, and hoping and hoping, and working and working -- and yet nothing comes of it all but trouble and pain and loss . . .| He stopped for sheer lack of breath to go on.
Manuel looked at him quietly, full in the eyes.
|Yes, it is hard!| he said -- |Very hard! But it is not God who does any cruel thing. God is Love, -- and the Spirit of Love cannot be cruel. It is the people of the world themselves, -- the people who injure each other in thought, word and deed, -- and who have no spirit of love in them, -- these invite sorrow and pain, and rush upon misfortune. Then they blame God for it! Ah, it is easy to blame God! -- so much easier than to blame one's self! And if you ask me if it is well for those who suffer cruel things to still believe in God, I say yes, I do think it well, -- for it is the only chance they have of finding the right way of life after much wandering in the wrong.|
His sweet voice fell on the silence like a soft chime, and Henri, for no particular reason that he could give, felt suddenly abashed. Cardinal Bonpre listened to the words of this strange foundling with a singular emotion, -- an emotion too deep to find any outlet in speech. Babette raised her brown trustful eyes, and timidly ventured to put in her opinion.
|Yes| -- she said -- |I am sure that is true. You see Henri| -- with a wise glance at her brother -- |you see it is always the same, -- when anyone suffers something unfortunate, there is certain to be some cause for it. Now everybody says that if poor Martine had not put Fabien in the cart to save herself the trouble of holding him on her knee, he would not have tumbled out and been hurt. That was the beginning of it. And that was not God's fault. Come Fabien! -- we'll take you back now.|
At this, Madame Patoux started from her stricken condition of horrified dumbness into speech and action.
|Ah yes, it is indeed time!| she exclaimed -- |Enough trouble has been given, I am sure, to Monseigneur, and if such a prayer as his does not reach Heaven, why then there is no Heaven at all, and it is no good bothering ourselves about it. And what things have been said by my son! -- MY son! -- against the Holy Father! Ah, mon Dieu! The wickedness of it! -- The horror! And if thou learnest such blasphemy from newspapers, Henri, thou shalt not read them -- |
|Who is to prevent me?| demanded Henri, his eyes sparkling defiantly.
|Hush -- hush my child!| interposed the Cardinal quietly |Nothing indeed can prevent thee, -- no one can hinder thee from walking the world according to thine own will and direction. Thou must take good and evil as they come, and strive thy best to discern between them -- and if the love of God cannot help thee -- well! -- perchance the love of thy mother may!|
There was a pause. Henri's head drooped, and quick tears filled his eyes. He said nothing further, but turned to assist Babette in guiding the little Fabien's hesitating steps as he hobbled from the room. The emotional Madame Patoux choked back a rising sob.
|God bless you Monseigneur!| she murmured -- |Henri will not forget those words -- the lad has a hasty temper, but a good heart -- yes, believe me -- a good heart -- |
|That I am sure of| -- responded the Cardinal -- |He is quick and intelligent -- and seeks to know the truth. If he could feel an asserted 'truth' to be really true, I am confident he would frame his life upon it, and be a good, brave man. Yes -- he is a clever lad, -- and our modern system of education pushes the brain to a precocity exceeding bodily years, -- his impatience and anger only come from puzzling over what he finds it difficult to understand. It is all a puzzle to him -- all a puzzle! -- as it is to most of us!| He sighed -- then added in a lighter tone -- |I shall want nothing more at your kindly hands, my daughter. I have decided to leave Rouen for Paris to-day and will take an early afternoon train. Manuel| -- and he hesitated a moment -- |Manuel will go with me.|
Madame was scarcely surprised at this announcement. She had indeed expected it. She glanced at Manuel himself to see how he accepted this sudden change in his fortunes, but he was entirely absorbed in watching Henri and Babette lead their little crippled friend away. After all, there was nothing to be said. The Cardinal was a free agent, -- he had a perfect right to befriend a homeless boy and give him sustenance and protection if he chose. He would make, thought Madame, a perfect acolyte, and would look like a young angel in his little white surplice. And so the good woman, deciding in her own mind that such was the simple destiny for which the Cardinal intended him, smiled, murmured something deferential and approving, and