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Of actual story, there is in La Cathédrale even less than in En Route. We follow the neophyte into the comparatively serene atmosphere of the Cathedral city, where his worst trials are his states of dryness and spiritual lassitude, under which he groans in a frankly human fashion and lives through as best he may. The incomparable Madame Bavoil supplies the only touch of femininity in a volume which might well be studied for its learning apart from its literary qualities. Not only are there the long disquisitions on statuary and stained glass which legitimately find a place in an architectural work, but the author has introduced in addition elaborate studies of Fra Angelico, of the German Primitif school, of the symbolism of gems and of plants, of odors and of colors, and of the marvels of mediæval besti aries.
That the average reader is somewhat overwhelmed by so continuous a stream of unfamiliar information poured out before him cannot be denied, in spite of the skill with which Huysmans sifts and tabulates the quaint wisdom of mediæval students and chroniclers. And, in point of fact, the digressions are not wholly lacking in method, for they are all off-shoots of study from that of the liturgy of the Church which, as years went by, became to Huysmans an ever increasing preoccupation,
whether in Paris or Chartres, at La Trappe or Solesmes.
With him it was a passion as genuine and as reverent as that which has given us Dom Guéranger's many and invaluable volumes. Even before Durtal's conversion, his love for the Church's Office, rightly rendered, had led him, a rapturous worshipper, to vespers in the chapel of the Benedictines in the Rue Monsieur, and later, when the death of the Abbé Géuresin de. prived Chartres of any special claim as a place of residence, it was the determining influence which established him, after much mental hesitation, in the character of an oblate in the Benedictine Abbey of the Val des Saints—the Ligugé of real life.
It is no small proof of Huysmans' wide powers of appreciation where the religious orders are concerned that, having been reconciled to the Church at La Trappe, and thrilled through all his being by his vision of the Cistercian ideal of silence and penance and vicarious suffering, he should have grasped, with scarcely less enthusiasm, the spirit of the benign rule of St. Benedict. It was the solemn and dignified rendering of God's worship with the daily recitation of the divine office in full choir as the central feature of monastic life, implying, as is the case in Benedictine houses, the sole use of his beloved plain chant and the entire exclusion of figured music that appealed so strongly to Huysmans. Next there was his subtle appreciation of the somewhat ill-defined position of an oblate, bound by no vows, yet participating in some measure of monastic routine, and sharing in many of the spiritual privileges of a dedicated life without that entire surrender of time and intellectual interests which to many men in middle life becomes a practical impossibility, however piously disposed.
All these themes are meditated and commented on in L'Oblat in a mood more placid and equable than that of its predecessors. The ordinary events of cloistered life, the great feasts of the Church, Holy Week, Durtal's own clothing and profession as an oblate, are so many pegs on which to hang learned disser • tations on art and music and, above all, on the right rendering of the Church's liturgy. A pleasant touch of gentle satire is introduced in the presentment of the devout Mlle. de Garambois, who shares in the author's own weakness for “de bons petits plats," and gives him an outlet for the display of his culinary lore. The dispersal of the community under the Associations Law not only brings the trilogy to a sad close, but, in a measure, seems to cut short the work of interpretation of the mystical life to an unbelieving generation, which Huysmans had made in a special sense his own. His countrymen at least made it clear that they had no national use for centres of prayer and sacrifice among them.
Huysmans had, however, several years of work still before him. Reluctantly he returned to his solitary life in Paris on the closing of the Abbey at Ligugé and in spite of impaired health was able to see through the press two new books, which complete in different directions his studies of religious phenom
The first was the long-delayed Life of Sainte Lydwine de Schiedam, a Flemish ecstatic of the early fifteenth century, whose powers of taking on herself the sins and sufferings of others render her one of the most extraordinary figures in mediæval hagiography. Needless to say, Huysmans is no disciple of the modern critical school of historians, although the biography opens with a vigorous and wholly unconventional picture of the moral condition of Europe at the birth of the saint. He rarely cites an authority, and he appears to place an equal value on all the narratives he reproduces. His treatment, more especially in regard to physical and medical details, is as realistic as any. thing in Zola. Yet the awe-inspiring, pathetic life is lit up by the passion of love that inspired it, skillfully reflected in the pages of a biographer who is able to appreciate to the full the mystical significance of events that to men of the world are wholly incomprehensible, and which alone render possible a life of such acute and ceaseless suffering.
