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from side to side, and well harmonizing with the state of his feelings as, absorbed in painful and anxious thought, he continued his perambulations. It was by this time late, and the light was so much obscured under the trees, that the countenance of M. Bernard was nearly hidden; as walking suddenly up to Victor, he addressed him in that hurried and almost sharp tone of voice which is the sure symptom of nerves much shaken :
“M. de Vermont !"
“M. Bernard !” said Victor, surprised ; and, turning round with that feeling of irritation which is excited by the presence of a stranger when the thoughts are engaged in subjects of intense interest-"is it you! I hope you are well. At any other time-I should be most happy to profit by your society. ... But forgive me-at present I am so wretchedly unhappy, that nothing could induce me to endure the torture of making company for five minutes together. Excuse my frankness, or rudeness-there are times when we spurn at ceremony, and dare to do what we wish, and to speak what we feel.”
“I would be the last,” said Bernard, “to disturb you at this moment: but I come from Mademoiselle de Montalembert."
“Ah!” cried Victor, “from her! What of her ? What can she send? What can she say, that can relieve my mind from the horrible anxiety I suffer ?”
Bernard, during the whole of this conversation, seemed to have entirely lost his usual urbanity and eloquence; he arti. culated with difficulty, and as if his tongue clave to the roof of his mouth.
“M. de Vermont,” he began, “I have been made acquainted with the present situation of this unhappy affair, and with the determination which the Marquis de Montalembert has announced. He has resolved to place his daughter in a convent for seven years, and preparations are making for her immediate removal.”
“ Preparations already made for her immediate removal! Good Heavens! you cannot mean it? The infatuated tyrant !” interrupted, or rather exclaimed Victor-for, Bera nard, who did not seem to hear even that he spoke, continued his discourse in a manner more resembling that of one repeating a hateful lesson conned by rote, than of a man engaged in living coloquy.
Now, as I know what a seven years' imprisonment in a convent is likely to prove," with a slight shudder, “I am come to propose an expedient."
“ Seven years in a convent! Seven years in a convent!” repeated Victor, in a deplorable tone of yoice. “An eternity of separation and suffering for us both! My Virginie! what will become of thee? What will become of me?" " The only expedient which I can propose," continued the
priest, still speaking in the same strange unnatural mannerTo the only expedient which suggests itself to me, for obviating the effects of this proceeding, and rescuing her from the destruction which I see impending is. It is most strange that I !" interrupted himself, "should be the proposer of it! I, who ought to strengthen, not to relax the bonds of filial duty. Yet what remains—there is no alternative-it must be done."
He approached nearer to Victor, who anxiously expected what was to come next.
“M. de Vermont, there is but one way of rescuing her. You must marry her immediately."
The last words left his breast as if forced from it by a convulsion.
“Marry her!” exclaimed Victor; "oh, Bernard ! what are you saying! Marry her! oh, thankfully! joyfully! but how can that by possibility be done?”
“I know," said Bernard, “this cannot be done according to legal, but it may according to religious forms; and my impression is, that such a marriage, imperfect as it might be, would be sufficient to secure this unhappy young lady from becoming the victim of a resolution stronger than her own. I therefore come to offer my services to perform that cere. mony, which, though insufficient to bind you inseparably, may be enough to present an insurmountable obstacle to your final separation, and, at least, to preserve the tender conscience of Mademoiselle de Montalembert from being unduly influenced by such false impressions of duty as those around her may endeavour to instil.
“ This proposal, I own, comes strangely from one of my profession...... but-excuse the disorder with which I speak-wrong, or right, I have made it.”
Victor started from a seat on which he had thrown himself. " Will she consent! It is the only way to save her. Oh, Bernard ! how shall I ever express what I feel at this generous disregard of scruples ? Let her but be mine!-half mine! I will soon find a way to bring her before M. le Maire, and rescue her from the tyranny of this preposterous father. Oh, Bernard! you are sent to save us in our utmost need.”
“ What a poor fool I felt myself !” said Victor, as he described this scene in his letters. “Here was this young priest actually planning a secret marriage, plunging head and ears into the romance at once; while I had been streaming like an idiot up and down this meadow of mine for four-andtwenty hours, bemoaning my fate, and abandoning her and myself to despair, without making the slightest effort for her rescue.
" To-morrow night, for so it is actually arranged between us, within the dear little cottage where Madeleine lives, will
Bernard perform those rites which every good Catholic and niy sweet one is an excellent Catholic--thinks far more binding than your civil forms.
“Let me hold her by those, and I defy all the father confessors in France to persuade her that she is not legitimately mine, and only mine."
The bridge at which the priest had appointed to meet Therese, was a little rustic arch, thrown over one of those clear, sparkling streams, which, gushing rapidly from the adjacent hills, run cheerfully coursing to the sea, glittering in the sun like liquid diamonds. Now, however, its aspect black and lurid, swelled by recent rains, and reflecting the dark clouds that hung around the heavens, curtaining the faint moon and stars, seemed as it were a reflection of the mournful darkness which shrouded the bosoni of M. Bernard.
