Chapter VIII

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IT was late in May, several weeks after the laying of the corner-stone of the new church, when Louis Ramirez and Manuelita sat on the remado, now prettily shaded by its flowering vines, devoting their accustomed hour to their French reading. Father Kino's failing health left many of his old duties to his young assistant, and his morning hours were devoted to his mission work.

The Pensées de la Religion from which they had been reading, lay on the table beside them. Manuelita sat looking out abstractedly upon the mountain just facing them, which now was bathed in a flood of yellow light, the shadows lengthening as the last rays of the setting sun sank behind the towering hills. The sky was intensely blue, the air delicious and transparent in its purity, and

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the gentle summer wind just stirring the vines, and wafting in upon them the rich fragrance of the blossoming jessamine, which grew luxuriantly over the trellis which partially encircled the remado.

Louis Ramirez had observed for some weeks this increasing abstraction in Manuelita's manner, so unlike the former enthusiasm that she carried into all her work, especially these studies and readings, and, as he readily defined the cause, his heart ached for her even more than for himself. During all these weeks Captain Carillo had regularly attended the Sunday high mass at the mission, and remained to dine and spend the early afternoon with them. After each of these visits he had observed that Manuelita's silence and abstraction had grown deeper and more permanent. ‘‘She has that saddest of all diseases, nympholepsy, the saddening of a spirit for a spirit that it cannot find,’’ he said to himself. ‘‘She is awakening to a passion that must come to all, I believe, sooner or later. She

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is not happy; when one is happy the love and duties of the present are sufficient; one does not look into the dim future as she seems to. Who is there,’’ he asked himself, ‘‘that has not dreamed, and had his dream ruthlessly broken? Bright hopes change to bitterest disappointments, and joys leave us like the sudden meteor that flashes brilliantly in the heavens for one moment, and then suddenly sinks into the bosom of dark night. It saddens the heart, and breaks it in its youth,’’ he continued. ‘‘Oh, that I could do something, at any personal sacrifice, to make her happy once more!’’

‘‘I am afraid the Pensées are rather dull reading for a young girl,’’ he said, ‘‘but they are probably the best examples of French writing that we have, and are, I think, such admirable mental discipline. To Pascal belongs the glory of giving stability to the French language. He awakens in us serious thought by the impartial analysis he leads us to make of human nature.’’

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‘‘In the essay that we have just read he says that the human heart has three great desires, the desire for truth, happiness, and justice,’’ she replied, feeling that he expected her to make some reply.

‘‘Yes, and how forcibly and correctly he analyses this; in our desire for truth—and he makes truth to consist of two great principles, reason and sense, which he thinks includes imagination—we have to contend against the reciprocal wrong that they do each other, in preventing our attaining to perfect knowledge. Man, he says, can never satisfy his desire for truth, even the philosophers allow imagination to influence them to so great an extent.’’

‘‘In what he says of our desire for happiness, he does not write as though he had found it,’’ said Manuelita.

‘‘No, my child,’’ said Louis Ramirez, ‘‘there again his analysis is true. It is, as he says, the disappointment and suffering that follow our pursuit of pleasure and the various occupations

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from which we hope to derive happiness, that convince us that we have not looked to the right source for it. If the conjunction of circumstances, by which we are controlled, brought this much-desired happiness, we would quietly accept it, and not be always seeking it. We look for it in excitement and in occupation, when, as he tells us, it is only found in the infinite and immutable, in God himself.’’

‘‘Did Pascal ever love any one?’’ she asked, in a low voice.

‘‘Yes, my child,’’ he replied, looking at her very earnestly, and reading the thoughts which her honest, unsophisticated nature could not conceal. ‘‘He was a man, and I think all men love at some period of their lives, and he loved once very tenderly. He has left us many pages on the passion of love, which he must have felt, to write so beautifully about it, and these sentiments, as he expresses them, redeem love from much of its coarseness or even affected sentimentality,—we do

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not deliberate upon it, or even seek it, he tells us; it comes to us, we feel it, it exalts and purifies, and inspires veneration for that which is beloved,—it is an ennobling passion, in which one forgets self.’’

‘‘How beautiful such a love must be,’’ she said.

‘‘He knew love without daring to confess it,’’ continued Louis Ramirez. ‘‘Love,’’ he said, ‘‘must be so pure, so constant; fickleness in love, he said, was as monstrous as injustice.’’

‘‘How deeply he must have loved, to have written thus about it. Tell me about her, what became of her?’’

‘‘Mademoiselle Charlotte de Roannez, the woman he loved, was the sister of a duke, much above him in rank and fortune, so he did not dare tell his love.’’

‘‘But if she had loved him, as he loved her, would she not have forgotten the difference of rank and fortune?’’

He saw upon what her mind was dwelling,

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the inequalities of position and fortune between herself and the man she loved, he observed how eagerly she awaited his reply, and his agony grew almost greater than he could bear, as, shaken to the depths of his own nature, his heart thrilling, his pulses quickening, he tried to control his own emotion and reply calmly.

‘‘Not often in an exalted rank of life in Europe. These alliances are arranged by one's family, and parental authority in these matters is rarely questioned.’’

‘‘Then she married some one else?’’

‘‘No, she entered the convent of Port Royal.’’

‘‘Ah, then, she must have loved him!’’

‘‘Yes, I think so, for she continued to write to him, and remained in the convent.’’

‘‘Then if she was not compelled to marry any one else,’’ and her face brightened as she said this, ‘‘she could continue to love him; it was no sin, and she could take with her into

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this life all her faithfulness and love and tender memories.’’

‘‘Ah, child, we must not dwell too much upon this subject, it is not wise; we will lose our interest in more prosaic work, it is easily lost and difficult to regain,’’ he said, after a few moments' silence, during which she relapsed into her old abstraction.

‘‘Oh, do not think that I have lost my interest,’’ she replied, looking at him with her lovely honest eyes, ‘‘but I was thinking that religion was so beautiful, and yet there seemed something else wanting too to make one quite happy.’’

‘‘Yes, a quiet, restful heart,’’ he said, looking at her very gently, ‘‘and where find it save in active work and in faithful prayer?’’

‘‘That is what I have tried,’’ she said, ‘‘and yet one must have many unoccupied moments when thoughts and hopes and wishes will intrude. Are there convents in this country?’’

‘‘No. You are not thinking of following Mademoiselle de Roannez's example? Did I

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not hear you promise Father Kino the other day to devote yourself to the construction of his new church, if he should be taken from us?’’

‘‘Yes, but after that? That will not take all my life.’’

‘‘But your people here, the people of your race and blood, for whose elevation and instruction Father Kino also looks to your influence and assistance. What of them?’’

‘‘You are right, they are my first duty,’’ and she laid her hand gently in his for a moment, and then left the remado.

Who has not known some moment of life, so sad, so solemn, that it memories go all through life with them, when the pressure of one gentle hand has over him a sovereignty more powerful, more supreme than all the other influences of life, more abject even than oriental servitude? What crest so haughty that has not bowed before the hand that seemed to hold for him all of happiness or misery that life could bring; in its grasp rests

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the fulfilment of his dearest dream, the breaking of day after a long night, the coming of the sun after the midnight storm, or the sinking into despair around which the shadows of night only rest, and the heart cries give, give, in vain!

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