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This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 258 pages of information about Recollections of My Youth.

[Footnote 1:  What grand landwehr leaders they would have made!  There are no such men in the present day.]

THE FLAX-CRUSHER

PART IV.

My mother, resuming her story, went on to say:—­

“We are all, as a matter of fact, at the mercy of our illusions, and the proof of this is that in many cases nothing is easier than to take in Nature by devices which she is unable to distinguish from the reality.  I shall never forget the daughter of Marzin, the carpenter in the High Street, who, losing her senses owing to a suppression of the maternal sentiment, took a log of wood, dressed it up in rags, placed on the top of it a sort of baby’s cap, and passed the day in fondling, rocking, hugging, and kissing this artificial infant.  When it was placed in the cradle beside her of an evening, she was quiet all night.  There are some instincts for which appearances suffice, and which can be kept quiet by fictions.  Thus it was that Kermelle’s daughter succeeded in giving reality to her dreams.  Her ideal was a life in common with the man she loved, and the one which she shared in fancy was not, of course, that of a priest, but the ordinary domestic life.  She was meant for the conjugal existence, and her insanity was the result of an instinct for housekeeping being checkmated.  She fancied that her aspiration was realized and that she was keeping house for the man whom she loved; and as she was scarcely capable of distinguishing between her dreams and the reality she was the victim of the most incredible aberrations, which prove in the most effectual way the sacred laws of nature and their inevitable fatality.

“She passed her time in hemming and marking linen, which, in her idea, was for the house where she was to pass her life at the feet of her adored one.  The hallucination went so far that she marked the linen with the priest’s initials; often with his and her own interlaced.  She plied her needle with a very deft hand, and would work for hours at a stretch, absorbed in a delicious reverie.  So she satisfied her cravings, and passed through moments of delight which kept her happy for days.

“Thus the weeks passed, while she traced the name so dear to her, and associated it with her own—­this alone being a pastime which consoled her.  Her hands were always busy in his service, and the linen which she had sewn for him seemed to be herself.  It would be used and touched by him, and there was deep joy in the thought.  She would be always deprived of him, it was true, but the impossible must remain the impossible, and she would have drawn herself as near to him as could be.  For a whole year she fed in fancy upon her pitiful little happiness.  Alone, and with her eyes intent upon her work, she lived in another world, and believed herself to be his wife in a humble measure.  The hours flowed on slowly like the motion of her needle; her hapless imagination was relieved.  And then she at times indulged in a little hope.  Perhaps he would be touched, even to tears, when he made the discovery, testifying to her great love.  ’He will see how I love him, and he will understand how sweet it is to be brought together.’  She would be wrapped for days at a time in these dreams, which were nearly always followed by a period of extreme prostration.

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