hastened from the room, to prepare for Monseigneur, whether he asked for it or not, a dish of her most excellent soup, to strengthen and support him before starting on his journey. And ere four o'clock had chimed from all the towers of the city, the Hotel Poitiers was deprived of its honoured guest, -- the Cardinal, accompanied by his foundling, had departed, and the black, smoky, snake-like train had rushed with them through the smiling peace of the Normandy pasture-lands on towards the brilliant |city enthroned in wickedness,| which sparkles like a jewel on the borders of the Seine as gloriously as ever Babylon sparkled on the shores of Euphrates. As godless, as hollow to the very core of rottenness, as her sister of ancient days, wanton |Lutetia| shines, -- with the ghastly and unnatural lustre of phosphorescent luminance arising from old graves -- and as divinely determined as the destruction of the old-time city splendid, is the approaching downfall of the modern capital. To the inhabitants of Rouen, the very name of Paris carries with it a kind of awe, -- it excites various emotions of wonder, admiration, longing, curiosity and even fear, -- for Paris is a witches' cauldron in which Republicanism, Imperialism, Royalism, Communism and Socialism, are all thrown by the Fates to seethe together in a hellish broth of conflicting elements -- and the smoke of it ascends in reeking blasphemy to Heaven. Not from its church- altars does the cry of |How long, O Lord, how long!| ascend nowadays, -- for its priests are more skilled in the use of the witty bon-mot or the polished sneer than in the power of the prophet's appeal, -- it is from the Courts of Science that the warning note of terror sounds, -- the cold vast courts where reasoning thinkers wander, and learn, and deeply meditate, knowing that all their researches but go to prove the fact that apart from all creed and all forms of creed, Crime carries Punishment as surely as the seed is born with the flower, -- thinkers who are fully aware that not all the forces of all mankind, working with herculean insistence to support a Lie, can drive back the storm-cloud of the wrath of that |Unknown Quantity| called God, whose thunders do most terribly declare the truth |with power and great glory.| |How long O Lord, how long!| Not long, we think, O friends! -- not long now shall we wait for the Divine Pronouncement of the End. Hints of it are in the air, -- signs and portents of it are about us in our almost terrific discoveries of the invisible forces of Light and Sound, -- we are not given such tremendous powers to play with in our puny fashion for the convenience of making our brief lives easier to live and more interesting, -- no, there is some deeper reason, -- one, which in our heedless way of dancing over our own Earth-grave, we never dream of. And we go on making our little plans, building our ships and making loud brags of our armies, and our skill, and our prowess both by land and sea, and our amazing importance to ourselves and to others, -- which importance has reached such a height at the present day as to make of us a veritable spectacle for Olympian laughter, -- and we draw out our little sums of life from the Eternal exchequer, and add them up and try to obtain the highest interest for them, always forgetting to calculate that in making up the sum total, that mysterious |Unknown Quantity| will have to come in, and (un less it has been taken into due counting from the first) will be a figure likely to swamp the whole banking business. And in this particular phase of speculation and exchange, Paris has long been playing a losing game. So steadily has she lost, in honour, in prestige, in faith, in morals, in justice, in honesty and in cleanly living, that it does not seem possible she can ever retrieve herself. Her men are dissolute, -- her women shameless -- her youth of both sexes depraved, -- her laws are corrupt -- her arts de cadent -- her religion dead. What next can be expected of her? -- or rather to what extent will Destiny permit her to go before the bolt of destruction falls? |Thus far, and no farther| has ever been the Principle of Nature -- and Paris has almost touched the |Thus far.|
Sitting quietly in her tidy kitchen near the open window, after the Cardinal's departure, Madame Patoux knitted busily, her thoughts flying faster than her glittering needles. A certain vague impression of solemnity had been left on her mind by the events of the morning, -- she could not quite reason out the why or the wherefore of it -- and yet -- it was a fact that after Monseigneur had gone, she had, when entering the rooms he had vacated, felt a singular sense of awe.
