WHEN Manuelita was about fifteen years of age a new element came into her life; one that brought much pleasant variety and delightful companionship. Father Kino's assistant, a man like himself advancing in years and in failing health, was compelled to give up his work and return to Spain. Louis Ramirez, a young man of five and twenty years, a lay brother, was sent to temporarily fill his place.
Louis Ramirez was a poet and a scholar, and when advised by his friends that he was mistaking his vocation, that with his dreaming, poetic nature he would never be able to endure the privations and hardships of the Jesuit mission work, he would say that, ‘‘the enthusiasm and feeling which would have made the poet, would augment and strengthen
Louis Ramirez was the son of a successful councillor-at-law in Seville, who, when quite a young man, had been sent by a law firm, in whose employ he then was, to the little village of Mesnil St. Loup, in France, to hunt the heir to a large estate in Seville. While there he had fallen in love with and married a young French girl. Fearing to incur his father's displeasure by this rash and hasty step, he left her with her mother until he could reconcile his father to his marriage, but death stepped in to smooth the way for him; the young wife died some months later,
Mesnil St. Loup was a little village on the road from Paris to Troyes, of almost as little importance then as now. It contained a pretty little auberge, or inn, with a picturesque pole in front of the door, garlanded with flowers, as the sign of a public-house, after the fashion of the times, and a little church, which had seen many centuries pass over its primitive walls, surrounded by venerable oaks. These oaks had long shown the hand of time, but still shaded a great stone cross and fountain, at which the traveller halted to drink, and offer a silent prayer for the faithful who worshipped there.
About one and a half miles from the village, upon an eminence commanding a view of the entire country, stood the old château of St. Loup. The valley beneath was covered with wood, through which passed the deserted road from Mesnil St. Loup, once much frequented by visitors to the old château, but now abandoned and untrodden. In the oak grove, beyond the precincts of the cemetery, was buried the once famous "Père le Rouge," condemned and burned as a sorcerer.
Here this dreamy boy loved to wander during the long summer holidays, all alone, much to the consternation of his old grandmother and his young schoolmates, who would often ask him if he were not afraid of meeting "Père le Rouge," whose spirit was said to haunt the château and its grounds.
Louis loved the quiet and repose of this old forest, where the sun poured his rays between the tall oaks, and checkered the green shadows of the wood with its broad beams of golden light. The deep solitude, the profound silence, the mystic shadows of the overhanging woods, and the grey light of the fading day filled him with delight. Great cascades of water rushed from the hilltop, tumbling, hurrying with its melodious music into the stony basin that nature had fashioned to receive it; and here, under towering pines, those gloomy children of the forest, whose shadows cast so much melancholy and sternness over the landscape, he would sit for hours listening to the music of the waters, and looking out upon the indefinite horizon beyond the valley below.
Here, in the spring, in the crooked, rocky road of moss-grown stone, were the first of nature's wildlings found, the cyclamen growing in its crevices, the dainty myosotis peeping out from under the stony ledges, great
And then the long summer days, when a breathless calm hung over the town, and the air was dead and lifeless; how beautiful these forests were then, perfumed by the blossoming fruits of some neighbouring orchard, a soft summer wind gently swaying the branches of the trees, until the chords of an Æolian harp seemed to this dreamy boy to fall upon his ear! And in the golden pomp of early autumn, here, in this forest, was the most beautiful autumnal foliage, bronzed and reddened with the flush of waning summer, the orchis, the dahlia and the blood-red cardinal,
When he was about sixteen years of age there appeared at his home, suddenly and unexpectedly, a grave and rather austere-looking priest, of the Jesuit order, who introduced himself as Ferdinand Ramirez, his uncle, and who brought him a letter addressing him as "my son," and signed "your father," consigning him to the care of his uncle. From his uncle he learned that his father had just died from a malignant fever in Spain; that just prior to his death he had told him of his early marriage, of the birth of this son whom he had never seen, and asked his protection and interest for him. A few days later Louis accompanied his uncle
Here, in Paris, Louis remained four years with his uncle, who became sincerely attached to him. A man severe in his own life, severe even in thought and feeling, there was a charm, beyond expression, to him in watching the development of this poetic, gentle temperament. ‘‘Only be brave, be strong, my boy,’’ he would often say to him; ‘‘men sin oftener through weakness than from design.’’
These four years were the most important of the boy's life: he was just at the age when the youth was becoming the man, and when everything made such a permanent impression upon him, and here, in Paris, he found so much food for his poetic nature.
