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T Artenay, upon the plains of Beauce,
Dwelt the orphan twins, Maurice and Genevieve. Poor were they from their birth, and rural toil Supplied their daily bread: yet both were young, And strong, and healthy; and their spirit rose Above the surface of calamity, Buoyed up by hope, and gaiety of heart, Which in their nation often takes the hue Of loftiest virtue. So the orphans clave To one another, and swift years rolled by.
It was the busy day of harvest-home;
And Maurice with his fellows fared afield,
Foremost to gather in the rustling sheaves.
Their hearts were willing, but their bodily frames
Fainted with toil: a dull, unnatural sense
Of hot imprisonment and ponderous gloom
Hung o'er the flagging spirits like a pall.
Low flew the raven through the steaming haze
With croaking note: anon the sullen rain,
Like molten lead upon beleaguering hosts,
Dropped heavy from the portals of the sky,
That muttered thunder. Near it came, and nearer;
Yet the men plied their tasks; till right o'erhead
The forked lightnings in a body streamed,
With flakes of fire that ran along the ground-
(For so it seemed to one with whom I spake)
One crash of stunning light:-a cry was heard-
And momentary blindness fell on all.
Recovering one by one, they spoke—they gazed-
But saw not Maurice : him they found at length
the sheaves, blackened and scathed By lightning. Sore amazement fell on all; And the men rose, and bore him to his home, And wept around him, for they loved him well.
But how describe the grief of Genevieve !
There lay her stay, her guide, her love, her life,
Her other self. She fell
his couch, And called on Maurice. The night wore away, And the next day and night; but hope was none, Save in the downy feather placed before His lips, that with his breath was idly stirred ; And in his feeble inarticulate moans, And some few precious words of wandering speech.
Weeks passed away, nor would the sister leave
Her brother's couch, though sorely pressed by need,
And wasted by unrest. The neighbours took
Compassion on the twins, and gave them food:
And Maurice grew at length to know his friends
And Genevieve; but rose not from his bed ;
For either epileptic pangs convulsed
His limbs, or down they dropped, lank, powerless ;
And restoration hung not on the kiss
Of Genevieve. Still the kind neighbours came,
To weep around him, for they loved him well.
Months passed, with little change; and it was said,
Though reason and perception were restored,
Maurice must go a cripple to his grave.
But in the secret soul of Genevieve
Heroic thoughts arose, with feelings 'kin
To gladsome inspiration. She had heard
A wounded veteran, to his home returned,
With fervency of thankful speech proclaim
The healing virtues of the ocean wave:
And Genevieve was fed on liveliest hope.
She thought upon the sea by night and day
As of some mighty fountain of relief
Where Maurice should be healed, and all be well.
Her high resolve she took. She fashioned straight,
With the assistance of the villagers,
Who bade God speed the work, no bauble coach,
But, for stern service meet, a car of wood
For Maurice; and they fitted it with wheels ;
And daily him therein at eve she drew
(Her work of love when other work was done)
From the sick room to choice of sun or shade,
With ministerings of tender looks and words,
Like a young mother with her nursling child.
'Twas the eve before their birth-day, and the twins,
He in his wooden car, she by its side,
Were sitting in the shadow of a vine,
When Genevieve thus spake, “ The sun that sets
To-night, dear Maurice, will to-morrow rise,
I trust, in splendour, and our guardian saint
Look down benignly on us. Hear me, brother;
To-morrow's dawn shall see us on the road
Towards the sea-coast :-nay, nay, 'tis all arranged :-
Some gold I have will feed us on our way;
And I will draw thee thither in this car.
O, let to-
morrow shine on new-born hope ! Sum
in one the excursions we have made
Already, and their distance shall exceed
That which we will perform. My soul is bent
Upon the trial ; fear not the result;
For even were I not inured to toil,
What is it that I would not bear for thee?”
And Maurice heard; and faltered forth, “ The will
Of God be done!" So the twins kissed each other:
And Genevieve her freight with lively steps
Drew towards home. There preparation brief
Was made, and day-break saw them on their way.
Wide are the plains of France; long the ascents;
Houseless and large the prospects; wearisome
The highway avenues for many a league.
Yet what were these to Genevieve ? Her heart
Was fixed; and oftentimes she laughed and sang,
In triumph of the unconquerable will,
To hide from Maurice her exceeding toil.
Nor passed the twins unnoticed. The rude swain
Paused at his work to bless them; even the loud
Postilion, that had passed them and repassed,
Upon the pavè slacked, and raised his hat,
And hushed his whip's explosions ; oftentimes
The charitable sisters by the skirts
Of towns and villages, and the spare priest,
Devoutly questioned them, with hands upraised
In solemn benediction. Genevieve
Laid all these things to heart. Kind sheltering roofs
They found; but slept beneath the open sky
Not seldom, and with day-break journeyed on,