|Almost as if one were in the Cathedral at the ringing of the 'Sanctus'| she murmured under her breath, glancing about timidly at the plain furniture and bare walls. And after putting everything in order, she closed and locked the doors jealously, with a determination that she would not let those rooms to the first chance-comer for a long time, -- no, though she might have to lose money by her refusal. And now, as she sat actively employed in knitting socks for Henri, whom she could see sitting with his sister outside on the bench under the house porch, reading or pretending to read, she began to wonder what opinion those two young miscreants had formed in their minds respecting the Cardinal, and also what they thought of the boy who had been taken so suddenly under his protection. She was almost tempted to call Henri and ask him a few questions on the subject, -- but she had learnt to value peace and quietness when she could secure those rare blessings at the hands of her children, and when they were employed with a book and visibly out of mischief she thought it wisest to leave them alone. And so she left them in the present instance, pushing her window open as she sat and knitted, for the air was warm and balmy, and the long rays of sunshine streaming across the square were of the hue of a ripe nectarine just gathered, and the delicate mouldings and traceries and statues on the porch of the Cathedral appeared like so many twinings of grey gossamer web glistening in a haze of gold. Now and then neighbours passed, and nodded or called a greeting which Madame Patoux answered cheerily, still knitting vivaciously; and the long shafts of sunshine grew longer, casting deeper shadows as the quarters chimed. All at once there was a cry, -- a woman's figure came rushing precipitately across the square, -- Madame Patoux sprang up, and her children ran out of the porch as they recognised Martine Doucet.
|Martine! Martine! What is it!| they all cried simultaneously.
Martine, breathless, dishevelled, laughing and sobbing alternately, tried to speak, but could only gesticulate and throw up her hands in a kind of ecstasy, but whether of despair or joy could not be guessed. Madame Patoux shook her by the arm.
|Martine! -- speak -- what is it!|
Martine made a violent effort.
|Fabien! -- Fabien -- | she gasped, flinging herself to and fro and still sobbing and laughing.
|Mon Dieu!| cried Madame in horror. |Is the child dead?|
|No, no! -- | and Martine again tossed her arms aloft in a kind of frenzy. |No -- but look you! -- there IS a God! Yes! -- we thought He was an invention of the priests -- but no -- He is a real God after all! -- Oh mes enfants!| and she tried to grasp the amazed Henri and Babette in her arms, |You are two of His angels! -- you took my boy to the Cardinal -- |
The children glanced at each other.
|Yes -- yes!| they murmured breathlessly.
|Well! and see what has happened! -- See! -- Here comes Fabien -- !|
And as she spoke exultantly with an excitement that seemed to inspire every nerve of her body, a little figure came running lightly towards them, -- the light strong figure of a boy with fair curls flying in the wind, and a face in which the large, grey, astonished eyes flashed with an almost divine joy.
|Mother! -- Mother!| he cried.
Madame Patoux felt as though the heavens had suddenly opened to let the angels down. Was this Fabien? Fabien, who had hobbled painfully upon crutches all his life, and had left her house in his usual condition an hour or so ago? -- This straight-limbed child, running with the graceful and easy movement of a creature who had never known a day's pain?
|Fabien, is it thou?| almost screamed Henri, |Speak, is it thou?|
|It is I| said Fabien, and he stopped, panting for breath, -- then threw his arms round his mother's neck and faced them, -- |It is I -- strong and well! -- thanks to God and the prayers of the Cardinal!|
For a moment there was a dead silence, -- a silence of stupefied amazement unbroken save by the joyful weeping of Martine. Then suddenly a deep-toned bell rang from the topmost tower of Notre Dame -- and in the flame-red of the falling sun the doves that make their homes among the pinnacles of the great Cathedral, rose floating in cloudy circles towards the sky. One bell -- and then another -- yet another! --
|The Angelus!| cried Babette dropping on her knees and folding her hands, |The Angelus! -- Mother -- Martine -- Henri! -- Fabien! -- the Angelus!| --
Down they all knelt, a devotional group, in the porch through which the good Cardinal had so lately passed, and the bells chimed sweetly and melodiously as Fabien reverently repeated the Angelic Salutation amid responses made with tears and thanksgiving, and neighbours and townfolk hearing of the miracle came hastening to the Hotel Poitiers to enquire into its truth, and pausing as they saw the cluster of kneeling figures in the porch instinctively and without question knelt also, -- then as the news spread, group after group came running and gathering together, and dropping on their knees amazed and awe- struck, till the broad Square showed but one black mass of a worshipping congregation under the roseate sky, their voices joining in unison with the clear accents of one little happy child; while behind them rose the towers of Notre Dame, and over their heads the white doves flew and the bells of the Angelus rang. And the sun dropped slowly into the west, crimson and glorious like the shining rim of a Sacramental Cup held out and then drawn slowly back again by angel hands within the Veil of Heaven.