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- The Right of Way, Volume 6. - 4/10 -
laid a hand upon the Cure's arm. "Shall I ask her again?" he said, breathing hard. "Do you think she has found out her mistake?"
The Cure was so taken aback that at first he could not speak. When he realised, however, he could scarce suppress a smile at the other's simple vanity. But he mastered himself, and said: "It is not that, Maurice. It is not you."
"How did you know I had asked her?" asked his friend querulously.
"You have just told me."
M. Rossignol felt a kind of reproval in the Cure's tone. It made him a little nervous. "I'm an old fool, but she needed some one," he protested. "At least I am a gentleman, and she would not be thrown away."
"Dear Maurice!" said the Cure, and linked his arm in the other's. "In all respects save one, it would have been to her advantage. But youth is the only comrade for youth. All else is evasion of life's laws."
The Seigneur pressed his arm. "I thought you less worldly-wise than myself; I find you more," he said.
"Not worldly-wise. Life is deeper than the world or worldly wisdom. Come, we will both go and see Rosalie."
M. Rossignol suddenly stopped at the post-office door, and half turned towards the tailor-shop. "He is young. Suppose that he drew her love his way, but gave her nothing in return, and--"
"If it were so"--the Cure paused, and his face darkened--"if it were so, he should leave her forever; and so my dream would end."
"Rosalie would forget. To remember, youth must see and touch and be near, else it wears itself out in excess of feeling. Youth feels more deeply than age, but it must bear daily witness."
"Upon my honour, Cure, you shall write your little philosophies for the world," said M. Rossignol, and then knocked at the door.
"I will go in alone, Maurice," the Cure urged. "Good-you are right," answered the other. "I will go write the proclamation denying strangers the valley after Wednesday. I will enforce it, too," he added, with vigour, and, turning, walked up the street, as Mrs. Flynn admitted the Cure to the post-office.
A half-hour later M. Loisel again appeared at the post-office door, a pale, beautiful face at his shoulder.
He had not been brave enough to say what was on his mind. But as he bade her good-bye, he plucked up needful courage.
"Forgive me, Rosalie," he said, "but I have sometimes thought that you have more griefs than one. I have thought"--he paused, then went on bravely--"that there might be--there might be unwelcomed love, or love deceived."
A mist came before her eyes, but she quietly and firmly answered: "I have never been deceived in love, Monsieur Loisel."
"There, there!" he hurriedly and gently rejoined. "Do not be hurt, my child. I only want to help you." A moment afterwards he was gone.
As the door closed behind him, she drew herself proudly up.
"I have never been deceived," she said aloud. "I love him--love him--love him."
M. ROSSIGNOL SLIPS THE LEASH
It was the last day of the Passion Play, and the great dramatic mission was drawing to a close. The confidence of the Cure and the Seigneur was restored. The prohibition against strangers had had its effect, and for three whole days the valley had been at rest again. Apparently there was not a stranger within its borders, save the Seigneur's brother, the Abbe Rossignol, who had come to see the moving spectacle.
The Abbe, on his arrival, had made inquiries concerning the tailor of Chaudiere and Jo Portugais, as persistently about the one as the other. Their secrets had been kept inviolate by him.
It was disconcerting to hear the tales people told of the tailor's charity and wisdom. It was all dangerous, for what was, accidentally, no evil in this particular instance, might be the greatest disaster in another case. Principle was at stake. He heard in stern silence the Cure's happy statement that Jo Portugais had returned to the bosom of the Church, and attended Mass regularly.
"So it may be, my dear Abbe," said M. Loisel, "that the friendship between him and our 'infidel' has been the means of helping Portugais. I hope their friendship will go on unbroken for years and years."
"I have no idea that it will," said the Abbe grimly. "That rope of friendship may snap untimely."
"Upon my soul, you croak like a raven!" testily broke in M. Rossignol, who was present. "I didn't know there was so much in common between you and my surly-jowled groom. He gets his pleasure out of croaking. 'Wait, wait, you'll see--you'll see! Death, death, death--every man must die! The devil has you by the hair--death--death--death!' Bah! I'm heartily sick of croakers. I suppose, like my grunting groom, you'll say about the Passion Play, 'No good will come of it--wait--wait--wait!' Bah!"