He stood, leaning over the battlements, waiting for the appearance of Therese, his eyes fixed upon the flowing water-emblem of life, as it appeared to him in that moment of despondency; when deserted by that, which some have termed our better angel, (a term not without great significancy,) his mind became a prey to that gloomy dissatisfaction which visits, alas! at times, the best.
The veil shall not be lifted to display the weakness of this good and pious man; nor shall his sufferings be made a picture, to amuse the curious eye. The sentiment which had till then lain silent and unnoticed in his bosom, had been awakened as it were to life by the sudden and unexpected return, made upon himself, when the idea of that fair being, whom as a star shining in some distant sphere he had loved and worshipped without a thought unworthy-was to be bestowed—to be given away to another, and by his handmand the strange, and, to him, unaccountable, disorder of his feelings, shook him to the very centre of the soul.
Ignorant of the bitter force of the passions, he was unable to analyze or to understand the mingled emotions of jealousy, envy, discontent, and despair, which arose in his bosom with an intensity of anguish, happily little to be understood by those who, in the thousand channels of domestic tenderness, of pleasant friendships, and of cheerful hopes, sluice off, as it were, these dark torrents, and abate, if they cannot altogether allay, their bitterness.
Dread was the contest, yet he faltered not in his purpose: with the same heroic determination with which he would have consented to have been bound at the stake, rather than to forfeit a principle, he resolved to pursue the path before him unflinchingly.
Thorny it was, and without consolation, for earthly passion had invaded the sanctuary, and the divinity within had fled ; that generous glow, which warms-that ineffable joy of a
good conscience—the first and sweetest of those blessings with which the benevolent Creator hath endowed that gem of this his lower world, the human heart--had vanished before the, to him, unintelligible confusion of feelings which harassed and disordered him. Yet, even here, years passed in the practice of virtue were not without their reward; the light, though darkened, could not be effaced; still dimly shone the beacon through the storm.
Habit, which infineuces even the dreamer and the insane, lost not its power in these moments of disorder: tottering and uncertain his steps, he still was guided in the narrow path-his feelings all amiss and astray, he did right.
66 Why do you bring me out all this way?"
Therese was now seen walking down the lane, that led to the bridge where the priest was standing. She seerned in no very pleasant humour.
Therese, as it has been said, nourished a most particular dislike and distrust of priests of her country's persuasion; not, it is to be feared, 'altogether without reason; and she deprecated their interference in domestic affairs, as the greatest of all possible evils. Bernard was more tolerable to her than any of the rest of his community, but she distrusted even him; and the influence which he had, during the late events, appeared to exercise over Virginie's mind, had not served to abate this feeling.
There was, perhaps, a little feeling of jealousy mingled with this, for Therese was not perfect, which did not tend to sweeten her temper.
“Why do you bring me out all this way?" she began, with more acid in her tones than was usual, even when she was displeased. “You know well enough, that I can, by possibility, expect nothing from you!"
“ And why not ?" in a melancholy and subdued voice.
6. Oh, you priests !-it is your trade of course. These virgin sacrifices are most pious doings in your eyes. Of course, if she goes to a convent, all will be as it should be."
“I will never be the means of placing her in a convent." “ You won't-then what will you do?"
"I will marry her,” speaking with that slow distinctness which attends the attempt to overcome imperfect articula. tion, “to M. de Vermont, to-morrow evening !”
Therese started back, and clasped her hands, with an eager expression of surprise and joy, “ You cannot mean it !"
1 I do,” said he, in a grave tone, and a melancholy smile beamed with a chill, watery radiance over his fallen countenance,“ much as you may discredit it; and if Mademoiselle de Montalembert would walk down to Madeleine's cottage to-morrow evening, at eight o'clock, I will unite her, as far as the ceremonies of religion can unite her, with one worthy, I trust, of the unspeakable confidence bestowed upon him."
He turned on his heel, and walked slowly away.
Therese watched his dark flowing garments, as he hastily passed through the thickets that covered the banks of the stream; he sweeped through and between them, pushing them this way and that with an impatience of gestura, in sad contrast with his usual gentle calmness of demeanour. He made way so rapidly, however, that he was soon out of sight, and Therese returned in an ecstasy of delight to the chateau.
Bernard plunged into the depths of the shrubs, breaking through the brambles and twisted plants that obstructed his way.
Arrived where no eye could pierce; alas! he did not sit, as had been his custom, to gather composure of spirit by quiet reflection, and imbibe fresh courage for the path before him; stretched on the cold earth-his arms crossed above his head-his locks, usually parted with the simplicity of a young St. John, now wildly scattered. Long he lay engaged in that fiercest of contests, the divine and Godlike will against the mysterious demons from within.
The struggle was bitter-enough, it was effectual-the sacrifice was completed.
Vows more holy—more worthy of him to whom they were offered, were never made.
He rose from the earth, strengthened and encouraged.
But, though the immortal within had triumphed, the frail temple of its dwelling came out miserably shattered in the contest, the rebel blood yet knocked and fluttered at the heart, and a weight, as if of iron, pressed on the burning brow.