The book on Lourdes, published in 1906, proved a last act of homage to the Blessed Virgin, to whom Huysmans attributed so large a share in his conversion. From the venerable and solemn beauties of Chartres to the cheap modernity of Lourdes was change indeed! And it says much for Huys !
' spiritual vision that, although his æsthetic senses suffered so acutely at Lourdes that he was obliged to have recourse to a theory of direct diabolic influence to account for the all-pervading hideousness of building and statuary, his belief in the miraculous nature of the cures effected never wavered. He moans over the entire absence of liturgical life, over the mutilated vespers and the Low Masses, accompanied by popular hymns—"de pieuses dure-lures,"—he calls them and asks why even the Little Office of our Lady finds no place in any of her sanctuaries at Lourdes. Critical as he is in all that concerns religious art, and oppressed as he becomes at times by the noise, the crowds, the surging popular life of the place, and the impossibility of find. ing a silent, empty corner from which to converse with our Lady in peace, his testimony is emphatic as to the spiritual marvels of the place, and the extraordinary exaltation induced by the prayers and chants of vast multitudes of people. There is, as he says, in spite of all that may jar upon one, “so much faith, so many prayers, so much love." He sums up the Grotto as a vast hospital let loose in Neuilly fair, yet admits that there the Virgin at times is more living and more accessible than elsewhere. He has generous praise for the inexhaustible charity of nurses and brancardiers, and declares that at Lourdes alone may be found a veritable fusion of classes. And as a fi nal proof of the strong spiritual influences at work, he dwells on an aspect of the pilgrimages that is too often overlooked : the resignation and peace of soul habitually vouchsafed to those who leave with body uncured. There is no despondency, no
. despair, when the waters fail to straighten the crippled limbs,
but instead an infusion of courage and hope and patience for the future.
The suffering that stirred such real sympathy in Huysmans' heart was soon to fall to his own share. Lovers of that most engaging of family records, the Récit d'une Sæur, for whom no circumstance connected with the La Ferronaye family can be indifferent, will remember how Pauline Craven, most brilliant of conversationalists even in her brilliant circle, spent the last two years of her life paralyzed and speechless, deprived utterly of the one gift in which she had taken pride, and with what perfect resignation she made what, for her, was the hardest sacrifice of all A somewhat similar fate was reserved by Divine Provi. dence for J. K. Huysmans. The man endowed with an abnormal sensitiveness of taste and smell, with an intense shrinking from disease and ugliness in every form, was to die by inches from a malady loathsome to himself and to those who waited
For six months he lingered, struck down by cancer of the palate, and if even after La Cathédrale and L'Oblat there were still some incredulous critics who doubted of the sincerity of his conversion, they must surely have been silenced forever by the patience and courage with which he bore the slow prog. ress of the one disease for which science can supply no remedy and but little alleviation.
AN UNCIVIL ENGINEER.
BY JEANIE DRAKE.
EWISTON-ON-THE-SEA had never had a boom.
It was, indeed, a question with its more conservative class whether anything so modern could be desirable. Bearing with proud endurance the
reverses following an unequal war, it viewed with distrust any threatening ripple of commercial prosperity as something rather common. However, when through its senator the Department decided to build at this point a model navy yard, there was a certain communal thrill.
“Dem Yankees gwine gib us a good long job o'work,” cheerfully concluded the African contingent, even more cheerful when unemployed.
“Let us hope Senator Cotesworthy did nothing unworthy of his distinguished grandfather in helping this matter through,” declaimed the serious-faced, elderly men.
And the prim, little old ladies in black Aitted in and out of each other's houses and sighed : “ Another influx of strangers,
None of these took into account that the wheels of time move steadily, and that youth's expectant gaze is for a day freshly dawning rather than for one already set. Thus the young men and maidens rejoiced surreptitiously over visions of new and interesting people coming in, and consequent festivities and what not.
Hartwell, officer in charge of the dry dock, taking a constitutional along the sea wall, was hardly conscious of two charming maidens who met and passed him. But these were perfectly conscious of him, having noted his approach when he first came up the steps of the Battery High Walk.
“Child,” whispered the taller and older excitedly, "that's the one I told you about—the new man up at the yard. Isn't he fine? Such lovely auburn hair-and eyes ! ”
“ Auburn eyes ? That's a new variety," commented the younger, dark-haired girl. But she also took sufficient interest to curve her vision in a miraculous feminine manner around her