"It may not be an unmixed good," answered the ascetic.
"Well, and is there any such thing on earth as an unmixed good? The play yesterday was worth a thousand sermons. It was meant to serve Holy Church, and it will serve it. Was there ever anything more real--and touching--than Paulette Dubois as Mary Magdalene yesterday?"
"I do not approve of such reality. For that woman to play the part is to destroy the impersonality of the scene."
"You would demand that the Christus should be a good man, and the St. John blameless--why shouldn't the Magdalene be a repentant woman?"
"It might impress the people more, if the best woman in your parish were to play the part. The fall of virtue, the ruin of innocence, would be vividly brought home. It does good to make the innocent feel the terror and shame of sin. That is the price the good pay for the fall of man-- sorrow and shame for those who sin." The Seigneur, rising quickly from the table, and kicking his chair back, said angrily: "Damn your theories!" Then, seeing the frozen look on his brother's face, continued, more excitedly: "Yes, damn, damn, damn your theories! You always took the crass view. I beg your pardon, Cure--I beg your pardon."
He then went to the window, threw it open, and called to his groom.
"Hi, there, coffin-face," he said, "bring round the horses--the quietest one in the stable for my brother--you hear? He can't ride," he added maliciously.
This was his fiercest stroke, for the Abbe's secret vanity was the belief that he looked well on a horse, and rode handsomely.
ROSALIE PLAYS A PART
From a tree upon a little hill rang out a bell--a deep-toned bell, bought by the parish years before for the missions held at this very spot. Every day it rang for an instant at the beginning of each of the five acts. It also tolled slowly when the curtain rose upon the scene of the Crucifixion. In this act no one spoke save the abased Magdalene, who knelt at the foot of the cross, and on whose hair red drops fell when the Roman soldier pierced the side of the figure on the cross. This had been the Cure's idea. The Magdalene should speak for mankind, for the continuing world. She should speak for the broken and contrite heart in all ages, should be the first-fruits of the sacrifice, a flower of the desert earth, bedewed by the blood of the Prince of Peace.
So, in the long nights of the late winter and early spring, the Cure had thought and thought upon what the woman should say from the foot of the cross. At last he put into her mouth that which told the whole story of redemption and deliverance, so far as his heart could conceive it--the prayer for all sorts and conditions of men and the general thanksgiving of humanity.
During the last three days Paulette Dubois had taken the part of Mary Magdalene. As Jo Portugais had confessed to the Abbe that notable day in the woods at Vadrome Mountain, so she had confessed to the Cure after so many years of agony--and the one confession fitted into the other: Jo had once loved her, she had treated him vilely, then a man had wronged her, and Jo had avenged her--this was the tale in brief. She it was who laughed in the gallery of the court-room the day that Joseph Nadeau was acquitted.
It had pained and shocked the Cure more than any he had ever heard, but he urged for her no penalty as Portugais had set for himself with the austere approval of the Abbe. Paulette's presence as the Magdalene had had a deep effect upon the people, so that she shared with Mary the Mother the painfully real interest of the vast audience.
Five times had the bell rung out in the perfect spring air, upon which the balm of the forest and the refreshment of the ardent sun were poured. The quick anger of M. Rossignol had passed away long before the Cure, the Abbe, and himself had reached the lake and the great plateau. Between the acts the two brothers walked up and down together, at peace once more, and there was a suspicious moisture in the Seigneur's eyes. The demeanour of the people had been so humble and rapt that the place and the plateau and the valley seemed alone in creation with the lofty drama of the ages.
The Cure's eyes shone when he saw on a little knoll in the trees, apart from the worshippers and spectators, Charley and Jo Portugais. His cup of content was now full. He had felt convinced that if the tailor had but been within these bounds during the past three days, a work were begun which should end only at the altar of their parish church. To-day the play became to him the engine of God for the saving of a man's soul.
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