It was at the close of the seventeenth century, during the later part of the reign of Louis XIV., known as the "Golden Age of French Literature." Voltaire ranks this reign among the great epochs of history, with
The civil wars of the Fronde were long over, and the taste for literature had become generally diffused; religious and political differences, which had caused so much disunion between individuals as well as political organizations, and had banished mutual confidences and social intercourse, destroyed internal peace and retarded public advancement, had ceased. France had been brought into close relations with the countries then most advanced in civilisation, Spain and Italy, and became in herself the highest expression of monarchy, religion, and literature;
Though his uncle's influence, Louis spent these four years at the Sorbonne, the famous university of Paris. With access to this fine library, and the stimulus of literary culture all around him, Louis became a fine scholar, absorbing everything that came in his way, the philosophical, physical and metaphysical works of Descartes, who deduced all moral and religious truth from self-consciousness, a system of philosophy founded upon phychological analysis which for so long held mastery, and opened the way for Locke, Newton and Leibnitz, and was the foundation of all philosophy that superseded it. How intensely the boy with his scholarly mind and poetic temperament enjoyed this train of thought! It was certainly a most interesting period in the literary history of France, the works of Racine, Boileau, Molière, Corneille, were all here; Bossuet, Bourdalone and Massillon in pulpit
The order which peace and kingly encouragement of literature restored to France, made society a brilliant feature of the court, and from this arose a new kind of romance in which elevated sentiments replaced the impossible and exaggerated plots of mediæval fiction. The Hotel Ranbouillet, which was so much the fashion the early and middle part of the century, had left its impress on the manners as well as culture of Paris; amid much affectation and exaggeration there was much refinement. Mme. de Lafayette introduced that kind of romance in which the interest is centred in psychological analysis, the conflicting passions of mind and heart, and which made life more realistic, more dependent upon thought and feeling. Over these the dreamy boy loved to linger.
The vast Sylva Lida which, in the days of Charlemagne, stretched far along the banks of the Seine, and formed a woody screen around the infant city of Paris, was at this time still a magnificent forest, extending to the town of Nantes, or the "Forest of Laye." Here, on holidays, Louis Ramirez would spend much time, as he had done in the grounds and woods of the château at Mesnil St. Loup. In the heart of this forest of St. Germain he explored every recess. He knew every glade and covert, every maze of this leafy labyrinth, that had lain secret and undiscovered to the keeper of many years.
At this time the sect known as "Quietists," with Madame Guyon at their head, had obtained a good deal of influence in Paris. It had for its object a sublimation of religion, a reduction of the passions, and even the entire life, to an absolute condition of quietism, and when Fénélon was drawn into it, through his
He was in that revolutionary crisis through which genius passes in youth before it knows its own self, and when it vaguely seeks for some indefinite path or pursuit that it has not yet found,—genius unconcentrated, undisciplined. His mind, thoughtful as well as imaginative, made an idol of Divine philosophy. He delighted in the mazes of metaphysical investigation, and, in seeking to trace the source of intellectual and ethical progress, descended into the deepest and darkest recesses of thought and study, and, where formerly much had been emotion, now all became principle, that principle which keeps men good, and makes them desirous to assist their fellow-men to be so also,
Thus passed rapidly his four years in Paris, years which were the most important in the boy's life. In the second year of his stay in Paris, his maternal grandmother, whom he had occasionally visited, died, and left Louis, very much to his surprise, quite an independent property: the little home, in which they had lived, and a considerable sum of money, which her frugal manner of life had enabled her to save.
On their return to Spain, his uncle proposed, that as he knew his paternal language but imperfectly, he should spend a year at the college of Salamanca to perfect himself in Spanish. Upon leaving this college he announced his intention of entering the Jesuit order, but his uncle, attributing much of his zeal and enthusiasm for religion to his dreamy, impressionable nature, insisted upon his deferring it for a year at least.
‘‘Your beautiful theories are, as yet, but dreams, my son,’’ he said to him. ‘‘They need knowledge of the world, more intimate relations with your fellow-men, to make them practical. There is but little education in which the lessons of the world do not enter: mere knowledge that comes from books must be converted into wisdom, which only experience in life will give you.’’
His uncle, so good a judge of human nature, saw that Louis had much talent, and some latent energy, and yet he wanted something, an amalgamation, a faculty that would enable him to understand men, and act in concert with them.
But the expiration of the eighteen months found Louis still determined upon entering the Jesuit order of priesthood, and in the third year of his novitiate he went out to New Spain, to San Xavier del Bac, as Father Kino's assistant.
Father Kino was charmed with him, his zeal for his work, the readiness with which he adapted himself to this new life, with its hardships and many privations, and above all with his remarkable culture and scholarly attainments which made him so agreeable a companion. He seemed to be able to talk to him with less reserve than to men nearer his own age, to be able to open his own tender heart to him, and bring himself, through his own zeal and enthusiasm, down to Louis' years; this clever, practical man saw much of his
Manuelita was at this time about fifteen years of age, an age which, in a southern latitude, means the tenderness and beauty of youth, combined with the precocity and attractiveness of womanhood. Her figure, though slight, was perfectly developed, her movements light and graceful, with a repose blended with earnestness which make the face beam with life, and a tender soul which shone with a beautiful light in her large, dark eyes. She was ‘‘
|Standing with reluctant feet|
|Where the brook and river meet|
|Womanhood and childhood fleet.|
She had a quick, retentive mind, and Father Kino had taught her German and Spanish, both of which she spoke and read well. From Catiche and the Indian children she had learned their language, and Father Kino now proposed to Louis Ramirez that
It was not his mind which now hungered, but his tender heart; his affection for Manuelita became daily more real and living than any he had ever known before. Sometimes he feared that by its side the fervor of religion was becoming a cold and empty abstraction. There had suddenly opened to him a new joy, a new charm in life of which he had never dreamed. ‘‘What a sweetener and ennobler of life, woman is,’’ he often thought. ‘‘I did not think that one sweet face could make this desert blossom like a garden of nature's